Radio

As Canadian as beaver pie

ELEANOR WARD October 17 1977
Radio

As Canadian as beaver pie

ELEANOR WARD October 17 1977

As Canadian as beaver pie

Radio

Wearing a silly blue flowered hat and flopping the script in his limp wrist, John Morgan, a large ruddy-faced Welshman, minces to the microphone at the Hamilton Place Studio Theatre and becomes a pushy old tart, Amy de la Pompa. Amy, who is the author of Three Hundred Ways To Say Yes! begins shouting in a loud falsetto voice at callers on her phone-in show.

Caller?Is it true that Joe Clark is a secret dr...thinker?”

Amy “How that rumor got started I’ll never know. There’s nothing secretive about Joe. He does all thinking right out there in public — while talking,sometimes shortly afte ward.’’The audience, seated at white lin en - covered tables, chortles appreciatively.

At the rear of the stage, troupe members set up for the skit and mug shamelessly behind Morgan back. The items fast, topical and

ally on the mark. In one a'v' lamp is knocked over in Prime Minister Trudeau’s office. “Oh, don't worry about that,” shrugs a familiar voice, “it was a wedding present.”

At a time when radio comedy shows performed before an audience are a rarity, CBC’s Royal Canadian Air Farce has become a striking exception. Successfully bucking the odds, Air Farce, starring Morgan, 47, Roger Abbott, 31, Don Ferguson, 31, Luba Goy, 31, and Dave Broadfoot, 51, launched its fifth season on October 8. The show is intelligent, irreverent, and so solidly Canadian that The Toronto Star’s Dennis Braithwaite termed it “a national asset of infinitely greater value than hockey, Alberta oil or John Diefenbaker.” A ir Farce is satirical and zany in the vein of Britain’s Monty Python’s Flying Circus. It sends up soap operas (“Welcome to The Secret Search For The Edge of Tomorrow Night”), the Post Office, commercials (Announcer: “Madame, if you were in the maternity ward in labor for 48 hours, what would you do?” Woman: “I’d SHOUT it out”),homosexuals (“Hi. I’m Anita Bryant’s brother. The one she never talks about.”)

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The program material is written by Abbott, Ferguson, Broadfoot and Morgan. They work flat out for a week before the taping and spend the last two days with Luba Goy sitting around the glass dining table in Abbott’s Toronto flat piecing the show together.

The company began when the Montreal-based Jest Society landed some air time on CBC radio. The Jest, created in 1970 by former Air Farce writer Martin Bronstein, initiated the comedy careers of radio producers Abbott and Ferguson, actress Goy and writer Morgan. In 1972, e four changed their name and added Dave Broadfoot, the fuzzy - haired nightclub veteran who last summer celebrated 25 years in Canadian comedy (“It’s not an ent,

it’s a miracle”). His unlikely character is Corporal Renfrew,amarble-headMountie, whose offhand insults (“I had to get to Yellowknife in the worst way... Air Canada”) and convoluted cases (“Taken from RCMP files and,until now, not missed”) end most shows. For the next three years, Air Farce joked through the first half hour of CBC radio’s The Entertainers, and quietly began to build an audience. In 1976 when the Air Farce’s ratings were taken separately from the parent show, they hit number one in CBC radio variety and the Air Farce crew was given its own program on Saturday mornings. Last April, the program won the ACTRA Award for bést variety performance in radio.

On a good week A ir Farce will receive at least 300 letters—many readdressed from the Downsview Armed Forces Base outside Toronto. Some listeners complain about the show’s occasionally tasteless double entendres but most respond avidly to the sort of topicality the show has become known for. Loud crashing. Trudeau: “Don’t they teach you to open doors at the RCMP academy?” Mountie: “Yes sir, that’s how they teach us.” ELEANOR WARD