Monday, December 23, 2013

The Unknown Comic's Autobiography

'Journey Through the Unknown' is the new autobiography of Murray Langston, long time TV second banana who hit superstar status in the mid-1970s with his alter ego, The Unknown Comic. In this fast paced breezy read, Langston regales the reader with tales about the top stars of the last fifty years, it's fascinating.

In the 1970s Murray Langston (along with his oft-times partners Ted Zeigler, Peter Cullen, and Freeman King) was ubiquitous on my favorite TV shows, those produced by Allan Blye, Chris Bearde and Bob Einstein starting with The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour in 1971. That series in particular, along with The Gong Show a few years later, solidified my love for this oddball comic.

As a supporting player for Sonny & Cher he was ringside for the circus surrounding the couple of the decade who made more tabloid headlines than they did money. If you've waited for an insider on the show to share his experiences here it is. Murray Langston creates an image of Cher that's both sympathetic and cold hearted bitch. Sonny Bono comes across a great deal less sympathetic.

(Not the best clip to showcase his talents but Murray Langston can be seen in the yellow hat and scarf.)

You have to recognize the genius that was The Unknown Comic, pure bullshittery but everyone was in on the joke so it worked brilliantly. Murray Langston is an honest-to-God showbiz legend that found a way to use the fuel from the daytime ratings brushfire that was The Gong Show to catapult himself into the 1970s zeitgeist, becoming an icon of the polyester decade. 'The Wizard of Whoopie' had a best-selling poster like Farrah Fawcett. He headlined Vegas.

'Journey Through the Unknown' never gets bogged down in the author's ego, a common trap for celeb books; Langston is willing to lay bare his life warts and all. My only regret concerning this massive 450+ page book filled with photos and stories about hundreds of stars like Jerry Lewis, Steve Martin, Karen Black, Ruth Buzzi, Ted Knight, Bobby Vinton, Goldie Hawn, and Lucie Arnaz... I just wish there were more. It's an exuberant life well lived and a story well told, highly recommended.