Barris was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He attended Drexel University
where he was a columnist at the student
newspaper The Triangle. He graduated
Barris got his start in
television as a page and later staffer at
NBC in New York, and eventually worked backstage
at the TV music show American Bandstand on
ABC. Barris soon became a music industry
figure. He also wrote or co-wrote some of
the music that appeared on his game shows.
Barris was promoted to the
daytime programming division at ABC in Los
Angeles and was put in charge of deciding
which game shows ABC would air. His ABC bosses
suggested that he quit his programming job
and become a producer himself.
Barris first became successful
during 1965 with his first game show creation The
Dating Game on ABC.
The next year Barris produced The
Newlywed Game for the same network.
The combination of the newlywed couples'
humorous candor and host Bob Eubanks' exuberant
sly questioning made the show another hit
for Barris - and to date the longest lasting
of any developed by his company, running
for 19 full years on 'first run' TV, network
The engaging but somewhat
shy Barris rarely appeared on camera. But
Barris became a public figure in a big way
in 1976, when he produced and hosted the
talent contest spoof The Gong Show.
The show's cult stature far outstripped the
two years it spent on NBC (1976-78) and the
four years it ran in syndication (1976–1980).
Barris' jokey, bumbling
personality, his accentuated hand-clapping
between sentences , and his catch-phrases
made him the antithesis of the smooth TV
host. Dubbed "Chuckie Baby" by
his fans, Barris was a perfect fit with the
show's goofy, sometimes wild amateur performers.
Barris married Lyn Levy, niece of one of the
founders of CBS. His 1974 novel, You and
Me, Babe, is loosely based on this marriage.
Their daughter Della Barris, who often appeared
on The Gong Show, died of a drug
overdose in 1998 at age 35. He married twice
more, to "Red" Robin
Altman, and later to Mary Barris. His uncle
was singer/songwriter/actor Harry Barris.
He now lives outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
in the United States.