Name at birth: Charles Hirsch BarrisProducer and game show impresario Chuck Barris co-created and hosted the 1976-80 game show hit The Gong Show. The program was a goofy contest of bad talent, with hapless contestants being "gonged" off the stage by a celebrity panel of judges. For a brief time it was one of the most talked-about shows on TV. Chuck Barris also dreamed up two earlier hits, The Dating Game (1965-73) and The Newlywed Game (1966-74), which now are considered the forerunners of 21st-century "reality" romance shows like The Bachelor. His company, Chuck Barris Productions, was a major force in television throughout the 1970s; he founded it in 1968 and sold his share in the company for about $86 million in 1986. Always impish and offbeat, Chuck Barris wrote a 1984 book titled Confessions of a Dangerous Mind in which he claimed that while hosting The Gong Show he had been an undercover agent for the CIA. Many were skeptical of his claims, and Barris generally refused to elaborate on them in public. "I don't answer that question, ever," he said in a 2010 interview with the Archive of American Television. George Clooney directed a 2012 film version of Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, with Sam Rockwell as Barris and co-starring Drew Barrymore and Julia Roberts. Chuck Barris's other books include another memoir, Bad Grass Never Dies (2004), and Della: A Memoir of My Daughter (2010).
Chuck Barris also directed and starred in the 1980 film The Gong Show Movie… He wrote a second autobiography in 1993: The Game Show King: A Confession… Chuck Barris wrote the pop tune Palisades Park, a hit for Freddy ‘Boom Boom’ Cannon in 1962, and wrote the theme songs to many of his game shows… After their initial network runs, both The Dating Game and The Newlywed Game were revived in later syndicated versions… Among contestants on The Gong Show was Paul Reubens, later known as TV star Pee-wee Herman.