Australian-born writer Chris Bearde, best known for creating The Gong Show & The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, has died aged 80.
Bearde, brother of actress Robina Bearde, grew up in Sydney, launching his career hosting a 1950s kids show. In the early 1960s, he landed a writing gig at CTV in Canada, creating Canada’s first late-night political satire Front and Centre and Nightcap.
Deadline notes he moved to Hollywood in the mid ’60s and worked on variety specials including Where the Girls Are and Romp!! before co-writing Elvis, an early example of the “unplugged” that MTV would later popularise.
Bearde became a senior writer on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In and shared the writing Emmy in 1968. He left the show after its second season, working on specials for Dinah Shore and Andy Williams, before creating and producing The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour.
Other credits included the sitcom That’s My Mama, The Hudson Brothers Razzle Dazzle Show and Bill Cosby’s Cos variety program before creating The Gong Show. The talent show premiered in 1976 and was revived in 1988 and 2008.
In the mid-2000s, Bearde moved to Las Vegas and opened Chris Bearde’s International Comedy Hall of Fame. He also launched the Chris Bearde School of Comedy in Sin City before relocating it to Los Angeles.