He was 87.
He passed away at his home in Palisades, New York, from natural causes, according to publicist Paul Shefrin.
As host of “The Gong Show,” Barris introduced amateur performers to three celebrity judges, who could put a stop to terrible performances by striking the gong. Much like on “American Idol,” awful performances became ratings smash hits. The TV show aired from 1976 to 1980.
While his shows were wildly popular, they were not a hit with critics. Barris was panned as the King of Schlock, Baron of Bad Taste and Ayatollah of Trasherola.
Apart from game shows, Barris found success as a writer. He penned six best-selling books and a 1962 pop song, “Palisades Park,” which became a No. 3 hit in the US for Freddy Cannon.
Barris later wrote in his book “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind,” that he worked as a CIA assassin while working in TV — a claim denied by the agency. The book became a 2002 movie, directed by George Clooney. Sam Rockwell starred as Barris, and the cast included Julia Roberts, Drew Barrymore and Clooney.
In 2003, Barris looked back to the height of his TV popularity on “The Gong Show” in an interview with Entertainment Weekly.
“I. Was. So. Obnoxious,” he told EW. “I wouldn’t be surprised if an obituary says, ‘Gonged. He’s Gonged. He’s finally Gonged.’ But that’s not me. It’s not me.”
He is survived by his wife of 16 years, the former Mary Clagett.