The Secret Career of the Unknown Comic

The Unknown Comic on the Gong Show
Murray Langston kept audiences laughing and guessing for years as the Unknown Comic until he finally made unmasking himself part of his show.

Have you ever heard of the Unknown Comic? He was popular on TV shows in the 1970s and 1980s. He wore a paper bag over his head and cracked offensive jokes.  Audiences generally loved him but for a long time he did not reveal his true identity. In the late 1980s and early 1990s he started to unmask himself during shows. He turned out to be Murray Langston, a famous TV comic who had appeared on shows like Laugh In and The Sonny and Cher Show.  His long-time partner was Freeman King.

If you read Langston’s biography on Wikipedia they will tell you that Langston went broke after investing in a restaurant where many famous people worked as servers for a while.  To make money he took a gig on The Gong Show, hosted by Chuck Barris. The Gong Show featured unknown people competing for small prizes and exposure to the film  and television industry.  Occasionally some new stars were discovered (leading to eventual “discovery” shows like Star Search and its followers). Langston was supposedly embarrassed to be performing on the Gong Show so he put a paper bag over his head and dubbed himself the Unknown Comic.

In the late 1970s the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company launched the syndicated variety show Everyday starring Langston, John Bennett Perry, Stephanie Edwards, Bob Corff, and Judy Gibson. The show featured clean-cut humor but only lasted 1-2 seasons despite appearances from some of the leading television personalities of the time.

Unfortunately you won’t find much information about Everyday on the Internet. The show was cancelled due to poor ratings but a few people remember it. You can see a letter here from the cast to Phyllis Diller, thanking her for doing a special appearance on the show from her home.

I keep hoping that some day someone will upload video from the old EveryDay show. They had some funny skits but nothing edgy. It may be that people won’t appreciate the humor because it isn’t “dirty” enough. But it was maybe the last time a major broadcast network in America tried to produce clean programming for adolescent audiences.

And here is a video of Murray Langston unmasking himself as the Unknown Comic (he did this more than once and you can find several videos online).