Mike Myers' latest creation: A fake British comedian | To host America's Gong Show revival

Mike Myers' latest creation: A fake British comedian

To host America's Gong Show revival

American TV is reviving the Gong Show – with Mike Myers hosting in the guise of British comedian Tommy Maitland.

The show is returning to the ABC network in June, with Will Arnett among the executive producers.

He said of Myers' fictional character: 'I've been a huge fan of Tommy since I first saw his stand-up in the UK while traveling as a teenager. He was so funny and original.

'I had the good fortune to cross paths with Tommy a few years ago and ever since we've talked about working together, I tried for years to come up with a vehicle that was suitable to expose his immense talent on a bigger stage, and 'The Gong Show' is the perfect fit.'

The network released the above mocked-up image of Myers – who once was a regular on the early London alternative comedy circuit – as Maitland at the British Comedy Awards.

The network have even provided a full biography of Maitland:

Tommy Maitland

Born on July 7, 1944, Thomas Winston Maitland (his middle name is a tribute to Winston Churchill) grew up in Neasden, in Brent, where his father was an actuary and in the Merchant Marine and his mother was in the RAF.

After a failed stint as a pipe fitter's apprentice, Tommy joined the British Army at the tender age of 15. He later joined the Entertainment National Service Association (ENSA), where he got to know some of the UK's biggest comedians. He played the ukulele, told jokes and drummed (though he drummed badly), and he ended up hosting the show - a talent he would later be known for.

He was voted ENSA Entertainer of the Year, for which he was given a guarantee to appear on British radio. He later worked as an announcer for the British radio show, The Whosey Whats, and got small roles in the Carry On films – either as the over anxious compart at a men's club or the strict union pipe fitter.

He also appeared in the TV series, The Lord Mayor, as the cheeky mayor of a mythical town in East Anglia, who struck it rich because they sat atop an oil field.

In 1973 Tommy wrote a book about his time in the British Army fighting the Mau Maus, called The Mau Maus are Revolting, and he also worked at a Butlin's Holiday Camp at the same time, for two seasons, in Anglesea and Brighton.

Hugely popular in Italy, he made four of his 11 films there. Two of the four were Spaghetti Westerns, where he played the fastidious banker, and the other two were James Bond knockoffs – You Only Live Once, To Be Honest and From Russia, Luv."

At the same time, Tommy continued to work the working men's clubs across England, where he received top dollar as an MC.

In 1976 Tommy starred in He Wore a Dustman's Hat, about an upper-class city of London gent who discovers that his dad (Tommy Maitland) is a garbage worker for the council in Hackney. This show played on Canadian TV at 4am on Saturday mornings.

Will Arnett saw this show in syndication on Canadian TV in 1980 and thought that Tommy was a comedic genius. Later that year Tommy bought an estate in Kent, called Serendipity, which he found by accident. Serendipity was a mega-celebrity hangout where people could escape, party, do or be anything they wanted to be, free from judgment and the prying eyes of the paparazzi.

In the 1980s, Tommy hosted the British game show Tell You What, which was a charades-based adventure game. He later hosted an Australian game show called Dingo's Got The Baby, in which one contestant would be the Dingo, and one contestant would be the Baby, and a chase would ensue. In 1990 he returned to England for a series of one-hour specials, called You've Still Got No Proof.

Tommy retired at the age of 55 but was still doing ENSA gigs. He loves comedy, so he often went to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival to watch young comics. Will Arnett, who was doing stand-up at one of the festivals, approached and befriended him. Desperately wanting to work with Tommy, Arnett tried for years to come up with a gig that was suitable for his immense talent, and The Gong Show was the perfect match.

In the 1970s original, the Gong Show was hosted by Chuck Barris. Dave Attell hosted a short-lived revivial for Comedy Central in 2008. And Frankie Howerd once hosted a pilot for Channel 4 in the 1980s. 

ABC say of the new series: 'Every episode will celebrate unusually talented and unique performers on a primetime stage. A revolving panel of judges featuring Hollywood's hottest stars praise, critique and gong contestants in one of TV's all-time great variety shows.'

Earlier this week, Chris Bearde, who created the original, died in California.

Published: 29 Apr 2017

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