Martin Crook, Comedy Central
Dave Attell is the host of "The Gong Show with Dave Attell."

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — "The Gong Show" is back, but it's not your father's "Gong Show."

It's on Comedy Central, which ought to tell you something. And it's now titled "The Gong Show With Dave Attell," which ought to tell you more.

It's still be a low-budget half hour in which various acts — many of them without any discernible talents — will appear on stage. And three judges will still be sitting there ready to bang the gong and abruptly end the act.

But, while the 1970s "Gong Show" was sort of harmless fun for the entire family, the new version isn't something you'll want to sit down and watch with the wife and kids.

"The cool thing about this show," Attell said, "is that a lot of these acts, I asked them, 'Have you been on these other talent shows, like "America's Got Talent" or anything like that?' And a lot of them go, 'No, we don't want to do that. We would have to edit our act.' "And at Comedy Central they were cool enough to let it be raw and real. ... And I think it's a good fit for a lot of these acts. Some of these acts are really grungy, fun acts. So they wouldn't work on whatever that other show is." ("The Gong Show With Dave Attell" premieres Thursday at 11 p.m. on Comedy Central and repeats at various times throughout the week.)

The acts are a "Mulligan stew, if you will," according to Attell. They run "the whole gamut, from the pedestrian, I guess you could say, unicycle act to the more raunchy, odd cabaret act. The acts that I enjoy the most are the raunchy vaudeville acts, but, you know, it's up to the judges."

The fact is that "The Gong Show" isn't like "American Idol" or "Nashville Star" or even the aforementioned "America's Got Talent." Because talent doesn't really enter the equation.

"Talent has really nothing to do with the show," Attell said. "It's about a party. It's about people coming out, doing their thing.

"Just come out, do your thing, and let's have fun with it. And if you don't get gonged, that's cool. And if you do get gonged, you're part of the show, so you're part of our club."

And, unlike those big-time talent shows, nobody is going to get rich from winning on "The Gong Show" — the prize is "The Gong Show" belt and about $600 in cash.

"The running joke is it's my weight in gas or my weight in porn or whatever," Attell said. "But, yeah, it's a low prize. It's not one of these life-changing prizes like on 'Deal or No Deal' or anything like that, because you all know picking the right number is a super skill. The heavens have to be involved in that.

"But I think the people that do come on just want to perform. And that's kind of the cool thing about a low cash prize."

As for Attell, he's just happy to be in out of the rain. "The Gong Show" is certainly an easier gig than his show "Insomniac With Dave Attell ..."

"The last show I did for Comedy Central, I was out in the rain and the snow and talking to drunks in a bar," he said. "So this is kind of like a rehab. I got to kind of sober up and the acts came to me, finally."

And he's just being himself on "The Gong Show."

"What makes a good host? I don't know," Attell said. "I really love these acts, I have to tell you. I am kind of their attorney, their advocate. And the judges are brutally funny and brutally honest, and that's something you don't see on other talent shows."


E-mail: pierce@desnews.com