It’s a crazy, unpredictable world we live in, but here are two things that aren’t at all surprising:
1) A TV network has decided to bring back the goofy talent competition, “The Gong Show”;
2) The first new “Gong Show” contestant is the Unipiper, the performer known for keeping Portland weird by donning masks, riding a unicycle and playing flame-belching bagpipes.
“It kinds of seems like the Unipiper was made to be on ‘The Gong Show,'” says the Unipiper himself, who, when he’s not unipiping, is known as Brian Kidd.
Since moving to Portland from North Carolina in 2007, Kidd has been making public appearances around town, and on TV, doing his Unipiper act, which involves him wearing a Darth Vader mask, and dressing up as characters from “Game of Thrones” and “The Lord of the Rings,” among others.
The legend of the Portland Unipiper has definitely spread beyond the Rose City, as Kidd tells it.
“I didn’t hear they were bringing back ‘The Gong Show,'” he says. But one of the show’s producers grew up in Eugene and was familiar with Kidd and his Unipiper routine.
“I guess I was one of the first people they contacted,” says the 33-year-old Kidd.
Kidd was too young to have watched “The Gong Show” back when it debuted in 1976, with creator/host Chuck Barris gleefully welcoming amateur acts who were frequently so awful the celebrity judges would bang a gong to make them stop.
“Growing up, my parents would tell me about it,” Kidd says of “The Gong Show.” He’d seen clips on YouTube of such characters as Gene Gene the Dancing Machine, and the Unknown Comic (who performed with a paper bag covering his head.)
Beyond that, Kidd was familiar with how “The Gong Show,” with its outrageous acts and celebrity judge wisecracks, had become part of popular culture.
“It’s pretty exciting to be on something that has such a rich history,” Kidd says.
Though Kidd has appeared as the Unipiper on such varied programs as “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “The Bachelor,” and auditioning for…