Murray Langston talks about his new book “Journey Thru the Unknown”

Here’s my Murray Langston story. When I started out in the theatre business one of my responsibilities was to put the new films together and watch them to make sure they were ok. One Friday morning I came in to assemble and screen a film called “Night Patrol,” that Mr. Langston not only co-wrote but starred in, both as Officer White and the Unknown Comic. As the film started I began to panic, as the opening credits were in French and subtitled. After a few moments I ran to the office and called the film company, screaming at them that they had sent me a French print. Thus began a scramble at New Line which ended when one of the film people in the office, who had seen the film, notified his bosses that the filmmakers intentionally put the opening credits in French and assured them, and me, that the film was in English. And it was. Ha-ha on me! And the many people that would come out of the theatre wanting their money back because they didn’t know “Night Patrol” was a foreign film.

Born in Canada, Murray Langston always had a knack for being funny. After entertaining his fellow sailors while working as a disc jockey in the Navy, Langston ended up in California, where he made his professional debut on “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In” doing his impression of a fork. He eventually earned a gig as part of the supporting cast of “The Sonny and Cher” show. But he shot to fame when he put a paper bag over his head and appeared as the Unknown Comic on “The Gong Show.”

In the almost four decades since he slipped that bag over his head he has not only continued to entertain but has helped nurture some of the greatest comedians of his, and our, era. To promote his new book, “Journey Thru the Unknown,” Mr. Langston sat down with me to talk about his career, his influences, and his two beautiful daughters, of whom he is immensely proud. After I regaled him with the above “Night Patrol” story, which he enjoyed, the questioning began in earnest. I should add hear that Murray Langston is always “on” and never misses an opportunity to make you laugh.

Murray Langston: Where are you calling me from?
Mike Smith: Kansas City.
ML: Oh…I’ve heard of it.
MS: I’ve got four or five questions whenever you’re ready.
ML: I tell you what….you’ve got six. And you can’t ask me what the capital of Ohio is.
MS: That was actually my follow up to the first question.
ML: (laughs). Good one. Don’t ask me the distance from the sun to the moon either. Don’t know it.

MS: For those who haven’t read the book yet, tell us a little about what led you into show business.
ML: Two words. Jerry Lewis. He’s what led me into it. Sitting in the theatre as a kid and watching those movies. I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I think he also inspired Steve Martin. He inspired a lot of people. And I’m so grateful because I’ve had a wonderful life…and am still having a wonderful life.

MS: That’s all that matters.
ML: Exactly. I’m enjoying every minute of every day.

MS: You are originally from Canada, which has also given us great comic minds like Dan Aykroyd, Mike Meyers, Jim Carey. What is it about Canada that makes people so funny?
ML: I don’t know. Maybe it’s the cold weather. We just wanted to get out of there and comedy was a good way to do it. You know, when you do shows in Canada the people aren’t really applauding, they’re just trying to keep warm.

MS: I can’t think of anyone that has an appreciation of comedy that doesn’t know of the Unknown Comic. When you would do your live shows you would open as the Unknown Comic and then, after a break, would return to the stage as Murray to finish the act. Were there any bits you felt more comfortable doing as the Unknown Comic rather than as Murray or vice versa?
ML: Not really. The Unknown Comic was more a visual act. I’d do impressions with the bag or magic tricks. Really, except for a few one-liners all of the jokes as the Unknown Comic were related strictly to the bag. Once I took the bag off it was a completely different show because I would talk about things that were happening in my own life.

MS: The book has a great collection of photographs. I think a lot of the people that read it are going to be shocked because they’re going to recognize you instantly by your moustache and realize you entertained them on many, many sketch comedy shows. Do you have a favorite guest star that you worked with on these shows?
ML: Obviously a huge moment for me was when I got to work with Jerry Lewis on “The Sonny and Cher Show.” That show was four and a half great years. I mean I got to meet everybody. From Ronald Regan to O.J. Simpson. All of the great musical acts that came along back then. “The Sonny and Cher Show” is definitely a highlight of my life.

MS: You mention often in your book the influence Jerry Lewis had, not only on you but on so many other comedians. Is there another comic actor around these days that you think could be referred to as having achieved “Jerry Lewis” status?
MS: You know who almost did that…Jim Carey, who I worked with a couple of times in Canada. I would say that he came pretty close to it for a few years. I’m one of those guys that, whenever somebody can get up on a stage and make people laugh for 45 minutes or an hour, I’m going to appreciate them because I know what it takes to do that. I really like Louis C.K. In fact, someone told me that he’s said he only became a comedian because of the Unknown Comic…because of watching me in his early years. I love his work. I love a lot of people’s work. Like I said, anybody that can do it I’m a fan of.

MS: I’ll understand if you can’t answer this one. Did you ever go on a secret mission with Chuck Barris when he was with the C.I.A.?
ML: (laughs loudly) Yes. No, Chuck told me that when he was writing the book he thought it came off as boring so he paralleled his true life story with a fictional one just to make the book more entertaining. And it certainly worked. It made for a good movie. But none of that stuff was true. And I hope people know that now.

MS: Finally, as you approach age 70 you’re still going strong. What do you have coming up?
ML: I just finished a play. And I’m getting ready to perform at the Wolf Trap Theatre. Is that in Vermont?

MS: Virginia. It’s very nice.
ML: I have a couple more joke books coming out, plus I currently doing the audio verison of “Journey Thru the Unknown.” I’ve got a joke book about Donald Trump and another one about the Kardashians, so I’m always busy. Plus I’m always looking out for my two daughters. (NOTE: Mr. Langston has two daughters: Myah, a singer/songwriter and Mary. Mary has Down Syndrome and is truly the light in her father’s life) My oldest daughter (Myah) just signed with Capitol Records and has a record coming out soon. They’re going to be HUGE! Her band is called My Crazy Girlfriend. And it’s really interesting. I wrote in my book how my influence was Jerry Lewis and the next thing I knew I was working with him. From the time Myah was 8 or 9 years old she was a huge fan of Brittney Spears. She idolized her. And now she’s been a back-up singer on her last three albums. That’s an interesting parallel, I thought.
MS: How is Mary?
ML: Mary is doing great. She’s the joy of my life. I’m picking her up from school and she’s spending the weekend with me.

MS: She’s an angel.
She is my angel. She makes my life worth living a hundred times more.

Book Review “Journey Thru The Unknown” by Murray Langston

Author: Murray Langston
Paperback/467 Pages
Publisher: BearManor Media
Publishing date: November 19, 2013

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

If you were alive in the 1970s you invariably were a fan of the Unknown Comic. Best known for his appearances on Chuck Baris’ “The Gong Show” television program, the Unknown Comic took a simple prop, a paper grocery sack, placed it on his head and never looked back. “Journey Thru the Unknown” tells the story of the man under the paper sack, a very funny man named Murray Langston who, in his almost 70 years, witnessed and, more importantly, helped shape the modern world of stand-up comedy.

Langston tells his story in a unique way, highlighting every year since his birth. That being said, the first chapter, entitled June 27, 1944, is the shortest, with his main recollection being that it was very hard for him to find work. This is the style Langston employs throughout the book. Whether recounting a meeting with his idol Jerry Lewis, or expressing a father’s love for his two daughters, Langston manages to add a little humor just when it’s needed.

From his early days in the Navy, where he entertained his fellow sailors as a radio DJ to his debut on “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In” to “The Sonny and Cher Show” and beyond, there doesn’t seem to be a time when Langston wasn’t making someone laugh. And along the way he met, or worked with, some of the greatest names in comedy, including Steve Martin, Pat Paulsen, Ruth Buzzi, Tim Conway, Jim Carey, Ted Knight and so many others. The book is also packed with photos – a virtual who’s who of comedy. As someone who enjoyed the various variety shows of the time, including “Sonny and Cher,” I was thrilled when I instantly recognized Langston’s mustached face as someone I had thoroughly enjoyed watching. Reliving his stories with him made me enjoy him all over again!

Blu-ray Review "BBC Earth: Africa – Eye to Eye with the Unknown"

Narrator: David Attenborough
Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Studio: BBC Home Entertainment
Release Date: February 26, 2013
Run Time: 360 minutes

Series: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 4 out of 5 stars

Ever since “Planet Earth”, I have been a nature documentary series junkie.  I can’t help it.  BBC releases some of the highest quality programming and consistently as well.  I love “Life” and “Frozen Planet”.  I can never seem to get enough. “Africa” is yet another breathtaking series that not only educates, it also leaves you stunned. The series is Executive Produced once again by “Mike Gunton” and he should be giving numerous awards for this work on these shows. This 6-part series will really takes you through Africa in a way that no documentary series has every shown you. The cinematography is beyond gorgeous and it is blended well and made entertaining as well with their fantastic stories of survival in place on our planet that has the most diverse animal life anywhere on our planet. Be sure not to miss this series!

Official Synopsis: 553 cameras. 100 days on horseback. 6,526 anti-malarial tablets. Just under 50 tons of kit carried. Executive producer and Primetime Emmy-nominee Michael Gunton and his team of dedicated filmmakers utilized all of this and more to bring you Africa. Four years in the making across 27 countries, Africa is the latest landmark Discovery Channel/BBC co-production to combine groundbreaking technology and dedicated filmmaking to produce a view into this mystifying continent as you’ve never seen it before. Narrated by renowned naturalist Sir David Attenborough, this extraordinary series takes you to epic, never-before-seen locations and captures the incredible new behaviors of the creatures that struggle to survive in a ever-changing continent.

“Africa” is perfectly narrated by the amazing Sir David Attenborough. When this aired on the Discovery Channel they ended up using Forest Whitaker and that is the main reason why I chose not to watch it.  If you are a fan of these series then you should know who Sir David Attenborough is, I wish they kept it the same as the international UK broadcast.  Nonetheless, this Blu-Ray contains the correct narrator like I said and also the original uncut broadcast taking us through Kalahari, Savannah, Congo, Cape, Sahara, and The Future.  Again the Discovery Channel cut out various scenes for commercials, so sad.  When I was a kid, I would have never believe you if you would have told me that I I would enjoy and also learn a lot from a series like this.  But again, they didn’t have amazing product like this when I was a kid.

Let’s get to the high definition 1080p transfer for these episodes. I know I should say more but I really feel that “WOW” really sums it up. Is that enough? Well I can’t say enough great things. The colors are so pristine and the landscapes are perfectly presented and looks crystal clear. Even if you watched this show in HD on the television it is usually only 720p at the most, so this is a real step up and it’s worth the purchase of the Blu-ray alone. BBC Home Entertainment not only delivered perfect video but also perfect audio. This releases comes with a killer DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio track. I know mostly it is used for David Attenborough’s narration, which sounds amazing, but if you really listen you can hear the grass bend and the beautiful songs of the river, deserts and of course the animals. Ace job here!

So you think that the amazing episodes are enough to keep you satisfied with this release? Well that’s great if you are because the rest is all topping then.  There are some really great special features included for this release.  There are over 30 minutes of extra exclusive Interviews with Sir David Attenborough, Executive producer Mike Gunton, series producer James Honeyborne and cameramen Martin Colbeck and Richard Matthews. You want behind-the-scenes featurettes? Good, because there is over an hour included as a bonus feature. Each episode has one and they are a fantastic look into this fantastic production. There are a few additional scenes including exclusive unseen footage from the Harenna Forest in Ethiopia also with commentary by director Matthew Wright and director Nick Easton respectively. Lastly there are about five minutes of Outtakes with the BBC Natural History Unit crew.

Interview with Unknown Hinson

Unknown Hinson is plays the lead of Early Cuyler in Adult Swim’s “Squidbillies”.  The show just started its sixth season and its looks like it is its best season yet.  Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Unknown Hinson about his role in the show and also his music career.

Mike Gencarelli: What do you like most about voicing the character Early Cuyler?
Unknown Hinson: As a voice actor, it is quite of a stretch for me.  I do it because it gives me a lot of freedom to improvise my lines.  I do incorporate a lot of myself into the character, which is a lot of fun. People get to know me through Early Cuyler and hopefully visa versa.

MG: How did you get involved with this show?
UH: Before the show took off, the creators got a hold of one of my CDs.  On that particular CD, there were sound clips of me talking and I guess they liked my voice.  I love cartoons and I was definitely interested. I have had a great time working on the show so far and hope to continue to.

MG: You are now into “Squidbillies” sixth season, do you feel that it has changed for you over that time?
UH: That is a good question Mike; I feel the character has evolved from season to season.  It is kind of like any character in any series, they get given a particular situation to deal with or react to.  It is really all about the days in the life of the character, one day might be good, one day might bad but you just react as it comes to you.  The main thing about cartoon characters is that they can get away with anything…obviously.  That is fascinating to me and gives me a lot of room, as I say, to be myself within the boundaries of the script.

MG: Do you ever improvise your lines during recording?
UH: Yeah, Jim Fortier and Dave Willis give me a lot of room to improvise and ad lib.  They let me put my own spin on it from time to time and I appreciate that.

MG: What has been your favorite episode of “Squidbillies” from this season?
UH: Well the season is just in process and I do not want to be partial to one particular episode.  I honestly like them all…I really do.  I do not have a favorite.

MG: How favorite episode about the show in general?
UH: I do remember an episode when Early and Lil had a litter of babies and there was one that survived.  Early took a liking to it and called it ‘Hershell Walker Cuyler Them Dawgs Is Hell Don’t They’.  I like that episode very much.

MG: You go from voice acting to musician, tell us about that side of you?
UH: Well I have been a musician all my life every since I was a little bitty boy.  That is the only profession I have ever done, it is my trade in life.  I am getting up in years but I am pretty sure I will do this till I die, I reckon. I have done for music from the show from time to time…a couple of songs. I have been able to lend some Unknown Hinson music to the show, which is a lot of fun.  I have gained a lot of new friends through “Squidbillies” and hopefully “Squidbillies” has gained friends through me.  I think one helps the other.  I enjoy playing music and doing the cartoon.

MG: Why aren’t there more musical episodes of “Squidbillies”?
UH: Well I do not know.  There is always the possibility we can do more.  The thing with me is I am always doing my thing, I have CDs to make and concerts to do.  I stay pretty busy.  But who knows may get into that more, I sure would like to.

MG: How do you find your unique sound for your music?
UH: I do not know Mike; I just write songs from my heart, sing them and play the guitar.  I record them, put them out and people seem to like it.  I am thankful to them because they come to see me play and buy my CDs. They seem to get something out of it and that is the main thing.

MG: Can we expect a new album anytime soon?
UH: Yes sir, a brand new Unknown Hinson album is due this Halloween. Yes! It will be available at UnknownHinson.com and my concerts.