Julie, Don't Go!
August 25, 2008 4:18 PM   Subscribe

While England had the Two Ronnies (earlier today), Canada had, more or less simultaneously, its own hit comedy duo in Wayne and Shuster. Johnny Wayne was the manic engine and Frank Shuster the perpetual straight man, and even if they weren't to your taste, you have to admit they never underestimated their audience -- with sketches like Shakespearean Baseball, (full versions on YouTube, in 1950s and 1970s flavours!) Rinse The Blood off My Toga (excerpt), and Frontier Psychiatrist (the latter being the sample base for a surprising hit by Melbourne-based band The Avalanches) combining the sciences, classical literature, pop culture and ancient history simultaneously.

They were not, of course, above the hoary old comedy clichés, either, including golf, airline travel, and well, feature-length Star Trek parodies.

Most Canadians between the age of 30 and 40 will fondly recall a weekly sitcom (which largely converted their radio hits to video), especially the closing theme, but those in a slightly older bracket may recognize the duo as the all-time most-seen guests on the Ed Sullivan Show.

Some of it is dated, to say the least, but the duo made an almost incalculable difference in the Canadian psyche -- they single-handedly turned Canadians from the blandly polite folks up north into the too-smart-for-school crack-ups, and spawned a lineage that led to SCTV and the Kids in the Hall and other, lesser-known Canadian comedy groups like The Frantics (whose 4 On The Floor show was a single-season diamond of comedy brilliance, including Mr. Friendly and Canuck icon Mr. Canoehead (incidentally, the bleeped word is "Mormons", which was bleeped out of every airing after the first one)) and current groups like The Irrelevant Show.
posted by Shepherd (24 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Don't forget The Vestibules! Admittedly less well-known than the Frantics but still icons of the Canadian troupe comedy scene. One could do a whole FPP on the Frantics - one of them went on to found a successful web design business, etc.

I think the Glob of Mail once did a profile of Wayne's and Schuter's (separate) houses in their style section. They seemed like OK guys considering that they were essentially as famous as humanly possible in the context of Canada.

And yes, I can still remember the Caesar skit from which the title is taken... though why having a Bronx accent was so funny to me as a kid is a bit of amystery.
posted by GuyZero at 4:32 PM on August 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Don't forget Vacant Lot.

P.S.anyone up for a Smothers Brothers post to complete the trifecta?

P.P.S. My God! It's welded to your head!
posted by furtive at 4:37 PM on August 25, 2008

I love that song, and I never knew who recorded it nor where the samples came from. Thanks for clearing both of those questions up.
posted by davejay at 5:06 PM on August 25, 2008

I was likely exposed in utero to the Wayne and Shuster skit, explaining my instant love for the Avalanches' song.

Another great sample-heavy song of relevance to Canucks is Lemon Jelly's Nervous Tension, which features the vocal samplings of hypnotist Raveen.
posted by benzenedream at 6:00 PM on August 25, 2008

Radio Free Vestibule is some of my favourite stuff and I still listen to it regularly.

Grew up on W&S and you couldn't excise their theme song from my head with a prefrontal lobotomy.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 6:19 PM on August 25, 2008

My uncle sent a mixed comedy cassette tape to me when I was living in India as a kid. It was one of my few cultural artifacts from "back home", the highlight of which was Rinse the Blood Off My Toga! I must have listened to it a hundred times. I can still recite dozens of lines from memory, corny as they are.

I could tell I was dealing with no ordinary man - this guy was a nut!

I could tell I was dealing with no ordinary case - this was a mental case!

I said to them, "Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears!

- What do you have in that sack?

posted by BinGregory at 7:00 PM on August 25, 2008

I still remember their Oil of Old Clay gag. Heh.

Also: Boot to the head.
posted by stinkycheese at 7:05 PM on August 25, 2008

Thanks for that. I remember W&S from my childhood.

McLean & McLean, SCTV, The Frantics, Bowser & Blue, Kids in the Hall, Madly Off In all Directions... good stuff.

I'm currently enjoying the Irrelevant Show.

Oh, and I'm crushing your head!
posted by Artful Codger at 7:36 PM on August 25, 2008

Can we start hating on the Air Farce too?

posted by cerulgalactus at 7:39 PM on August 25, 2008

I still want to marry Johnny Wayne.

Theirs was such a great sketch show - I wish that it would just go into perpetual syndication.
posted by jb at 7:46 PM on August 25, 2008

And besides the above, there's This Hour has 22 Minutes -- especially Rick Mercer's "Talking to Americans" -- and the lunatic Newfies of CODCO, the universally and eternally awesome Kids in the Hall, and the gentler goofiness of Red Green (1001 uses for duct tape) plus lesser lights like Edmonton's Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie (who don't suck) and the political satire of radio 80's duo Double Exposure.

Hell, even The Royal Canadian Air Farce was funny, once upon a time.

Yep. Canada sucks. Way too cold to be funny. Fer sure, eh?
posted by jrochest at 10:34 PM on August 25, 2008

Can't let this pass without mentioning Frank Shuster's family ties: his cousin was Superman co-creator Joe Shuster. And his daughter Rosie was an SNL writer and spouse of Lorne Michaels.
posted by evilcolonel at 10:57 PM on August 25, 2008

Having grown up with a crappy television hooked up to a crappier antenna (Dad never did get around to putting it up on the damn roof) which only received the inconstant CTV affiliate signal, the marginally better CBC station, and maddeningly crystal-clear French CBC broadcasts, I can still quote most of these clips verbatim.

Fun post, thanks!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:03 PM on August 25, 2008

I never understood why Double Exposure isn't still on the radio. As far as political satire goes, I don't think the country has heard sharper or funnier since. (Their TV foray was just plain embarassing, though. It was like they became the kind of awkward media production they were once so excellent at skewering.) I wonder why CBC Radio doesn't re-hire them?
posted by bicyclefish at 11:51 PM on August 25, 2008

I loved RTBOMT as a kid. Thanks for the reminder, and all those other lovely things to listen to.
posted by flabdablet at 1:01 AM on August 26, 2008

I used to love W&S when I was a kid. This was one of my favorite skits; it still makes me laugh.
posted by Oriole Adams at 1:59 AM on August 26, 2008

Don't forget the Arrogant Worms,, who did not sing "The War of 1812".
posted by QIbHom at 5:48 AM on August 26, 2008

The Arrogant Worms did of course sing "Christmas in Ignace", which still stands as one of the best (worst) Christmas songs ever. Part of the fun is playing it for someone who's never heard it before and seeing how long they last before screaming at you to TURN IT OFF FOR THE LOVE OF GOD TURN IT OFF.
posted by Spatch at 10:37 AM on August 26, 2008

Oh, yeah, once upon a time the Air Farce was funny... I grew up listening them on CBC Radio every Sunday, right after the time signal ("The beginning of the long dash, followed by 10 seconds of silence indicated 1 o'clock eastern standard time..."). Unlike their trite TV show, they used to be really, really funny. I think it must have been Dave Broadfoot as he stayed funny eve after he left the show while the rest of them got a lot worse.

And yeah, Double Exposure... they didn't make the transition to CTV too well. I wish they were still on. And did anyone else ever listen to 'The Great Eastern' on CBC Radio? That was a fairly amusing parody of the CBC itself. Episodes are available online by g'ar.
posted by GuyZero at 12:35 PM on August 26, 2008

The Frantics are definitely worthy of their own FPP -- I may do one eventually (heck, Rick Green's "Prisoners of Gravity" is worthy of its own FPP) but I'm scared I'll just link to ever single minute of 4 On The Floor.

I have exactly the same relationship with Air Farce as all y'all do.

Curiosity: has anyone here listened to Canadia 2056? It's never on at a convenient time for me, and the promos do sound pretty funny.
posted by Shepherd at 12:51 PM on August 26, 2008

Canadia 2056 was pretty funny in the bits I heard, though it's not really genius, merely good. As a serial I think you have to listen to a few episodes before it really seems enjoyable and even then it's as much comical drama as comedy, which is to say you won't LOL as much as chuckle. I doubt it will have the same cultural resonance as, say, the 1 PM time signal.

posted by GuyZero at 2:04 PM on August 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you like Canadian comedy, you should check out Dr. Bundolo's Pandemonium Medicine Show, a radio series from the 70's that I thought was hilarious. The one thing I remember most went something...like....this:

Adult: Stop complaining! Don't be such a baby!
Kid: You're hurting me!!Leave me alone! OW OW OW
Adult: Shut up, slacker! Get moving! You're doing it all wrong!

...and so on, in that vein, until you hear an announcer's voice say:

"We will return to Howie Meeker's Hockey School in just a moment."
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 6:51 PM on August 26, 2008

And did anyone else ever listen to 'The Great Eastern' on CBC Radio?

I signed up here so I could answer a GE-related AskMe, and usually listen to the run at least once a year.

Like GuyZero said, Canadia 2056 requires repeated listenings before the annoying yammering becomes amusing character-based spoofery. Its dramatic counterpart Afghanada is surprisingly good, though.

Comedian Al Rae used to do a regular bit for the local CBC called Pete Transcona, a noirish parody featuring the seedy adventures of a hard-bitten gumshoe in Winnipeg that was quite good.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:52 PM on August 26, 2008

Canadia 2056 made me repeatedly scream, jump over the couch, and turn the radio off. It was giving me flashbacks. When I was 12 or 13, a friend of mine and I camcorded a Star Trek spoof that made heavy use of a casio syntheizer that could be made to produce farty noises and a number of jokes that, in hindsight, I believe he lifted from "Spaceballs."

So, are you telling me I was missing something?
posted by bicyclefish at 11:21 PM on August 26, 2008

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