Our beloved Air Farcemasters of mimicry and parody, whose send-ups of politicians, pundits and plebeiansprovided our weekly fare of laughs for almost four decades. Here, for the first time, is the story of the Farce, from its very beginningthe serendipitous meeting of two thirteen-year-olds on the steps of Loyola College High School in Montreal's west end. Their names were Roger Abbott and Don Ferguson.
Roger and Don were not beneath making fun of their Jesuit teachers, and the seeds of a lifelong friendship and creative partnership were planted. Working with John Morgan and Martin Bronstein in Montreal, Roger helped create "The Jest Society," a satirical parry to Pierre Trudeau's "Just Society." Within a few months the troupe moved to Toronto, where Don Ferguson and Luba Goy joined them and, with the addition of Dave Broadfoot, the troupe evolved into Royal Canadian Air Farce.
In Flying by the Seat of Our Pants, Roger and Don take you behind the scenes to share their stories of their earliest days on CBC Radio, touring the country, and after twenty years of unprecedented radio success, landing on television for yet another incarnation of the Farce. The Farce won the hearts and minds of Canadiansboth old and newbecause of their uncanny ability to turn headlines into punchlines and find funny nuggets in everything from national scandals to small-town idiosyncrasies. For thirty-five years, millions of Canadians tuned into the CBC for their weekly dose of home-grown humour. They flocked to town halls, high-school gyms and charitable benefits the Farce supported, lined up for the annual Christmas revues at Toronto's Massey Hall, and clamoured for tickets to the New Year's Eve tapings.
Even those who gave the Farce fodder for their comedyJean Chrétien, Sheila Copps, Ron MacLean, Doug Gilmour, Joe Clark and Preston Manning, among othersshared in the fun on-stage and on-air.
You will hear the familiar voices of those who were members of the Farce and those who directed, produced and wrote for the Farce. Contributions from Luba Goy, Dave Broadfoot, Perry Rosemond, Jessica Holmes, Gord Holtam and Ivan Fecan, all interviewed by journalist and Farce fan Bill Brioux, bring their own stories and remembrances to the Farce experience. In addition, Roger and Don dug deeply into the Farce archives for a wealth of memorabilia that grace these pages.
As the Farce are so fond of saying, "May the Farce be with you!"
The Farce is with us because it is us. From their zany, crazy, bizarre minds we have learned to laugh at ourselves for a very good reason we're funny. It just took Air Farce to make us realize it. Long live the Farce."
In my lifetime the Air Farce were always with me. I never much liked going to soccer practice when I was a kid but I loved the drive home; it meant my father and I would listen to Air Farce together. Usually we would end up sitting in the driveway, in his truck, listening to the last ten minutes, not taking a chance to run indoors in case we might miss something.
I was amazed at what they got away with, how saucy they were and the reaction they could generate, the laughter and the outrage.
As a kid I not only wanted to do what they were doing but I wanted to understand every joke. This meant watching the news, reading the paper and asking questions. They got me addicted to news and current affairs, they taught me it was okay to kick up and never kick down.
They were so much more than a group of funny people. They were a Canadian institution, like CN, The Rockies or the Atlantic cod stocks; always there when you needed them."
The Farce took it to the next level after Wayne & Shuster with a kind of participatory comedy. They helped us laugh at ourselves and we love that self-deprecating kind of comedy in Canada. In my experience of being on the show, you were just encouraged to be yourself and have fun, and I think that's what everybody in the end did, and that's what made it work."
I know both Roger and Don were instrumental in bringing my show to CBC, although neither of them ever mentioned it. Without the Air Farce I don't believe there would be any comedy shows on the CBC schedule. It would just be news, hockey and documentaries about documentaries."
Air Farce were deeply important to me as a comedian. They were Canadians, out there, doing a show, being funny and reaching an audience."
It was one of those shows in Canada that went on forever, that went through generations of actors and all sorts of insane talent and original ideas. The backbone of our industry is shows like that."