The Good, the Bad and the Jaw-Droppingly Bizarre at Dave Attell’s “Gong Show”

Todd Simmons encourages the “Gong Show” execs to hit him with their best shot. Turns out pelting a hefty drag queen with tiny balls is really fun.
Photo: Sarah Feldberg

Five hours. That’s six and two-thirds Tivo’ed episodes of America’s Got Talent. One hundred fifty two-minute Stupid Human Tricks. Or, if you’re casting producer Hedda Muskat, 30 local acts who came on down to Planet Hollywood’s V Theater on Monday afternoon to audition for Comedy Central’s revamping of variety free-for-all The Gong Show.

Hosted by modern stand-up master and Insomniac vet Dave Attell, the new incarnation actively seeks talents on the dark ’n’ bizarre side of the spectrum. Too bad no one told the Elvis, Jack Sparrow, Willie Nelson, Lucille Ball, Rodney Dangerfield, Grandpa Munster and Red Skelton impersonators – the latter two courtesy of the same regressive hopeful -- who certainly looked the part but lacked any humorous, twisted or otherwise engaging somethin’ extra. Reactions from executive producers Andrew Golder and Jennifer Heftler (Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions will also exec produce) aside, some of the high- and lowlights included:

Hedda Muskat, The Gong Show's casting producer, sits with a prop from an audition by a morning hopeful.

• Best Use of a Non-Talent: Samantha M, a modest soccer-mom type who claimed to “spell backwards faster than you can catch up with me.” And she did, reversally ripping through the letters in Heftler’s volunteered sentence, “Caution Hot Beverage.”

• Best Richard Simmons-evoking Tank Top: Rope Master, muscular and bald, who, though he jumped rope with a volunteer sitting on his shoulders, promised he would also have a blonde hanging on each leg when he performed on television.

• Best The always cringe-inducing theatrics of Vegas favorites Swingshift Sideshow, here aiding each other in solo talents including shooting darts from her nether regions (Kelvikta the Blade) and “Face Coil with Power Drill” and “Eye Socket Weight Lifting” (Andrew S).

• Best Audience Participation: Todd Simmons, a hefty firecracker who ripped off her black dress to reveal a flesh-tone bodysuit fitted with three bawdily-placed targets. To the tune of “Hit Me with Your Best Shot,” she tossed out miniature waffle balls covered in Velcro; the execs giddily fulfilled the titular request.

• Worst Body: Sizzling Shelly Stevens, an overweight septuagenarian done up in Moulin Rouge-esque finery and smeared lipstick. No discernible “act,” but the abdominal scars were definitely twisted in their own right.

• Worst Allegiance: Moondog, who bedecked both his motorscooter and self out in more patriotic spangles than Liberace on the 4th of July. After mismangling the words to Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA,” he hollered, “If they don’t like America, they can kiss my ass!” Not scarily talented, just plain scary.

• Worst Duo: Susan and Desiree, a seemingly-intoxicated pair of middle-age women who merely stood on stage and giggled. Asked the British Desiree, “Is this really going to get me into the movie business?” Uh, no, it’s not.

• Worst Old-School Gong Reject: Sammy Gardner, professional singing-telegram…singer. Dressed in a banana suit, he sang “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” Why? The answer is still unclear.

After rounds in New York and LA, Vegas may host a second open call the first week of June; Gong begins filming the 17th. In the meantime, hopefuls may call 310-840-5721 or e-mail their name, number, type of act and a link or video to [email protected] with “Las Vegas” in the subject line.


Julie Seabaugh

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