Where to begin with this one. First of all, I was a faithful viewer of The Gong Show, created by Chuck Barris. I thought it was hilarious. For those of you who don’t know the show, the shtick was that rather ordinary people of (usually) limited talent would come onstage and perform their act, which could be anything from eating a popsicle in a lascivious manner to performing some (quite good) jug band music, and anything in between (and beyond) that you can think of. Picture Letterman’s Stupid Human Tricks extended to a half-hour show (coincidentally Letterman was a Gong Show judge at one point). Chuck Barris (Chuckie Baby) was the emcee, and there was a panel of three minor celebrities who would either a) “gong” the contestant, which indicated that their act was no longer bearable or b) give the act a score. At the end of the show the contestant with the most points won a few bucks.
There are those who felt that The Gong Show mocked or humiliated the contestants, but unless you lived under a rock you knew that it was quid pro quo…you did your stupid/embarrassing/pathetic “act” and Chuckie Baby would put you on the air for your 37 seconds of fame. It was win-win and was done with such enthusiasm and self-awareness that it reached surreal comedic proportions. I’ll stop talking about The Gong Show after you read this quote which sums up everything I loved about the show and Chuck Barris…this is Chuckie Baby introducing some random act:
“And our next act says he’s only semi-professional…which is great…because we’re only quasi-interested.”
Now to the movie — Confessions of a Dangerous Mind is George Clooney’s directorial debut. Yes, *that* George Clooney. The George Clooney. My respect for his talent and intelligence keeps growing. Selecting this movie for his first shot at directing was dangerous and brilliant. This concept is NOT a guaranteed winner. Chuck Barris and The Gong Show are, at best, a distant memory to today’s movie viewers, remembered with fondness by some and disdain by others, if even remembered. The script is adapted from Barris’ autobiography, in which…
********** SPOILERS AHEAD **********
…he claims that, along with being the inventor/producer of The Dating Game, The Newlywed Game, and The Gong Show, he was also a hitman for the CIA, and killed 33 people, using his trips around the world as ‘chaperone’ to show winners as cover. Well, that’s just bizarre. Whether or not it’s true, it’s just weird and bizarre and absurd. And unbelievable. Sort of. But, why did they send their contestants to places like West Berlin and Helsinki as prizes? Why would Barris, the high-powered producer of multiple TV shows, take time out of his schedule to chaperone these schlubs on their trips? I do not know the answers to these questions but I do find them interesting.
And so, apparently, did Clooney. His first great move as a director was insisting that Sam Rockwell play Chuck Barris. I first saw Rockwell as Guy Fleegman,