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Written by 9:59 am Comics

Who Was the Unknown Comic?

the unknown comic

The Unknown Comic was a stand-up comedian who performed with a paper bag over his head to conceal his identity. His act involved self-deprecating humor and making jokes about his anonymity. This simple paper bag costume made audiences focus more on his actual comedic skills rather than his appearance or identity.

When did the Unknown Comic first appear?

The Unknown Comic first appeared on television in 1976 on The Gong Show, which was a popular talent competition series. He instantly became a fan favorite for his deadpan delivery and clever one-liners that poked fun at his concealed face. Though no one knew his real identity, audiences were drawn to his mysterious persona and the idea of judging talent solely on merit.

What was the Unknown Comic’s real name?

The man behind the paper bag was later revealed to be Murray Langston, a Canadian-American comedian and actor. When Langston first conceived the idea of the Unknown Comic, he wanted to satirize the concept of celebrity and challenge the notion that a performer’s identity was more important than his actual act. His simple costume put all the emphasis directly on his comedic abilities.

What was Langston’s background before becoming the Unknown Comic?

Before gaining fame as the Unknown Comic, Langston had worked as a high school teacher, nightclub performer, and writer for television shows like The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour. He created the Unknown Comic character for a comedy showcase at The Comedy Store in Los Angeles, likely inspired by his experience in edgy 1970s stand-up comedy culture.

How did the Unknown Comic stand out on The Gong Show?

On The Gong Show, most acts showcased traditional talents like singing, dancing, or playing instruments. The Unknown Comic was an absurdist contrast – he would clumsily shuffle onto the stage wearing a paper bag and oversized raincoat and proceed to tell corny jokes while keeping a deadpan demeanor.

His wry, understated style made him memorable amidst the show’s wacky atmosphere and emphasized skills over identity.

What were some of the Unknown Comic’s notable routines?

Some of the Unknown Comic’s most famous bits included:

  • Jokes mocking his unknown identity like “I have a sister, we call her Eileen…I mean, she leans, we all lean!”
  • Absurdist prop comedy featuring things like a brick, a pumpkin, a ventriloquist dummy
  • Songs with intentionally hacky lyrics “I know a man with a wooden leg named Smith/What’s the name of his other leg?”

He would also do things like placing two paper bags over his head, or stuffing dozens of tissues out of his bag “nose” when he pretended to sneeze. Anything to draw more attention to the bag itself.

Did the Unknown Comic ever show his true identity on stage?

The Unknown Comic maintained his anonymity throughout his performances, staying committed to his satirical commentary on fame and identity. At the end of some shows, he would briefly remove the paper bag just long enough for the audience to get a glimpse at his face. Oftentimes, this revealed image would be obscured or too quick for anyone to accurately identify him.

How long did the Unknown Comic continue to perform?

Even after revealing his real name, Langston continued sporadically performing as the Unknown Comic from 1976 up until the 2000s. His iconic persona ended up defining his entire comedy career, proving just how captivating a performer could be without relying on a personal identity.

What were some of Langston’s other projects outside of the Unknown Comic?

As the Unknown Comic As Murray Langston
The Gong Show performer Television comedy writer
The Comeback Trail film The All New Mickey Mouse Club creator
The Canned Film Festival host Performer on shows like Laugh-In

Outside of his masked stage persona, Langston wrote several humor books in the 80s and 90s. He co-wrote and starred in the 1980 film The Comeback Trail. Langston also hosted the satirical game show The Canned Film Festival using his Unknown Comic character.

In the 80s, he created the popular children’s television series The All-New Mickey Mouse Club and wrote for hit shows like Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In.

Did the Unknown Comic appear on other TV shows?

At the peak of his fame, the Unknown Comic made guest appearances on shows like Laugh Trax, Marie, The John Davidson Show, and The Tonight Show. His distinctive paper bag look and deadpan humor made him an offbeat novelty for television audiences, allowing him to bring his unique comedic sensibility outside of stand-up comedy.

How did Murray Langston officially reveal himself as the Unknown Comic?

In 1979, Langston finally revealed his true identity by publicly removing his paper bag on The Mike Douglas Show. He wanted to prove that despite the mystery surrounding his persona, the Unknown Comic was played by a real performer with talent and skill who did not require celebrity status or identity to captivate audiences.

Why did Langston initially create the Unknown Comic character?

Langston was trying to make a statement on the nature of celebrity and the value society places on individual identity. By concealing his face, he forced audiences to judge his act solely on comedic merit rather than perceived personality, proving that the craft itself could be enough to create an iconic persona.

What legacy did the Unknown Comic leave behind?

Though something of a niche act, the Unknown Comic left an impact as an avant-garde comedy persona who prioritized the craft of humor over cheap notoriety. To this day, he remains an iconic symbol of the offbeat, surreal spirit embodied by 1970s popular culture.

Langston proved that even a performer lacking a personal identity could become a household name solely through dedication to the art form of comedy. In many ways, his character embodied the postmodernist rebelliousness of that era.