Mike My­ers is the se­cret star of this sum­mer’s tal­ent show

En­joy his sub­mer­sion in per­sona of ‘The Gong Show’ host be­fore he gets bored

The Hamilton Spectator - - A&E - TONY WONG Toronto Star

A woman who plays the har­mon­ica with a taran­tula in her mouth. A guy on the pi­ano per­forms stand­ing on his head. A cou­ple spits ba­nanas into each other’s mouths.

And that’s just in the first 15 min­utes of the pre­mière of the re­booted The Gong Show.

Tal­ent shows are a dime a dozen nowa­days, but there was only one uber un-tal­ent show, and it ran on NBC in the 1970s.

“The Gong Show” was con­ceived long be­fore YouTube, but the con­cept is well suited for the bite-sized, Car­pool-Karaoke world of so­cial me­dia.

Much of the cur­rent ’70s gameshow re­vival, which in­cludes “Bat­tle of the Net­work Stars” and “The $100,000 Pyra­mid,” is bland enough to evoke a U.S. pres­i­dent of the era, Ger­ald Ford.

How­ever, in the case of “The Gong Show” — air­ing Thurs­days on ABC and Ci­tytv — there is some spice: It comes in the form of host Tommy Mait­land, who uses the Queen and Union Jack as back­drops, just in case you don’t grasp that he’s Bri­tish.

Un­like the manic orig­i­nal show’s host Chuck Bar­ris, Mait­land, whose favourite line is “Who’s a cheeky mon­key?” is but­ter smooth. His jokes are all Gra­ham Nor­ton — full of sex­ual in­nu­endo and saucy side-glances. “I haven’t had this much fun since Dolly Par­ton showed me how she keeps her gui­tar picks warm,” he says smugly.

The only sim­i­lar­ity to Bar­ris, who died in March, is that on oc­ca­sion Mait­land will wear a hat — in this case that of a mata­dor. Bar­ris wore an end­less ar­ray of dif­fer­ent hats, all pulled so low over his eyes, which be­came part of the char­ac­ter of the show.

“Turn on your telly and turn off your brain,” Mait­land re­minds to­day’s au­di­ences, as he pre­sides over a trio of fel­low comic per­form­ers who serve as the judges; in the pre­mière, it was Will Ar­nett, Ken Jeong and Zach Gal­i­fi­anakis.

The premise re­mains sim­ple. Un­like “Amer­ica’s Got Tal­ent” or “The Voice,” or any of the other va­ri­ety shows that now pop­u­late the air­waves, there’s no hunt for fu­ture stars here — quite the op­po­site. The show in­stead finds am­a­teurs who are truly aw­ful and sees who can com­plete a per­for­mance be­fore some­one sounds the gong to put a stop to them.

The win­ner, or loser if you like, picks up a $2,000 cheque, about equiv­a­lent to the $500.32 that Bar­ris of­fered four decades ago, if you fac­tor in in­fla­tion.

So far the new ver­sion lacks leg­endary re­turn­ing “tal­ent” such as Gene Gene The Danc­ing Ma­chine or Mur­ray Langston, who per­formed as the Un­known Comic with a bag over his head. In fact, the most re­mark­able act on “The Gong Show” is not any of the com­peti­tors.

The true tal­ent is Mait­land him­self, who hap­pens to be the al­ter ego of a com­pletely un­rec­og­niz­able Mike My­ers.

The show cred­its give no hint who the host re­ally is, and many view­ers likely have no clue. But be­neath the pros­thet­ics, which likely take most of the day to put on, is a demon­stra­tion of one ac­tor’s im­pres­sive, full-on crazy ded­i­ca­tion to his craft.

The Cana­dian comedic star is known for cre­at­ing char­ac­ters that be­come rooted in our cul­ture. Lov­able slacker Wayne from “Wayne’s World,” in a base­ment mod­elled af­ter his own in his beloved Scar­bor­ough, comes to mind, as do swing­ing ’60s su­per se­cret agent Austin Pow­ers and the Scots-tinged voice of an­i­mated ogre Shrek.

It’s un­likely the show will last. So catch it while you can be­fore My­ers gets bored. It’s not quite Roger Fed­erer in his twi­light years win­ning Wim­ble­don, but see­ing the gifted per­former go full-on Col. Kurtz in this comedic heart of dark­ness — where is he tak­ing this? — is spe­cial, even if he doesn’t al­ways hit the mark.


Mike My­ers hosts “The Gong Show” in the guise of Bri­tish “com­edy leg­end” Tommy Mait­land.

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