In the late ‘70s, The Unknown Comic and Gene Gene the Dancing Machine were staples on The Gong Show, an off-the-wall syndicated television game/talent show that aired from 1976-1980. The show was hosted by Chuck Barris and featured amateur performers – often with minimal talent – performing in front of a panel of celebrity judges. The list of judges in the show’s initial four-year run reads like a who’s who of your favorite Love Boat episode, including three of my all-time favorites: Jaye P. Morgan, Soupy Sales, and Rip Taylor.
Released in 1977 from American Publishing, The Gong Show Game draws inspiration from the T.V. show.
Players move their pawns around the game board based on the roll of a die, with the goal of landing on the burnt orange (it was the ‘70s after all) Stage space in the middle of the board. Once “on stage”, the player draws a blue Act Card and performs the instructions written on it. During the performance, the other players assume the role of judges and score the act from 1 to 10 using one of their yellow Score Cards. The cycle repeats until one player amasses 30 points and is declared the winner. (Note: the coveted “Golden Gong” trophy given to the winner on TV is nowhere to be found in the game, so you’ll have to do like we did as kids, and make your own.)
Of course, not everyone has the diversity of talent to adequately pull off the game’s wacky talent requests such as, “Make believe you are a monkey and you are checking yourself for bugs”, or, “Do an impersonation of a fish playing tennis”. In situations where players are simply not up to the task, the judges can award a Gong Card. If two or more judges gong the act, the player is forced to return to the start of the game and receives no points for their act. It is tough to break into show business, after all!
The true fun of The Gong Show Game rests in the silliness of the Act Cards. It’s like a zany Method-acting class – the kind that nightmares are made of. In addition to providing a set of pre-canned acts, the game designers also saw fit to provide 9 blank cards that allow players to create their own acts.
The Gong Show Game provided hours of fun in the Coopee household and despite being released in the ’70s, it remains a viable option for any family game night – even if one of the acts requires you to “Show the judges your imitation of the famous painting, The Spirit of ’76!”