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Friday, July 01, 2011

TGIF: The Royal Canadian Air Farce

First off, I want to acknowledge the fact that July 1 is Canada Day.  Today marks the 144th anniversary of the day that Canada became an independent nation, so on behalf of any Canadian readers out there, I'd like to wish Canada a very happy birthday.

And because today happens to be Canada Day, I wanted to make today's blog entry all about something Canadian.

This proved to be a challenge though.  Today is TGIF day, which is a day that is dedicated to television sitcoms of yore.  Problem is, I had a bit of difficulty coming up with an appropriate show.  The only sitcom I could think of that was produced in Canada that had great success was 'Corner Gas', but I've only seen a few episodes of that show...not nearly enough for me to make up a blog entry about it...well, yet anyways.

So, for today, I decided to take a different route, and instead am focusing on a little sketch comedy program that began as a radio show.  Once it made the transition to television, it skyrocketed in popularity, and made millions of Canadians laugh with their witty and acerbic look on Canadian politics and pop culture bits.

The Royal Canadian Air Farce was founded in Montreal, Quebec in 1970, but that wasn't its original name when it began.  Initially, the comedy troupe had the name of 'The Jest Society', which was a play on words inspired by a comment uttered by former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.  Trudeau had the goal of wanting to make Canada a 'just society'.  And, well...that's the origin.

In 1970, the group was just an improv team.  The original members of the group were Roger Abbott, John Morgan, Patrick Conlon, Martin Bronstein, and Gay Claitman.

By 1973, Claitman and Conlon had departed the team, and were replaced by Luba Goy, Don Ferguson, and Dave Broadfoot.  The name of the group had changed too, to the Royal Canadian Air Farce.  In December of 1973, the Air Farce landed a show through CBC radio, broadcasting from the Curtain Club in Richmond Hill, Ontario.  The show proved to become a hit, and the location of the show eventually relocated to Toronto, and soon after that, they would travel across the country.

The team tried to bring their radio show onto the television airwaves in 1980, and while the show did garner some attention, it wasn't as successful as they had initially hoped.  Part of the reason was that it was hard to showcase radio sketches onto the television screen, and it didn't seem to work out all that well.

Twelve years later, in 1992, the troupe decided to try again with television.  By that time, the Air Farce contained the quartet of Abbott, Ferguson, Goy, and Morgan.  They debuted their special on New Years Eve, 1992, and called it 1992: Year Of The Farce.

The ratings were huge.  So huge that the show hosted another New Years Special in 1993.  Then in early 1994, the show began to air more regularly, and by 1997, the television show was so successful that the radio show was cancelled in May of that year, so that the Air Farce could focus solely on their television show.

The show underwent some cast changes during its run.  John Morgan retired in 2001, and Jessica Holmes came onto the show two years later.  Craig Lauzon and Alan Park joined the following year, and when Holmes went on maternity leave, Penelope Corrin filled in for her.  As a result of the addition of these four people on the show, the show could portray younger politicians, and younger celebrities like Paris Hilton or Justin Timberlake.

The show continued to air on CBC television until the 2008/2009 season, when it was announced the show would come to an end.  The final episode aired in December 2008, with two specials following on December 31, 2009 and December 31, 2010.

I'm sure that some of you want some examples of this sketch comedy, so being the good-humoured Canadian that I am, I will oblige.  After all, I was such a fan of the show when it originally aired, so I look forward to celebrating Canada Day by laughing.  Because laughter makes things so much better.  Take that lesson to your graves, people.  Laughter makes everything better.

Okay, so here's a little Dancing With The Stars spoof featuring the 2007 cast.

Here's a Weakest Link spoof, featuring Goy, Abbott, and Ferguson.

How about some 'trouser popcorn'?

Or, would you like to 'Get Stuffed'?

My all-time favourite Air Farce clips have to involve the Chicken Cannon, though.

But, what is the chicken cannon, you ask?

The chicken cannon is a gigantic cannon that can be filled with anything and everything.  Operated by Colonel Stacy (played by Ferguson), the targets were often lousy Canadian politicians, disgraced athletes, annoying celebrities, or sometimes even inanimate objects.  The more vilified a target, the grosser the ammunition.  Watch and learn.

And there you have it.  A Canadian institution for many years, and kept us in stitches the whole time.

Before I close this note, I do have to add some final closing remarks, as well as a tribute to two men associated with this show.

Roger Abbott (left), passed away on March 26, 2011 after a fourteen-year battle with leukemia.  He was 64.  John Morgan (right), passed away on November 15, 2004 after suffering a heart attack at the age of 74.  Both of these men were part of the original line-up of the Royal Canadian Air Farce.  Had it not been for the contributions of these two men, the Air Farce wouldn't have gotten off the ground. 

Thanks for making us laugh, Roger and John.  You continue to be missed.

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