Listen to me on KTRS/St. Louis every Friday, 3-6pm CT

Monday, June 26, 2017

Picture Of The Day

My friend Jamy Ian Swiss is not only one of the world's best sleight-of-hand magicians, but also an author, columnist, and consultant. Since last fall, he's been writing a weekly column for the website Magiciana, highlighting some of the best magicians he's seen -- most of whom you've never heard of -- including video clips of some of their performances. I read and watch them every week and have never failed to be amazed and amused.

Jamy's most recent post is about Tommy Wonder, who was so good at his craft that other magicians would rather watch him work than have him tell them how he did his tricks. You should read Jamy's full column, which includes four videos of Wonder, including this quick one:

Worth A Link

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Gonging "The Gong Show"

Stu Shostak comments on my "Gong Show" review and, in particular, the odd choice to have Mike Myers host the show in character (and prosthetics)...

I hate when so-called "real" shows have actors in character appearing on them. It drove me bat-shit crazy when Father Guido Sarducci guested on Letterman. It destroys any credibility a show has and it's a blur between what's fake and what's real (not that it matters on a piece of garbage like this anyway).

We're living in a world where fake news is the reality...and this show has always contributed to the dumbing down of this country since the 70s. I was never a fan of the original "Gong Show."

The only reason this is even on the air is because ABC wanted their own "America's Got Talent," "The Voice," and "American Idol." This would not have been greenlit otherwise. Oh...and the ratings? That was the curiosity tune-in factor. Let's see what happens in the next few weeks.
Mark Edwards adds:
Great review, and I agree almost completely. The show, to me, just isn't the Gong Show without Chuckie baby. It was what he did on the screen and in the writers room that made that show special, and his contributions have been under appreciated since the show aired and I was watching it when I should've been in school. Sometimes you can't re-create lightning in a bottle. The new version of the show is one of those times.
And Earl Burton says:
Just another demonstration of the lack of creativity that currently exists. Instead of trying to challenge their audiences, the main networks instead reheat old, stale leftovers in a vain attempt to "entertain." Sorry, won't be checking out this "Gong Show," especially since the dearly departed Chuck Barris isn't involved.

TV Review: The Gong Show

In the last year, several TV game shows of the 1970s and 1980s have been revived by the big networks, primarily because they can be produced for a lot less money than a scripted series. Thus, we're seeing new primetime versions of "Match Game," "To Tell The Truth," "$100,000 Pyramid," "Love Connection," and -- coming soon, "Battle Of The Network Stars."

Now ABC has brought back "The Gong Show," originally produced by Chuck Barris, the man behind "The Dating Game," "The Newlywed Game," and "The $1.98 Beauty Pageant." His version was a salute to stupidity, with bad performers, D-list celebrity judges, and Barris himself as the host who was terrible at his job. The one thing it had going for it was a sense of fun, celebrated every time The Unknown Comic (Murray Langston with a paper bag over his head) or Gene Gene The Dancing Machine appeared, just to kill a few minutes of airtime.

The most bizarre thing about the new "Gong Show" is that it's hosted by Mike Myers, although his name is never announced and doesn't appear in the credits. That's because he's in Jiminy-Glick-like makeup, pretending to be a middle-aged British personality named Tommy Maitland. Myers must be more comfortable in character than as himself, but I wonder if anyone under 30 even knows who he is -- it's been a long time since his two "Wayne's World" and three "Austin Powers" movies. Sure, he also did four "Shrek" movies, but that was just his voice, and the last one was seven years ago.

Throughout "The Gong Show," Myers/Maitland tries way too hard, tossing off bad one-liners that, despite not being funny at all, send the judges and audience into hysterics. There are cutaway shots to people laughing their asses off, but the editing reminds me (since we're talking about reviving old TV here) of an old Dean Martin roast, where Foster Brooks or George Gobel would do something only mildly amusing, followed immediately by a cut to Arte Johnson or Joey Bishop falling off his chair, obviously in response to something someone else said at another time. On this "Gong Show," everyone seems like they're hyped up on too much sugar, overreacting to everything they see.

The new version's contestant pool is populated by people who must have been rejected by "America's Got Talent," so bad they couldn't even appear on the who-are-you-kidding episodes that mark the start of each season of that show. On last week's "Gong Show" debut, a guy in an ape suit played bagpipes while pedaling a unicycle around the stage, a couple spit banana bits into each others' mouths, and a woman dressed as Bo Peep put a live tarantula in her mouth and played the harmonica (complete with a graphic warning viewers, "Please do not put spiders in your mouth"). Some of the performers were clearly wannabe actors who weren't there to showcase their own talents, but to do bits created by the show's writing staff.

This "Gong Show" also had its own time-killer, a guy who came out and sang Benny Bell's "Shaving Cream," a song from 1946 that returned to the charts in the late 1970s thanks to Dr. Demento. I'm guessing Mike Myers spent a lot of time listening to that radio show under the covers as a young boy. Or maybe it was Will Arnett, who is listed as one of eight executive producers.

Chuck Barris' "Gong Show" was always immune to criticism, because it was exactly what its creator promised it would be: cheap, dumb, and low-rent. The revival isn't cheap, but it does meet the original's low-bar standard on the other two qualities. It won its time slot Thursday night and may remain popular for the rest of its summer run, but, as with the original, the joke will run thin fairly quickly. Without Barris there to keep it bizarre, there's no reason to expect long-term success -- a lesson that should have been learned from three previous "Gong Show" revivals, none of which lasted more than a season.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Finn Murphy, "The Long Haul"

Finn Murphy's job is to move people and their stuff -- loading and unloading and carrying their belongings thousands of miles across the US, crisscrossing the country and encountering all sorts of characters, from clients to truckers to cops. He's been doing it for over thirty years, and writes about his life in "The Long Haul: A Trucker's Tales of Life on the Road."

When he joined me on the air, we discussed:
  • The difference between movers and other long-haul truckers;
  • Whether there's a science to packing all the stuff into the trailer so it doesn’t get damaged en route;
  • Some clients who have treated him like crap and the driver who almost killed him;
  • How the book came out of tapes he recorded while driving;
  • How technology has changed a trucker's job and life;
  • Whether he fears the advent of trucks that drive themselves;
  • The most expensive thing he dropped or broke while packing up someone's house.
Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Showbiz Show 6/23/17

This week on the showbiz segment of my show, Max and I reviewed the movie "Transformers: The Last Night," ABC's revival of "The Gong Show," NBC's Megyn Kelly problem, plus some other showbiz news.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Harris Challenge 6/23/17

This week's Harris Challenge -- the most fun you can have with your radio on! -- includes categories "Hollywood's Most Powerful People," "I Am Iron Man," and "Have You Been Paying Attention?" Listen and play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Harris Challenges? Click here.

Knuckleheads In The News® 6/23/17

On this edition of Knuckleheads In The News®, I have stories about a toe stolen from a bar, a mailbox mousetrap, and a man on the trunk. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Knuckleheads In The News®Click here.

Friday, June 23, 2017

KTRS Friday

I'll be back on my 3-6pm CT show on KTRS today.

In the first hour, I'll talk with Finn Murphy about his book, "The Long Haul: A Trucker's Tales Of Life On The Road."

In the second hour, Max and I will review the movie "Transformers: The Last Knight," ABC's "Gong Show" revival, plus other movie/showbiz news.

In the third hour, you'll have a chance to test your trivia knowledge on my Harris Challenge, and I'll have a new batch of Knuckleheads In The News®.

You can listen over the air, via the station's free app, or at

Best Thing I've Read Today

I'm not the only one writing about NBC's Megyn Kelly problem (if you missed my piece earlier this week, read it here). Here's Variety's Sonia Saraiya:

Kelly’s cachet is that she is a thoughtful conservative woman — a kind of unicorn. Her demeanor carries with it a lot of posh worldliness; she’s tony and she knows it. On Fox News, her maternal concern about this newfangled world aligned her with her peers. But at the same time, her reasonably fair-minded consideration stood out; she offered a veneer of respectability in opposition to the at times crass politicking of its conservative pundits. She was centrist enough that some of the network’s most faithful despised her; her skepticism about Trump further alienated her from the network’s bread-and-butter base. Even colleague Sean Hannity got into a spat with her — a spat later mended, cheekily, on Twitter. But the division between her and her former colleagues was clear — enough that for liberal viewers peering at Fox News in frustration, Kelly became an occasional hero.

But outside of that context — a context which magnified her strengths and talents, because of how different she was from the network that nurtured her — Kelly has to rely not on the power of contrast but on her own resources. And so far, what we’re seeing is disappointing. On NBC, Kelly is didactic without being trustworthy; patronizing without being impressive. Her voiceover suggests doom without really proving it; there’s a scare-mongering side to her reportage. And, most importantly: She’s alienated everyone. At this point, Kelly’s most virulent critique comes from the right — the audience that she’s supposed to be helping deliver to NBC. The network is presumably hoping that centrist or center-right women will eventually tune in.

Perhaps well-heeled paranoia coming from someone who could be in your PTA meeting is not as appealing as it once was. But if Kelly’s move to NBC was both an attempt to cement her brand and a network gambit to draw a certain demographic of viewers, it has failed on both counts.
Read Saraiya's full piece here.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

How Does USA Today Stay In Business?

While staying in a hotel earlier this week, I picked up a free copy of USA Today in the lobby. Browsing through it, I couldn't help but wonder how this newspaper stays in business.

When USA Today launched in 1982, it was a big deal. Here was a truly national daily newspaper, full of color and eye-popping graphics, with tiny stories and factoids that instantly made it every radio personality's must-read prep sheet. But over the years, and certainly with the advent of the world wide web, USA Today became less and less important. Oh, sure, it's still available in thousands of hotels worldwide -- where it's free, so no revenue flows back to Gannett, its publisher, for those copies -- but I can't imagine anyone plunking down the cover price of $2/issue to pick one up at a newsstand, not to mention $225/year for home delivery. Not in an era when you can get all of its content for free (no firewall) on its website.

Sure, with all those free copies distributed in every state, USAT can boast about its reach and readership to potential advertisers, but there are a lot fewer of the latter today. The whole paper, still broken up into four sections, is only 28 pages long. Of those, there were only a total of 3 pages of ads on Monday -- including one full page, several mini-ads in its "Marketplace" listings, a one-third page legal notice, and a small sponsorship of its national weather map.

By the way, in the digital age, why are newspapers still printing weather maps and forecasts? Is there anyone who uses USA Today as a resource for that information, which is much more easily accessible on any smartphone? Just because it looked amazing in 1982 doesn't mean you still have to do it in 2017. Along the same lines, why are any newspapers still printing charts full of closing stock prices? That is literally yesterday's data, no longer relevant as soon as the market opens today -- and also available instantly, with more news about each company, on any digital device.

The entire newspaper business has been in upheaval for more than a decade, as readers found information available for free online instead, which led to advertisers jumping off the sinking ship of print. But while paper subscriptions continue to drop, some -- including the NY Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post -- have been smart about increasing their digital sides, where more people are paying for full access.

USA Today has made efforts along those lines, but I don't know how successful they've been. All I know is that the paper-and-ink edition of The Nation's Newspaper seems much less pertinent than ever.

Previously on Harris Online...