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News Releases

 

CONGRATULATIONS, LUBA GOY!

AIR FARCE'S OWN PICKS UP PRESTIGIOUS LITERARY AWARD

In 2012, Luba Goy premiered her own one-woman show, "Luba, Simply Luba." The play, written in collaboration with Diane Flacks and directed by Andrey Tarasiuk, was a look back at her formative years, emigrating from Ukraine and growing up in Canada, and following her path to long-running success with Air Farce.

Audiences and critics praised the show and its dynamic star, who portrayed over forty characters, including herself. Toronto's Now Magazine called the play "(an) honest and revealing show," while the Calgary Sun said, "This is a jewel of a show you simply can't afford to miss."

Published by Scirocco Drama last November, the book was recently entered into a competition, the Kobzar Literary Award.

Held at the Palais Royale Ballroom on Wednesday, March 5, 2014, Luba says the awards ceremony was "a grand, thrilling, fun, and most surprising evening" ... especially when it was revealed that her show was the grand prize winner!

Luba told us, "Thanks to all my friends and family for your constant support, encouragement, love, and understanding."

Here is more information on the award from the Toronto Star.

And to order your copy of Luba, Simply Luba, click here (publisher's site), here (Amazon), or here (Indigo).

 

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A HISTORY OF AIR FARCE, AS TOLD BY ROGER AND DON

AIR FARCE: 40 YEARS OF FLYING BY THE SEAT OF OUR PANTS

To read a sample chapter and check out exclusive photos, visit our book's website.

A rollicking, behind-the-scenes look at Canada's favourite comedy troupe!

AIR FARCE: 40 YEARS OF FLYING BY THE SEAT OF OUR PANTS is the long-awaited, much-anticipated history of Air Farce. It’s a beautiful, 268-page, hardcover book, with tons of pictures.

Air Farce was a staple of CBC television for over fifteen years, with diehard fans numbering in the millions. Written by founding members Roger Abbott and Don Ferguson, this candid memoir, full of anecdotes, photographs, scripts, and other memorabilia from their private collection, describes every aspect of their early days as an onstage comedy troupe, their historic run on radio, and their spectacular success on prime-time television.

The book also features interviews with key players in the Air Farce story conducted by Bill Brioux, TV journalist, blogger, author, and longtime Farce afficionado.

With contributions from many of their longtime friends and collaborators, including veteran Farceur Dave Broadfoot, the book takes readers behind the scenes, and on stage, into the day-to-day creative vortex of one of the most popular comedy shows in the history of Canadian television.

 

... BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE!

• Read an interview with Don about the new book on CBC 75th Anniversary Blog: Behind Air Farce's Laughter.

• Bill Brioux covered the October 17th book launch on his blog, TV Feeds My Family. Read the articles by clicking here and here!

• During the October 17th book launch at CBC in Toronto, Don Ferguson did a live interview with CBC News Network's Carole MacNeil and Jelena Adzic. Click here to watch the interview on the CBC Books website.

• The Toronto Star's Martin Knelman attended our launch and wrote this terrific article about our good friend, Ivan Fecan, and how he figures in the book and (very prominently) in Air Farce's history...

 

AIR FARCE BOOK OFFICIALLY THE CRITICS' PICK!

• TV critic John Doyle selects the Air Farce book as one of his top gifts "for the TV hound" ... you can see it here (slide 6 of 25), along with all the other picks from The Globe and Mail's entertainment writers.

• Blogger and writer James Bawden praises the book as a dose of good ol' Canadiana on entertainment shelves this year.

• Bill Brioux included the book on this Toronto Star list of gifts for TV lovers ... click here to see the complete article.

 

Don, standing in front of the dusted-off donut shop set, points to Dave Broadfoot and asks him to take a bow during the book launch for AIR FARCE: 40 YEARS OF FLYING BY THE SEAT OF OUR PANTS. Hundreds of fans and friends turned out for the event -- which featured free Tim Hortons coffee and donuts, as well as the opportunity to have the Air Farce cast sign the book -- at the Barbara Frum Atrium in CBC's Canadian Broadcasting Centre, Toronto, Monday, October 17, 2011.

ORDER YOUR COPY TODAY FROM AMAZON OR INDIGO.

 

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CBC AT 75: YOURS TO CELEBRATE

*RARE AIR FARCE VIDEO POSTED!*

On November 2, 2011, CBC celebrated 75 years of broadcasting. Air Farce is proud to be a part of the CBC family, an association that began in 1973 ... that's over half of the Corporation's existence!

As part of the 75th anniversary, CBC created a special website with photos, videos, games, and more. We've bookmarked some Air Farce-related posts and exclusive videos you can only find on CBC's 75th site, so CLICK HERE to take a look, including exclusive video-on-demand of Air Farce's VERY FIRST TV SPECIAL from 1980!...

CBC at 75

 

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December 19, 2010

'Air Farce' returns once again

Bill Harris, Sun Media

For Jessica Holmes and the rest of the cast, getting into Air Farce mode every year must be like digging out the Christmas decorations.

But as Air Farce reunites for another New Year's Eve special on CBC, Holmes has a fresh perspective.

"At the end of the season two years ago, I had sort of resigned from Air Farce, hoping to find my own sense of humour again, my standup roots, my solo roots," Holmes said.

"So they called me a couple of times this year, and I kept thinking, 'I gotta find my own voice first.' And I think I've actually done it.

"So when they called the last time, I was like, 'Aw, I've missed you guys!' I've never missed anyone as much as I've missed Don (Ferguson) and Roger (Abbott). They said I can write my own pieces, so I'm kind of coming back to Air Farce having rediscovered my own voice and I couldn't be more excited."

Air Farce was a longtime radio show, that morphed into a weekly TV show, and in recent years has continued as a once-a-year New Year's Eve extravaganza. This year Holmes will be back alongside not only Ferguson and Abbott, but also Luba Goy, Craig Lauzon, Alan Park and Penelope Corrin.

Holmes' process of rediscovering her comedic spark was anchored by the writing of a book, titled I Love Your Laugh, which was published in October.

"The book was the coolest experience because I did the whole thing by myself," Holmes said. "It was a perfect way to announce, 'This is who I am, no impressions, no playing anybody else, just playing me.'

"A few years ago, I had the comedy equivalent of writer's block. When it was just me on stage with an audience, I had lost my comedic instinct in terms of just following my gut. I wrote about it in the book -- when you lose your confidence and you're a performer, it's kind of a big deal.

"The weirdest thing in this career is when you start making a living off of what you used to do for fun. Every time you discover something funny, instead of enjoying the funny, you start to say, 'OK, how can I make money off that? How am I going to pay my mortgage with that joke this month?' "

Most viewers tuning into Air Farce have been fans of the show for years. But adjusting her comedy for any particular audience is the exact trap Holmes is trying to avoid.

"After reading enough biographies of creative people, the lesson they always come back to is that you have to be true to yourself, even before being true to your audience," Holmes said.

"I am coming at this 100% as myself, as Jessica Holmes the Jessica Holmes comedian, not Jessica Holmes the Air Farce comedian. I'm just bringing my authentic humour to it.

"The two pieces I helped write reflect my humour, and I just have to trust that people get it. And if it's funny in a different way than they're used to, then all the better."

 

December 18, 2010

F-Bombs flying at annual Air Farce year-ender

Bill Brioux, TV Feeds My Family

"At least we know this is one way to get into your blog." That was Roger Abbott's very perceptive crack as the above photo was snapped at Friday night's taping of the Air Farce New Year's Eve special. The taping took place at a packed 10th floor studio at the CBC broadcast centre in Toronto. Abbott and Ferguson were among those in costume as F-Bomb scientists; the F-Bomb is the messy new splatter machine that has taken the place of the old Chicken Cannon at these annual Air Farce year enders. Large rolls of cellophane were stretched across the front row of the bleachers in an effort to control the amount of guck sprayed from the messy F-bombs.

All seven of the Farce troopers are back for the hour long salute to the year about to end. Pot shots are taken at the usual suspects, including politicians Harper, Ignatieff and Layton, Celine Dion and her new twins, Sarah Palin, the upcoming Royal nuptials, Don Cherry, George Stroumboulopoulos, Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, fellow CBC funnyman Ron James and a veteran Canadian TV news anchor who is retiring sometime in the new year.

It all airs Dec. 31 at 8 p.m. and midnight on CBC. Watch the early one before you get too into the spirit, sez Rog.

(Click here to visit Bill's blog.)

 

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October 13, 2010

Did you hear the one about the Mormon comedian?

Sarah Hampson, The Globe and Mail

“I don’t think I’m ever going to find something and stop,” Jessica Holmes acknowledges.

In her new memoir, I Love Your Laugh: Finding the Light in My Screwball Life, the 37-year-old comedian describes her journey to self, one she feels will never end.

Best known for her work on CBC’s Royal Canadian Air Farce, where she was a cast member for six seasons, Ms. Holmes has always inhabited other personas. Her hilarious impersonations of Celine Dion, Laureen Harper, Liza Minnelli and Calista Flockhart, among others, are memorable for her ability to “find the funny” in the personalities and mimic a telling mannerism.

But she has also inhabited different versions of herself.

In her 20s, before her rise to fame in Canada, the Ottawa citizen was a missionary with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, working in Venezuela. “I’m into peak experiences!” she explains. “It’s part of my personality,” she says in a suddenly lowered voice, leaning forward. “That’s why I have my little subscription to Psychology Today. I read things, and I’m, like, oh that’s me!”

Ebullient as a child, Ms. Holmes often cuts herself off in the middle of sentences when she feels she's saying too much – about her worry over her weight, about the common assumption that female comics aren't as funny as men, about her nose, which she hates but thinks makes her appropriately ordinary-looking.

Her time as a Mormon wasn’t a mistake, she says. It was a phase. “For me, boy, did it ever feel like the right thing when I first joined the church. I really did feel it was an answer to my prayers. It felt like proof that God existed and that this was the right path for me. And then three years later, it was just the wrong thing.” She couldn’t live with the church’s stance against homosexuality.

The experience yielded hilarious anecdotes, as well as her Air Farce character Candy Anderson, a craft-making right-wing Christian. Once, her Mormon sisters tried to make her over by tweezing her heavy eyebrows and teasing her hair. “They would say, ‘Bangs up to heaven, Sister Holmes!’ ” she says, collapsing in laughter. “They made me look like a country singer. I felt so awfully out of place but I would say, ‘Really? Really? Do I look like one of you?’ I felt so proud in that moment even though I looked hideous with a little pinafore and doily collars.”

A few marriage proposals came her way from fellow missionaries. “They proposed on the third date, knowing they didn’t love me. And one guy prayed about it and said that he was given the answer that I was to be his bride, and I was, like, I didn’t get that answer and I prayed,” she says, screwing up her face in exaggerated confusion.

At the time, she would jot down events and people in a “funny journal” even though none of the Mormons shared her sense of humour. The note-taking was a practice from childhood. “I appreciated humour the way other people take photographs of pretty flowers,” she says. “It was like a hobby … I’ve always loved comedy. I just didn’t know comedy liked me.”

Trading her Bible for a microphone, she found success as a stand-up comedian. “In that moment [on stage], it’s not just feeling like I did it and you laughed, it’s more like feeling this is what I’m supposed to be doing. I put smiles on people’s faces.” Television offers soon followed. In 2002, she headlined a sketch comedy troupe, The Holmes Show, on CTV. But it was cancelled with self-esteem-crushing disappointment. “Comedy Inc. came out and all the ingredients were the same [as The Holmes Show] except for me, so I was, like, ‘Oh, they were my friends,’ ” she says, crumpling her face. A few bad stand-up routines followed, prompting her to think her comedy club days were over. In 2003, Royal Canadian Air Farce provided a safe landing. “I thought I should stick to what I know and play it safe.”

Her decision to leave the popular CBC show two years ago was a calculated risk. “I had to leap out of the nest!” she blurts. “I wanted to regain my confidence. I wanted to face the monster and force myself to start up again where I had left off.” Fame is not satisfying, she says. “Creatively, it’s not enough. And whatever I do tomorrow, it won’t be enough. That doesn’t mean there’s something lacking. It means there’s something creatively that needs to come out.”

To complicate the journey of finding herself, Ms. Holmes became a mother three years ago but floundered with feelings of inadequacy. She and her husband, Scott, an actor, now have two children, aged 3 and 18 months. After the second child, she suffered postpartum depression. “It was me feeling like all these other women can handle it. They leave the house with two kids every day and go to the park. Why can’t I? It had me feeling like throwing up … [Motherhood] takes a certain centredness, a patience, and I used to think there was something wrong with me. And now I just think I have other things I can do and every single person has other things. Maybe some of the women who are the most dedicated moms have that [same ambivalent] feeling about going to parties or about their careers. I’ve accepted about me that I have places where I can really stay for a long time in life and one of those places is not in the playground. I’m okay about that now.”

The writing of a memoir – her first book – came as a surprise. When she left Air Farce, “I thought I was going to write material for a show,” she says with a shrug. But if listening to her muse has led to an unpredictable path, she is prepared to follow it.

Ms. Holmes has made a career out of finding the funny in other people, in situations, and now in her own life. “Who knows? Like, I might be a dentist next!” she says in acknowledgment of her restless spirit. She pauses to sip her wine then begins to laugh as a thought occurs to her. “Hey, I might even be a Jehovah’s Witness dentist.”

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December 2009

Air Farce Returns to CBC Television!

 

'Royal Canadian Air Farce' returns for New Year's Eve special

By: Bill Brioux (CP)

December 24, 2009

Last New Year's Eve, the "Royal Canadian Air Farce" was grounded after 16 seasons on CBC-TV and an even longer run on radio. The seven-member comedy troupe disbanded, props and sets were donated and sold, and the chicken cannon was corked and decommissioned.

So how hard was it to get airborne again?

Harder than you might think, said founding "Air Farce" trouper Roger Abbott. He returned to CBC's broadcast centre earlier this month along with five of his colleagues to shoot a new hour-long "Air Farce New Year's Eve" special, which airs at 8 p.m. and repeats at midnight.

Abbott swore last Dec. 31 was his final flight with the Farce.

"I said to myself, 'That's it ... we're not going to do any comebacks or reunions - I hate that stuff."'

But CBC programmers thought otherwise and called on the Farce for another New Year's Eve salute. The comedy troupe's annual specials have always been popular, with over 1.5 million Canadians tuning in last season.

Once talked into it, the Farce vowed to keep it "familiar but fresh." And they pretty much had no choice. The old doughnut shop set had been donated to the CBC archives; many wigs, props, costumes and other souvenirs were donated to university and community theatre companies; and other props were sold off internally to CBC staffers, with proceeds going to the actor's fund.

But new props and costumes were ordered and the Farce has a new secret weapon: the F-Bomb. "F as in farce," clarified Abbott.

With the show's old chicken cannon, photos of politicians, celebrities and other newsmakers stood at the receiving end of rotten tomatoes and other goo. This time, the nasty guck is packed into "F-Bombs" and hurled off the 10th floor balcony of the CBC broadcast centre's gigantic atrium, where they smack into flat photo targets on the floor below.

"We always had this fantasy of dropping things down the atrium," said Abbott. "It's amazing - things you would never be allowed to do in real life, all you have to do it prove you've got a script to do it."

Getting the old gang back together proved to be Abbott's biggest challenge. One member, Jessica Holmes, was committed to appearing in the holiday "Robin Hood" musical in Toronto and could not wiggle out of that schedule. Craig Lauzon had been performing out west in a play with "Corner Gas" alumni Lorne Cardinal, but that run ended in time for him to make the Farce show. Alan Park was able to move around some stand-up gigs in time to get back into makeup as Michael Ignatieff and Vince the "ShamWow" guy. The most recent recruit, Penelope Corrin, came back to do a bang-on impression of Sarah Palin, complete with twirling baton.

Abbott's longtime Farce friends, Don Ferguson and Luba Goy, both answered the call. Abbott and Ferguson were honoured this past summer with honorary degrees from Concordia University in Montreal.

"I walked away without my degree all those years ago," said Abbott. "I guess all is forgiven."

Veteran director Perry Rosemond also returned to helm the show.

Also sitting this one out are veteran "Air Farce" writers Gord Holtham and Rick Olsen, although three other writers from the TV series pitched in. The special features guest appearances from all five "Dragons' Den" stars, as well as CBC News anchor Peter Mansbridge, and recent "Battle of the Blades" champions Jamie Sale and Craig Simpson.

Abbott said he quite enjoyed his year off and was reminded how much he didn't miss producing and performing a weekly series as the hours he put into the new special piled up.

"The kind of things I missed were the days the Tiger Woods stuff was happening and I thought, 'Oh boy, if we were only on the air tonight..."'

Bill Brioux is a freelance TV columnist based in Brampton, Ont.

 

 

Farce back for New Year's Eve

By BILL HARRIS, QMI Agency

December 18, 2009

How can we miss you when you don’t really go away?

“Well, we thought we had gone away,” said Don Ferguson, one of the founding members of Air Farce. “But then CBC said to us, ‘Would you please come back and do a New Year’s Eve special?’ ”

Thus, Air Farce will get re-acquainted with its TV roots on a new New Year’s Eve special that will air, conveniently, on New Year’s Eve.

It’s the 18th New Year’s Eve special for Air Farce, which first was a radio show, then became a New Year’s Eve TV special, then became a weekly TV show before “signing off” a year ago.

“Frankly, we weren’t sure whether we should or not,” said Ferguson, when asked about the decision to come back on a one-off basis. “We thought, ‘If it’s over, it’s over.’

“But personally, I think the younger guys we have on the show, like Alan Park and Craig Lauzon and Penelope Corrin, to me they should be on TV. I have to say, that was half my motivation.”

Ferguson said CBC first floated the idea of a return last January, but it took many months to nail it down.

“Emotionally I certainly wasn’t ready to deal with it after having done Air Farce for 35-plus years,” Ferguson said. “I had envisaged that we (veteran Air Farcers Ferguson, Roger Abbott and Luba Goy) would step back and the young guys would carry on. Oh, well.

“CBC mentioned it again in the spring, I guess, and we started thinking about it. The CBC is so understaffed, we only got the contract signed a few weeks ago. But we’ve always had a good relationship with CBC and everything came through fine.”

The one Air Farce cast member who is not part of the New Year’s reunion is Jessica Holmes. She already had committed to a theatre show.

“She signed that deal in the summer, before we knew for sure that we’d be doing anything,” Ferguson said. “She’s glad to be doing that other project, because she wanted to stretch, but she was quite conflicted.”

Speaking of conflict, guest-stars on the Air Farce special include Battle of the Blades champions Jamie Salé and Craig Simpson competing against each other in a hockey shootout, and the omnipresent cast of Dragons’ Den, who apparently would show up at the opening of an envelope (don’t these people have real businesses to run?).

Ferguson said the biggest challenge has been building everything up from scratch physically after Air Farce shut down last December.

“We had nothing, no sets, no props, no wardrobes,” Ferguson said. “We had to actually build the machine again, so it takes longer.”

In the glass-half-full department, Air Farce has a whole year of potential comedic targets, from Susan Boyle to Tiger Woods.

“In previous years, we would say, ‘We’d love to do this on the New Year’s Eve special, but we just did it two weeks ago on the regular show, so we can’t do it again,’ ” Ferguson recalled. “The good side is that there’s an embarrassment of riches.”

In other words, look out, Slap Chop guy!

 

Air Farce Jets Back for New Year's Eve 2010

By BILL BRIOUX, TV Feeds My Family

December 12, 2009

New Year's came early--and Christmas too--for fans of the Royal Canadian Air Farce. The retired comedy troupe reunited for two performances this past Thursday and Friday nights in Toronto. The occasion was a taping of the 17th annual Air Farce New Year's Eve special, airing Dec. 31 at 8 p.m. and repeated again at midnight on CBC.

Farce veteran Roger Abbott (back in the spotlight with stage director Pat McDonald) told the crowd in the bleachers Friday that CBC brass had called and said it just wouldn't be New Year's without you, so the new special was ordered. Air Farce retired as a weekly series last year after a 35-year run on CBC television and radio.

Since the 10th floor CBC broadcast centre studio that bears their name is now home to Hockey Night in Canada's Ron MacLean and Don Cherry as well as the Rick Mercer Report, the gang reassembled down the hall in another studio.

It didn't take the cast and crew long to find their feet and pick up right where they had left off one year earlier. Droll director McDonald delivered his old familiar audience cue, "okay...prepare to laugh...this one is hilarious," and the crowd ate it up.

Six members of the troupe were back: long time veterans Abbott, Don Ferguson and Luba Goy as well as Craig Lauzon, Park and Penelope Corrin. Jessica Holmes couldn't wiggle out of her Toronto gig performing nightly in the latest Ross Petty Christmas panto, Robin Hood.

The Friday taping saw Battle of the Blades champions Jamie Sale and Craig Simpson (with Lauzon as Don Cherry) lace up some roller skates for a Blades spoof. The Dragon's Den judges, as well as Peter Mansbridge, are also featured on the special.

Park did a wicked take on Sham-Wow pitchman Vince and also delivered a pretty edgy riff on some news headlines from 2009. There are plenty of Farce Films, including goofs on the Oympic torch relay and iPhone ads. The famed Chicken Cannon has been mothballed, but never fear--the Farce has a new secret weapon, and several deserving 2009 targets got their just desserts (and vegetables).

The studio audience was once again entertained between sketches by Ground Crew troubadours Dave Matheson and Maury LaFoy, who sang old favourites like "I've Been Everywhere" and the one about "Why Do Christmas Songs Have Too Many Chords."

It all added up to a great evening and should translate into an even better special New Year's Eve.

 

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December 31, 2008

Series Finale Roundup!

 

Canadian Press, Bill Brioux: Air Farce Goes Out In Style, With Right Balance Between Nostalgia And Punch

"What a terrible time to stop doing this!"

That was Craig Lauzon's sentiment right after he and the other six Air Farce troopers took their final bows in Toronto last week at the end of the very last "Farce" taping.

Click here to continue reading...

 

Globe And Mail: John Doyle, "It's All Over But Should It Be?"

Search me. I have no idea why CBC management is killing off Royal Canadian Air Farce.

During the fall, when Air Farce got 10 series-ending shows called Air Farce: Final Flight, the ratings were excellent. The final show a few weeks ago pulled in 913,000 viewers, up there with CBC's two true week-after-week hits, Hockey Night In Canada and Rick Mercer Report. The average ratings over the 10 weeks stood at 770,000 a week. That's more than twice the number for the appalling Sophie, at a measly 325,000 season average. Click here to continue reading...

 

Toronto Sun: Bill Harris, "Now the Farce won't be with us".

For fans of Canadian TV comedy, New Year's Eve 2008 will mean more than the passing of another year into the history books.

Air Farce, which began as a radio show and has been a staple on CBC television for the past decade and a half, will air its final episode.

Click here to continue reading...


Globe And Mail: Roger Abbott, "Memories of a Farce"

‘Everything I learned about Canada, I learned watching Air Farce.” I hear this from a taxi driver, spoken in a joyful South Asian accent as he swerves through traffic. From the back seat, I tell him that he must have a pretty weird impression of Canada if that's the case, and he laughs.

Click here to continue reading...


Toronto Star: Don Ferguson, "38 Years of Air Farce"

On May 31, 1970, a small group of Montrealers debuted a comedy show at a small theatre on Blvd. de Maisonneuve. The group, called The Lace-Up Demons (no one knew why), put on a mostly improvised performance that was enthusiastic, under-rehearsed and over the top. One of the sketches ended with two actors portraying masturbating monkeys.

In the fall of 1970, the group, renamed the Jest Society, commuted to Toronto for a two-week engagement where it got rave reviews and was repeatedly held over. In mid-October, one of the original Montreal cast quit. A replacement was needed urgently, but the only person who knew the show was the publicity photographer who'd been hanging around backstage. That was me. I was hired to fill in for a week and never left.

Click here to continue reading...

 

CBC Radio One: Q

Jian Ghomeshi talks to Roger Abbott and Don Ferguson about the Air Farce series finale (Runs: 19:11). Play Real Media.

 

CBC News

Marisa Dragani reports: CBC's political satire Air Farce takes off for final flight (Runs: 2:15). Play Real Media. Play Quicktime.

 

BILL BRIOUX: Farce Farewell A Family Affair. Click here to read.

billbrioux

Neither rain nor snow nor sleet nor ice could stop me from attending the final ever taping of Air Farce last night in snowy Toronto. Thanks to my neighbors Doug and Roberta, and their trusty, driveway-clearing snow blower and four wheel drive jeep, we made it down to the CBC broadcast centre, where everyone else made the same commitment--the bleachers were packed.

Click here to continue reading...

 

NATIONAL POST: The Farce Fades From TV

There were bottles of Crown Royal, Jim Beam and vodka along with plenty of beer backstage when the Royal Canadian Air Farce filmed its final episode last Friday at CBC studios in downtown Toronto.

Click here to continue reading...

 

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April 1, 2008

Air Farce wraps it up next December

Dear Friends and Fans:

When we started doing improv comedy together (Roger, Don, Luba and John), a long time ago, we wondered how long we'd be able to have fun before we had to get real jobs. Then we started Air Farce on CBC RadioRadio and wondered how long it would last. Maybe two years?  Maybe five?  Then, twenty years later, we started Air Farce on CBC Television and hoped it might last for maybe three years.  So, for 35 years we've known that one of these days, we'd do our final show.  And now, we and CBC have agreed on the date:  it'll be December 31, 2008, 35 years after starting our radio series (December 1973) and 16 years after our first New Year's Eve special (1992 Year of the Farce) on CBC Television.

In comedy, timing is everything, and knowing when to make your exit is a big part of that.  We're wrapping up our 15th season this week (Friday night, 8-9 PM), and well be back on Friday nights in October, November, a little bit of December. And then on December 31, we'll finish the way we began with a New Year's Eve special.

TVWe've had a terrific career with the great privilege of being able to entertain our fellow Canadians, make fun of Canadian passions and pastimes, and take a poke at Canadian politicians.

Our ratings have remained strong this year, and we're proud to have a large and loyal audience of Canadians of all ages.  We thank you for your support and your laughter, and we thank our tremendous production team for contributing their remarkable talents whether it's building sets, designing costumes or graphics, lighting the studio, mixing the pictures and audio, researching the stories, printing the scripts, etc. etc. to every episode.

It's been fun, and it's not over yet. 

Air Farce Live: best before 31/12/2008!

IN THE MEDIA:

Final Flight For Air Farce by Alex Strachan (Calgary Herald)
Roger and Me: Podcast Interview With Roger Abbott (Bill Brioux)
Give Air Farce An Honourable Discharge (National Post)
Royal Canadian Air Farce Set To End (CBC.ca)
CBC Comedy Air Farce Grounded (SUN media)
After 35 Years, Air Farce To Wrap It Up (Globe and Mail)
Royal Canadian Air Farce Sketch Series To End... (CP)
Final Call For Air Farce (Martin Knelman, Toronto Star)
Farce Goes Out With A Bang (Bill Brioux, TV Feeds My Family)
Air Farce Grounded After Half Season Order (Bill Brioux)

 

March 2, 2008

Remembering Jeff Healey (1966-2008): For Auld Lang Syne

Countdown

Click Here To Watch: Quicktime | Windows Media | RealPlayer

Canada lost one of its musical icons with the death of Jeff Healey. Healey was a multi-faceted and multi-talented musician, who overcame a lifetime of battling cancer to become one of the biggest names on the rock and jazz scenes both in Canada and internationally. Click on any of the above links to see exclusive video of Jeff Healey and his Jazz Wizards performing Auld Lang Syne on Air Farce's Countdown to 2005.

 

February 2008

TV Guide's one-on-one with Craig Lauzon as Stephen Harper

If you've ever wondered what the leaders of this country are thinking, ask the people who play them on TV. Get inside the mind of the man who runs our country, via Craig Lauzon. Craig Lauzon breaks the Prime Minister's silence to the media and comes up with all the answers. Click here to read the interview ... and for the full experience, read aloud in your best Harper voice.

... and Alan Park as Stéphane Dion

Alan Park answers some tough questions on behalf of the leader of the Liberal Party. Click here to read TVGuide.ca's interview with Alan as Stéphane Dion.

 

January 14-18, 2008

The Diary of Penelope Corrin

From January 14 to 18, 2008, the National Post printed Penelope Corrin's diary. Read this unique insider's view as we put the show together, from the first read-through to the live Friday broadcast.

Click here to read the day-by-day account.

 

December 20, 2007

Penelope Corrin Tells All!...

And to think, only one year ago, she had to endure Luba's initiation! On the first anniversary of her debut with Air Farce, TVGuide.ca spoke with our own Penelope Corrin, who talks about her life as a new member of the Farce, and reveals some interesting details about the New Year's Eve special. Click here to read the exclusive interview.

 

November 9, 2007

'Air Farce' in rehearsal: cast and writers adjust to new live format

By: Bill Brioux (Canadian Press)

Air Farce' in rehearsal: cast and writers adjust to new live format

Air Farce' in rehearsal: cast and writers adjust to new live format

Air Farce' in rehearsal: cast and writers adjust to new live form

"Remember, what happens in here stays in here."

No, that was not an ad for a Las Vegas resort. That was Roger Abbott's warning after I brought my 14-year-old son, Daniel, to a rehearsal session for this week's episode of "Air Farce Live" (Friday night at 8 p.m. on CBC).

The "Farce" cast gathers every Wednesday morning at 11 a.m. in a sparse meeting room above a sound stage to do a second read of the script. The pink pages reflect the fact that changes have already been made from when the first draft was handed out Tuesday. The script will keep evolving right up to airtime as the cast and writers adjust to - and try to take advantage of - this season's new live format.

The reason my son was with me on this occasion was that it was Bring Your Child to Work Day. Since, as a freelance writer, I work from home, Daniel thought he had just won himself a daylong seat in front of the Nintendo screen. Wrong.

A call to a publicist got us booked into the private cast read. Other Grade 9 students were roaming CBC's downtown Toronto headquarters that day, attending a taping session for "The Hour" with George Stroumboulopoulos.

While Strombo is more down with the kid crowd, Daniel is a "Farce" fan and, since he also attends a high school with a performing arts program, was a better fit to monitor the long-running CBC comedy. Besides, with the writers strike shutting down the U.S. television scene, political satire is suddenly in short supply. "Saturday Night Live" and "The Daily Show" - indeed all the late-night talk shows - have gone dark. With its staff of Canadian writers (including two new scribes), the "Farce" is still with us, and may be the only game in town for quite a while.

On the drive down, we tried to guess who the targets might be that week - the soaring Canadian dollar, the Hollywood writers strike, the arrival of snow in Ontario.

None of the above made the cut. Targets for Friday night's show included Bill and Hillary Clinton (neatly parodied by "Farce" veterans Don Ferguson and Luba Goy), Steelback Breweries exec Frank D'Angelo (a swaggering Alan Park) and disgraced TV dude Duane Dog Chapman (a wound-up Craig Lauzon).

The Dog sketch seemed a week late but what "Farce" loses in timing it will likely make up in costumes and visuals, details that couldn't be hustled together when Chapman's racial outbursts first made headlines late last week. While it was fun to see Lauzon and Goy (who plays Dog's brassy wife, Beth) go through the sketch in their street clothes, the promise of outlandish mullet hairpieces and costumes bodes well for this sketch. "Those breasts!" said Goy of Beth, stretching her arms to their limit. "They go out to here!"

Six shows into a live, 22-episode season, the cast and writers are starting to hit their stride. So far, there haven't been any sets falling over or props misfiring. Jessica Holmes almost got the giggles last week in the closest thing to a Harvey Korman moment (the veteran "Carol Burnett Show" funnyman used to break up opposite Tim Conway).

Goy says she misses the "four handers" (sketches involving four characters) they used to do before the show went live. Most of the "Farce" sketches, which average around two minutes in length (as opposed to the six-or seven-minute epics on "SNL"), now involve just two characters, allowing other cast members to quickly change costumes and prep for the next bit.

It is interesting to watch how the seven cast members approach rehearsals. Some, like Goy and Holmes, perform at pretty much the pitch they'll bring on Friday night. Holmes, for example, repeatedly belts out a song for a Bombardier plane inspection number. Lauzon seems to take a more organic approach, finding a voice and improvising bits as he moves through the ever-changing script. Park shares six of the nine or 10 edgy "Not the Official Story" rants he has prepared for this week; he'll add and finesse right down to airtime.

Others pitch in with new lines when what's on paper falls flat. Stuck for a phrase to represent a new banana-peeling invention from Steelback's D'Angelo, new recruit Penelope Corrin nails it with "Frank's Peelback."

Hovering over it all are Abbott and Ferguson - also producers of the show - fussing over specific words and challenging each sketch on its merits. An idea to add words on screen to punch a line is seized by director Wayne Moss, who sees an opportunity to "take the curse out of going for the prop."

Not all the sketches score. A bit on Aussie daycare centres seems hopelessly under the radar. A longish sketch set in Kandahar will need work before airtime. Daniel and I agree that the Clinton opener is a keeper.

The troupe will have a shot at nailing it all down at Friday's 2 p.m. performance, which is taped in front of a studio audience and saved to cover any live mishaps. Then it will all come down to the live event. May the Farce be with them.

Bill Brioux is a freelance TV columnist based in Brampton, Ont.

 

October 2, 2007

A VERY NEW AIR FARCE, WITH EXPANDED CAST,
RETURNS FRIDAY, OCT. 5

Royal Canadian Air Farce becomes Air Farce Live—Friday, Oct. 5 at 8 p.m. For 14 record-breaking seasons, Air Farce has been providing weekly comic relief to CBC Television audiences, and now the show returns with an expanded cast of seven and an unpredictable, fresh take on the week’s events.

Joining the Air Farce Live cast is Penelope Corrin, who made her debut on the show last season while Jessica Holmes was on maternity leave. She joins Luba Goy, Alan Park, Craig Lauzon, Roger Abbott, Don Ferguson and Holmes to form the comedy “Group of Seven.” From time to time, the show will also feature guest stars.

“We’ve always taped in front of a live studio audience, but we always had time to fix our mistakes afterwards,” explains Roger Abbott, also one of the show’s producers. “But this season, we turn 15—and like any teenager, we’re anxious to toss away the safety net. So now, instead of taping…we’re going live.”

Co-producer Don Ferguson adds, “Now, every viewer in the country will have exactly the same experience as the live studio audience. This year, if we make a mistake, you’ll see it at home…did I say ‘if’? I mean, ‘when…’”


March 30, 2007

Air Farce flies live for full hour

Alex Strachan, CanWest News Service
Published: Friday, March 30, 2007

Royal Canadian Air Farce is a national institution -- no surprise there. What is a surprise is that this most venerable of Canadian comedy institutions refuses to rest on its laurels. It's still looking for ways to stay fresh and remain relevant, even if its style of humour is not always for all tastes.

Tonight's milestone episode -- the show's 300th and the season finale -- will be broadcast live in the Eastern time zone for a full hour. The program will be aired on tape delay in other regions, but it's still an audacious call.

The program was still in rehearsal at press time, but a lineup of guests -- first-timers and returnees alike -- has already been decided. Little Mosque regulars Sitara Hewitt, Carlo Rota and Sheila McCarthy will appear in a sketch riffing Saskatchewan's "sitcom explosion" and a rumoured merge between Little Mosque and Corner Gas. The resulting program, Corner Mosque -- Little Gas? -- will be set in a trailer park, and will feature Corner Gas's Fred Ewanuick in a key role. (Relax: It's not real. It's a comedy sketch.)

Mary Walsh will deliver one of her impromptu, off-the-cuff speeches, live and unbleepable, which may get a few hearts racing -- but nothing too serious. She might upset delicate sensibilities and ruffle a few feathers in polite circles, but she's unlikely to go Michael Richards on her audience, live mike or no.

Other planned sketches include lottery wins by store owners -- the joke's on us; marijuana grow-ops, billed as "Canada's fastest growing self-employment opportunity;" Lord and Lady Black's travails in Chicago; and the new Barbara Amiel perfume. Don Cherry will appear -- no stranger to live microphones, he -- along with Ron MacLean, Mutt to Grapes' Jeff.

Some more numbers: Air Farce was the first homegrown comedy program to register more than a million viewers a minute when electronic measurement devices, so-called people meters, were introduced 14 years ago. Air Farce's New Year's Eve program in 1996 registered a series-high 2.3 million viewers and a 34-per-cent share of the audience watching TV at the time. It has scored a million or more viewers every year for seven consecutive years, a Canadian record that may one day be surpassed by Corner Gas, depending on how long Gas remains in production.

Yes, other programs have staged live telecasts and lived to tell about it. The Drew Carey Show did back-to-back live telecasts in Eastern and Pacific time zones, shortly before that program ended, and in 1997 ER pulled off the audacious feat of an hour-long drama broadcasting live in two different time zones on the same night. Air Farce doesn't face the same challenge as ER. An ensemble drama, especially one as visually complex as ER, is a trickier high-wire act to pull off than a sketch-comedy program. Still, Air Farce deserves credit for taking a leap of faith. It would have been so much easier to trot out a clip show, or close the season with a regular show, with one or two high-profile guest stars. Instead, Roger Abbott, Don Ferguson, Luba Goy and (relative) newcomers Jessica Holmes, Craig Lauzon, Alan Park and Penelope Corrin are going back to their comedy club roots and going live. And if one of them should crack up on camera, feel free to laugh along with them. It's comedy. It's supposed to be funny. (8p.m., CBC)

'Royal Canadian Air Farce' goes live
By BILL HARRIS - Sun Media

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Royal Canadian Air Farce always has a live feel to it. But tonight actually marks the first live TV show the comedy troupe ever has done.

It also is the 300th TV show for Air Farce, so there's plenty to celebrate, and also possibly to get nervous about.

"It's funny how unpredictable it is," said veteran cast member Roger Abbott when asked if he is beyond getting scared. "Sometimes I'll just be cocky as all get-out. And then other times, without any warning, my entire body is trembling -- until the first laugh."

Ah yes, the first laugh. It's like a stiff drink for any comedian.

"We're like dogs with cookies," Abbott said. "We want to do that first trick to get the cookie. Then we're immediately gluttons, and we want to do another trick and get another cookie.

"It doesn't say much about the intelligence of comedy performers."

Be that as it may, Abbott and his Air Farce castmates -- fellow radio holdovers Luba Goy and Don Ferguson, and relative newcomers Jessica Holmes, Craig Lauzon, Alan Park and Penelope Corrin -- have been smart enough to keep their show as current as possible through the years.

"It's not like we're doing the same characters we were doing 14 years ago," Abbott said. "Can you imagine any show doing that? It just wouldn't last. There would be press releases every week about so-and-so leaving the cast to pursue other interests."

Abbott was asked if, overall, Air Farce's 300th episode feels more like the 30,000th or the 30th.

"It never feels like 30,000, I have to say. Often it really does feel like 30. Our topicality makes time go by really fast."

Abbott warned that with the live broadcast tonight, there are sure to be moments when the cast members crack each other up. And Abbott is okay with that, as long as it doesn't happen in every sketch.

"We have become fairly disciplined in our TV days after being amazingly undisciplined in our radio days," Abbott said. "Part of the sport was to make each other laugh.

"My hunch is it's inevitable (tonight), but we certainly aren't going to plant anything. Knowing how we work, we won't have to."

Guest stars for tonight's live Air Farce episode include Don Cherry, Ron MacLean, Carlo Rota, Frew Ewanuick and Mary Walsh.

 

AIR FARCE CELEBRATES LANDMARK EPISODE WITH LIVE SHOW
written by CBC Arts

Interview With Roger Abbott, Don Ferguson (RealPlayer)

Interview With Roger Abbott, Don Ferguson (Quicktime)

Venerable Canadian sketch-comedy show Royal Canadian Air Farce will celebrate its 300th episode Friday night with an hour-long, live-to-air show.

The evening could be "a disaster in the making," Roger Abbott told CBC News Friday morning, just before the first of several scheduled
rehearsals of the landmark episode.

"That's part of the attraction, part of the fun of doing it."

The long-running program originated on CBC Radio in 1973. A first
attempt to introduce the show to television audiences came in 1980,
followed by a 10-episode series and several once-a-year TV specials over the next few years.

After a 1992 New Year's Eve special made a big splash with viewers, Air Farce was adapted to be a mainstay of CBC-TV, with a new series
officially debuting in October 1993.

While the show is normally recorded in front of a live audience, "we've
never done Air Farce live to air," Abbott said Friday morning.

"This is going live to the six Eastern provinces: Newfoundland, the
three Atlantic provinces, Quebec and Ontario. The instant we finish at
nine o'clock Ontario time, it starts in Manitoba. There's no time to fix
anything," he said.

For the live episode, Air Farce 's regular cast of Abbott, Don Ferguson, Luba Goy, Jessica Holmes, Craig Lauzon and Alan Park will be joined by special guest stars, including Penelope Corrin, who stepped in during Holmes' recent maternity leave.

Among the sketches set for Friday night's show, there will be a mash-up of two current Canadian sitcom rivals featuring Little Mosque on the Prairie's Sitara Hewitt, Sheila McCarthy and Carlo Rota as well as Corner Gas's Fred Ewanuick. Comedian and actress Mary Walsh, who created CBC-TV's This Hour Has 22 Minutes and Hatching, Matching and Dispatching, will also drop in for a sketch featuring her warrior woman character Princess Marg.

Friday's program will also continue with Air Farce's tradition of
topical political and social satire, with sketches poking fun at Prince
Harry, Conrad Black and Barbara Amiel, as well as Prime Minister Stephen Harper and federal Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion.

According to Abbott, Air Farce will keep going "as long as crazy things
are happening in the world or socially. Or as long as Ottawa is still
standing."

"Supplying us with raw material, God bless them," Ferguson added.
The 300th episode of CBC-TV's Royal Canadian Air Farce will air live
from Ontario through points east, beginning 8 p.m. ET and 9 p.m. AT
(9:30 in Newfoundland).

The rest of Canada will see the program at its regular Friday evening
slot of 8 p.m. local time.

Landmark show's stars out in full Farce TheStar.com

Before action-packed 300th, series original Roger Abbott reflects on politicians, new talent – and camels

March 30, 2007
Jim Bawden
Television Columnist

 

CBC-TV's Royal Canadian Air Farce celebrates its landmark 300th episode tonight at 8. It began its run Oct. 8, 1993.

Only a few Canadian series, including The Tommy Hunter Show (1965-92) and Front Page Challenge (1957-95), have lasted longer.

Tonight's hour-long special will be packed with guest stars, including Little Mosque on the Prairie's Sitara Hewitt, Sheila McCarthy and Carlo Rota, plus Fred Ewanuick from Corner Gas, comedian Mary Walsh and some additional guest surprises.

To celebrate the occasion we asked Farce original Roger Abbott 10 questions about the past and future of the series:

Q This is your 300th episode celebrated Friday night. When exactly did RCAF start on TV?

A We had a very brief run on CBC in 1980-81 and I think at that time CBC was after American-type shows as the best way to beat the U.S. networks. So we didn't play to our strengths. Then in the '80s and early '90s we were typed as radio performers, not visual ones. If you listened to us on radio then, you conjured up your own visuals.

I always thought if you saw us in a skit in appropriate costumes it would be even funnier.

Q You toured a lot then and not much today. Why?

A Radio is a wonderfully portable medium and we went everywhere in those days, meeting you first in Hamilton (I remember). Audiences were wildly enthusiastic. But you just wave goodbye and go to the next site. With TV there's all that equipment to bus out or, if it's in a theatre and not a TV studio somewhere, the lighting, the mics, the sets have to be all tested. And there's so much to do that you have to make an hour special to justify costs.

Q What's the biggest kerfuffle ever with CBC censors?

A We're really not that kind of show. Unlike CODCO we don't have a Newfoundland priest skit somewhere in the files. We've worked with CBC so long we know the parameters. And we've all gone through scripting and then rehearsal.

We do get letters about some things. A lady wrote and said we'd crossed the line on something. Then during summer reruns we reran the sketch and she wrote back saying we'd done it again. We do get testy letters, but not that many.

Q First Dave Broadfoot left and then John Morgan retired (and subsequently died). Was it about then that you realized the troupe was going to expire unless new talent was added.

A Don (Ferguson), Luba (Goy) and I were the young ones. Now we're the older ones. It happens if you're on long enough. When John left I felt if we just added new people they'd have to bear the brunt of people's anger at losing an old friend. That happened on other shows. So we went for guest stars and got the best: Peter Keleghan, Jayne Eastwood. It was great, but they had their own personalities and their own careers. Then Jessica (Holmes) came along. We couldn't ask Luba to do Britney Spears. But we could ask Jessica. And Alan Park and Craig Lauzon fitted right in.

Q Name your favourite animal on the show.

A We had a hamster once. Ran on that wheel like crazy during rehearsals. Slept all the way through taping. We haven't had a horse. They can do funny things in front of a big audience. No cows. We have this huge elevator system so we could bring them up. Camels, etc. We just haven't tried.

Q Your show is steady in the ratings. So is Rick Mercer, then we add CBC's Little Mosque and CTV's Corner Gas. Do viewers just prefer comedy Canadian style or what?

A It's content over style, a big debate here for decades. The American series have style – their budgets are that much bigger. We can only compete with them with content. We're offering something not on U.S. TV. We're very Canada-specific. I think after the success of Street Legal, CBC tried to compete in style and those shows didn't make it.

Q You're letting fewer politicians on these days. Didn't this whole trend start when Nixon said, "Sock it to me!" on Laugh-In?

A It almost became a cliché. I'm not sure who started it, but there was quite a run from Chrétien to (Preston) Manning. (Jean) Charest was particularly good, I recall. Manning was prepared. We also have non-politicians like Sue Johanson. We'd just tell them we are doing a skit on you anyhow. You can be you or be played by somebody else.

Q Any turn-downs?

A Kim Campbell. Her handlers felt that, right before an election, it wouldn't be appropriate. Had she done it, would the results have been different? Hardly. Politicians are trying to establish a regular kind of guy image and for awhile it seemed quite funny.

Q There seems to be little ad-libbing on the TV show compared with radio.

A On radio we ad-libbed like crazy. We do it on TV, but during the writing of the script and the rehearsals. If it's funny, it stays in.

But to ad-lib during taping doesn't work very well because the sets are up, other performers have learned a set of lines. It causes confusion.

Q Could you talk about the future of RCAF?

A We have one more year on our CBC contract. We're thinking about that. The last government lasted so long it was hard coming up with new stuff but there are fresh faces there. I think this year was pretty strong. We have a lot of great people in the special we're working on.

Q But no horses or camels as yet?

 

'Air Farce' joins exclusive TV club with 300th episode; airs live on CBC

'Air Farce' joins exclusive TV club with 300th episode; airs live on CBC

'Air Farce' joins exclusive TV club with 300th episode; airs live on CBC

'Air Farce' joins exclusive TV club with 300th episode; airs live on CBC

'Air Farce' joins exclusive TV club with 300th episode; airs live on CBC

Thu Mar 29, 12:16 PM

By Bill Brioux, The Canadian Press

(CP) - Three hundred episodes.

In North America, it is a pretty exclusive TV club. Only "The Simpsons" (closing in on 400) and "Law & Order" are currently beyond that mark in terms of prime-time entertainment fare. As of Friday, add "Royal Canadian Air Farce" to the list. The CBC sketch series marks the occasion with a special live episode airing at 8 p.m. in Ontario (9 p.m. in Atlantic Canada and 9:30 in Newfoundland; tape-delayed at its regular time in the rest of Canada).

"I pinch myself," says veteran trouper Don Ferguson of the milestone. "It just doesn't seem possible."

Ferguson, along with Roger Abbott, Luba Goy and the late John Morgan, spent two decades in radio before they finally broke through in television in 1993. Since then, they've averaged over a million viewers a week over 14 years. While ratings have dipped in recent seasons, "Farce" bounced back over 1.1 million viewers this past New Year's Eve.

Adding younger cast members Jessica Holmes, Craig Lauzon, Alan Park and, this year - during Holmes's brief maternity leave - featured player Penelope Corrin (back again Friday), has helped "Farce" connect with a new generation of viewers. There's also a new edge to the writing, evidenced this week in a sketch targeting Barbara Amiel (promoting what "Farce" says is her new perfume for journalists, "Slut").

"People used to ask what the secret was to our longevity," says Ferguson. "Our secret is we only think about the show we're doing this week."

The live show features several guest stars, including "Hockey Night in Canada"'s Don Cherry and Ron McLean, former "This Hour Has 22 Minutes" comic Mary Walsh, and cast members from "Corner Gas" and "Little Mosque on the Prairie."

"We're gonna do 'Corner Mosque on the Prairie,' " says Ferguson. "Little Mosque"'s Carlo Rota, Sheila McCarthy and Sitara Hewitt, along with "Corner Gas"'s Fred Ewanuick, will all appear in the sketch.

Seeing "Farce" perform live is a treat usually reserved for a few hundred people seated in the Toronto studio bleachers. One of the perks of witnessing a live taping is seeing stage manager Pat McDonald's low-key cues. "Here's another one that had me in stitches at rehearsal," he typically deadpans before counting down a sketch.

"We'd love to sneak a little of Pat into the (live) show," says Ferguson, who agrees that the CBC veteran seems more like "sombre maitre d"' than a studio boss.

While most "Farce" tapings move at a brisk pace, there are breaks built in while sets are quickly wheeled into place between sketches. To bridge the gaps, studio audiences are treated to the musical comedy duo the Ground Crew. The challenge for the performers this week will be to try to flow one sketch directly into the next without the musical breaks. While that will be a neat trick, it is a shame they just don't go with the Ground Crew - their slick songs add bounce to the mix.

Ferguson says the original plan heading into this season was to go live every week. Unfortunately, due to a limited number of high definition cameras, "Air Farce" shares its cavernous 10th-floor CBC sound stage with the "Rick Mercer Report," which tapes Friday nights.

The same hurdle is there this coming season, but Ferguson hopes the live experiment can be repeated on occasion. The new kids are all improv and comedy club vets, he says, and would welcome the challenge.

Whether live or taped, exactly where "Air Farce" will land in the coming years is also in question. There is one more season to go on the group's current CBC contract. There have been suggestions at executive levels in the past year that CBC is moving away from current event comedies and toward reality shows. CTV, which recently failed in a bid to steal "Hockey Night in Canada," might want the "Farce" in their future.

"We're playing our cards close to our chest at the moment," said Ferguson, who expects talks to resume in the fall at CBC. "In the meantime, there are two things going on: do they want us, and do we want them?"

- Bill Brioux is a freelance TV columnist based in Brampton, Ont.

AIR FARCE 300 LIVE! - Friday March 30 on CBC Television

AF_300_LIVEROYAL CANADIAN AIR FARCE HITS THE BIG 300
WITH STARS OF LITTLE MOSQUE

CBC’s evergreen Friday night comedy, Royal Canadian Air Farce reaches another comedy milestone on March 30, broadcasting its 300th episode.  To add to the fun, it’s a full-hour show, and live-to-air, with special guest stars from more of Canada’s favourite comedy shows.

af300

Little Mosque on the Prairie is television’s newest hit show, and will be represented by Sitara Hewitt, Sheila McCarthy and Carlo Rota.  From Corner Gas, Fred Ewanuick is joining the Farce, along with his Young Triffie co-star Mary Walsh, who conceived This Hour Has 22 Minutes and Hatching, Matching and Dispatching.

Air Farce established several television benchmarks in its 300-episode run:

  • The first Canadian comedy series to notch over a million viewers per minute in people-meter ratings, Air Farce scored 1,014,000 in its second episode out, and continued onward and upward.
  • By episode 63, they were up to 1,888,000 viewers for their third season finale. 
  • The Farce’s New Year’s Eve hour in 1996 scored a series high of 2,273,000 viewers per minute, with a whopping 34% share.
  • Air Farce is the only Canadian series in the people-meter era to score seven consecutive seasons averaging well in excess of a million viewers.
  • And the show is still attracting hit numbers, with 1,117,000 catching their latest New Year’s Eve outing.
  • In fact, the average-per-minute audience for Air Farce’s entire 300-episode run, over 14 years, is over a million -- an unprecedented achievement in Canadian television.
  • Self-effacing guest stars have included Prime Ministers, Premiers, Party Leaders and cabinet ministers; Olympic, NHL and CFL champions; news anchors, recording artists, television celebrities, actors and a sex expert.
  • Air Farce’s honours have included the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award. a Star on Canada’s Walk of Fame, two Viewers’ Choice Gemini Awards, and the Earle Grey Gemini for Lifetime Achievement.

Founding stars Roger Abbott, Don Ferguson and Luba Goy have been joined in recent years by Jessica Holmes, Craig Lauzon and Alan Park.  The Farce’s latest recruit is Penelope Corrin, who starred during Jessica’s maternity leave, and returns for the 300th episode.

Look for the Little Mosque stars, Sitara, Sheila and Carlo, to join in a send-up of Saskatchewan’s sitcom explosion, as Mosque and Corner Gas are rumoured to merge and take over a Trailer Park.

That plot thickens when you know Corner Gas guy Fred Ewanuick (“Hank”) is up for a guest appearance.  And, always a treat when she’s live and unbleepable, the unpredictable Mary Walsh will bring her robust zest.

Planned sketch topics include the increasing investigations into Lottery wins by store-owners, and Canada's fastest-rising self-employment opportunity, Marijuana grow-ops.

Lord and Lady Black's exploits in Chicago give new meaning to the Black Hawks.

Politically, The Harpers and The Dions are in for some domestic spying.  And Monday's Quebec election will be put under the Farce-scope.

And, the show is live, so expect up-to-the-minute jokes about the day’s headlines.

AIR FARCE 300 LIVE airs Friday, March 30 at 8:00 PM, 9 Atlantic, 9:30 Newfoundland/Labrador, on CBC Television.  Available in HD/5.1 on CBC HD-East and CBC HD-West.

Note: Air Farce is pre-empted on Friday March 23 for World Figure Skating.

 

It's A Girl! Jessica's baby Alexa Lola was born December 27!

lsdkfjskljWe're pleased to announce that fellow Farceur Jessica Holmes is a brand new mom! Congratulations to the proud parents, Jessica and Scott, of Alexa Lola. While she was away, we asked Penelope Corrin to help fill the gap. Click here to read her bio.

 

Penelope


Monday October 1, 2006

Air Farce Goes HD This Season!

Royal Canadian Air Farce becomes Canada’s first High Definition sketch-comedy series on CBC Television. Watch in HD, listen in 5.1. Tell us what you think. Click here to comment on the experience.

Originating at CBC’s new HD studio in Toronto, and recorded digitally on tapeless servers, the long-running highly-rated comedy series will be available in widescreen high definition (16:9, 1080i) over CBC’s east and west HD transmitters, and throughout Canada on digital cable and satellite services.

Estimates of HD ownership and viewing suggest that up to 20% of Canadians are currently watching HD, with sales of new sets and cable/satellite subscriptions increasing daily.

For the 80% of the population viewing standard definition television, Air Farce will be shown in full-height “edge crop” style, similar to most U.S. network comedies and sports, with the wider picture available only in HD. Audio will be presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound.

“The switch to HD is a major change in our production style,” says Air Farce producer and star Don Ferguson. “It must be as dramatic a change as when television switched from black-and-white to colour in the mid-1960s.” Sets have been redesigned, character hair and makeup improved, and CBC’s Studio 42 has been completely upgraded with digital HD cameras and control room.

“Air Farce will look better and sharper than ever,” says Ferguson, adding “We’ve ordered nose-hair trimmers for all the cast. Well, the men, anyway.”

Royal Canadian Air Farce attracts over a million viewers every week with its funny and fearless topical comedy and political satire. The series resumes on CBC Television, Fridays at 8:00 PM (8:30 NL) starting October 6, with instant replays on CBC, Mondays at 7:30 PM (8:00 NL) starting October 9, both available in HDTV. Friday's HD broadcast is at 8:00 PM Eastern Time on CBC HD East, and 8:00 PM Pacific Time on CBC HD West. Monday's HD repeat is at 7:30 ET on CBC HD-E and 7:30 PT on CBC HD-W.

 

Wednesday May 3, 2006
SketchCom Alumni Score Broadway Hit

In 1998/99, we produced SketchCom, a 13-episode series featuring new sketch comedy troupes. It aired on CBC and on The Comedy Network.

One of the featured troupes was Skippy’s Rangers, starring Bob Martin, Lisa Lambert, Jonathan Crombie and Paul O’Sullivan.

This week, Bob and Lisa are the toast of Broadway, following the opening of The Drowsy Chaperone, starring Bob and with songs written by Lisa. The show is winning packed audiences and rave reviews. Bob and Lisa are both nominated for New York Drama Desk Awards as well as being nominated in a staggering 13 Tony Awards categories.

The Drowsy Chaperone began at the Toronto comedy club, The Rivoli, as a wedding gift for Bob and Janet van de Graff. In the Broadway show, Janet is played by Sutton Foster.

Both Bob and Janet have appeared on Air Farce. Bob was our guest the week of January 25, 2002, and Janet was a frequent guest performer from 2001-2003.

Congratulations to Bob, Lisa and Lambert on the success of The Drowsy Chaperone.

A few other SketchCom alumni include Gavin Crawford and Shaun Majumder, now both on This Hour Has 22 Minutes, Jason Jones who’s now on The Daily Show, and the ubiquitous Sean Cullen.

 

Wednesday April 12, 2006
TOURETTE SYNDROME: WE'RE SORRY.

On last week's show, we ran a commercial parody, with an office worker using bleeped language to his boss, then offering to solve his problem with "Tourettes Chiclets".  We've since heard from several viewers whose lives are directly affected by Tourette Syndrome; they found the sketch hurtful, and we apologize to them.  Our aim is always to "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable", and in this case we disappointed some good people who didn't expect to be hurt by us.

We invite you to visit the Tourette Syndrome Foundation of Canada website, at www.tourette.ca - click on "Q&A - What is TS?" - and join us in learning more about this puzzling disorder for which neither a cause nor a cure is known, and where "individuals not only struggle with the condition itself, they must bear the double burden of the stigma attached."

Air Farce did not intend to be part of that burden, and we apologize.

 

THE WEST GETS IN -- ON THE FUN!
Published in The National Post: Thursday, February 6, 2006

J. Kelly Nestruck

Craig Lauzon, who plays Stephen Harper on the Royal Canadian Air Farce, may be one of the few Toronto actors who saw a positive side to the Conservative minority government. If the Conservatives lost again, Harper would likely have resigned as the party leader and then where would Lauzon be?

"It's kind of a double-edged sword," notes Lauzon, who also portrays CBC's George Stroumboulopoulos and a number of other characters on the comedy show. "What's good for me and the show might not necessarily be good for people in general in Canada."

When he first took on the role, the main characteristic of Lauzon's portrayal of Harper was an exaggeration of the Westerner's stiffness. "We started going for a Dr. Strangelove thing with a crazy arm," notes the comedian, who has been a regular since September, 2004. Harper's "crazy arm" would often get the better of him and make him shout that he wanted to be prime minister.

Lauzon's Harper has since evolved into a full-fledged robot. In a recent sketch, CBC's Peter Mansbridge (played by Air Farce veteran Roger Abbott) had to stick a coin in the new Prime Minister's side before interviewing him. With his arms held in front like a wind-up toy, Lauzon's Harper betrayed no emotion except for the occasional maniacal cackle.

The Ottawa-born sketch comedian had been considering making Harper less robotic post-election, but then came the photo op where the new PM shook hands with his children instead of hugging them as he dropped them off at school. "He wants to break that image," notes Lauzon. "He's been smiling a lot and wearing turtlenecks, but he's still pretty stiff ... At times he looks like he's glazed over, like he's looking through you."

The whole Air Farce cast was eager to see who was named to Harper's cabinet on Monday. While Don Ferguson's Paul Martin will now fade into the background, the longtime Air Farce member will again be able to pull out his Stockwell Day, now the minister of public safety. Relative newcomer Alan Park will be able to pull out his Peter MacKay, now that he's in foreign affairs. Members Luba Goy and Jessica Holmes will be keeping an eye on Environment Minister Rona Ambrose and Minister of Human Resources and Social Development Diane Finley. Goy's also well suited to play new Heritage Minister Bev Oda, Lauzon says. "Get her one of those little wigs and glasses and she'd be set."

As for Lauzon, he's got Harper sealed up, but hopes the new president of the Treasury Board ends up in the news. "I'd love to do John Baird," says Lauzon. "He's just got some crazy hair and a really specific way of speaking."

But does he have any desire to meet the new Prime Minister in person? "Nope," says Lauzon, whose portrayal of Harper is not exactly a compliment. "I'm not sure how that would go ... But it's the sincerest form of flattery, right?"

 

December 22 , 2005 - AIR FARCE NEW YEAR'S EVE COMEDY SPECIAL TELECAST EARLY THIS YEAR: FRIDAY, DECEMBER 30 AT 8PM ON CBC TELEVISION!

Royal Canadian Air Farce’s traditional New Year’s Eve special is a night early this year – the night before New Year’s Eve – due to the Saturday night hockey schedule. 2005: Year of the Farce is a riotous, fast-paced romp through the news highlights and headline makers of the past year. In this satirical hour, Air Farce takes special aim at the election campaign and the major party leaders. 2005: Year of the Farce will be telecast on Friday, December 30 at 8pm on CBC Television.

Among the sketches in this special: Peter C. Newman (Roger Abbott) interviews Prime Minister Paul Martin (Don Ferguson) for a new “Secret Tapes” book; Air Farce re-makes Stephen Harper’s TV ad campaign, with Craig Lauzon as Harper; President George Bush (Roger Abbott) gets help from his twin daughters (Jessica Holmes and Craig Lauzon) in preparing his New Year address; Sister Bessie (Jessica Holmes) rips into the campaigning party leaders; and Roger Abbott’s Gilbert Smythe Bite-Me looks back at the year in entertainment. Elsewhere, Don Ferguson brings Jack Layton to life; Jessica Holmes is assisted by Luba Goy and others in a musical version of ‘Russian Idol’; Craig Lauzon performs his spot-on impersonation of The Hour’s George Stroumboulopoulos; and Alan Park trades his van for a helicopter. The regular Air Farce team is augmented by guest comic star, Glen ‘That Canadian Guy’ Foster.

The producers regret that they are forbidden to use clips from the recent leader’s debates – all Canadian networks entered an agreement that excludes debate clips from all entertainment or comedy/satire programs.

No Air Farce New Year’s Eve special would be complete without the Chicken Cannon Target of the Year. Viewers vote for the year’s most annoying newsmakers and personalities, who get blasted with cannon-fired rubber chickens. The #1 target gets special treatment – the ammunition is a disgusting concoction of garbage, glue and food. From Chicken Cannon Headquarters, the top ten nominees this year are: Paul Martin, Stephen Harper, George Bush, Big Oil Companies, Black-Eyed Peas, Conrad Black, Gilles Duceppe, All Politicians, the Cooking with Cheese Lady, and Jack Layton.

The winner will be revealed on the Special.

Hint: it’s a tie.

 

December 8 , 2005 - CHICKEN CANNON RETURNS FOR NEW YEAR'S EVE "EVE". HELP US PICK THE TOP TEN MOST IRRITATING PEOPLE AND THINGS!

TORONTO, December 8 , 2005: Our annual One Hour New Year's Eve Special will air on Friday, December 30 @ 8PM on CBC Television. Colonel Stacy will aim at the top ten people and things that have really irritated Canadians this year. Nominate your worthiest victims online (click here) or dial 416.205.2155. Name your nominnee, choose your ammunition - the messier the better - and you could win our newest DVD.

 

November 7, 2005 - AIR FARCE WINS FOR GEMINI HUMANITARIAN AWARD

TORONTO, November 7, 2005: The Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television is proud to announce the 20th Annual Gemini Special Award recipients.  This year’s prestigious roster includes Steve Smith, The Royal Canadian Air Farce, David Halton, David Greene and the documentary Two Worlds Colliding.

Royal Canadian Air Farce - Gemini Humanitarian Award
The Royal Canadian Air Farce will be presented with this year’s Gemini Humanitarian Award.  Instituted and supported for the past four years by Global Television Network, this award honours contributions and commitments to community and public service by members of the television industry.

One of Canada’s finest performance treasures, Royal Canadian Air Farce has garnered 16 Gemini nominations and in 2001 was honoured with the prestigious Earle Grey Award for their outstanding body of work and the publicly voted Viewers’ Choice Award for Best Dramatic or Comedy Series.  In addition to these exceptional achievements for their work on the air, off the air they have exhibited extr

As a group and individually, the Farce have performed innumerable concerts for charities across Canada, and hosted hundreds of fundraisers.  Roger Abbott and Don Ferguson have hosted the annual Easter Seals Telethon in Ontario for over 20 years and also are celebrity spokespersons for Raising the Roof’s annual toque campaign.  Furthermore, they continue to support fundraising undertaken by their alma mater, Montreal’s Loyola High School and the Nairobi-based African Jesuit AIDS Network.

Luba Goy headlines fundraisers for the Canadian Ukrainian community at senior residences, bilingual schools, museums and dance companies.  She is a leading voice in “Help Us Help the Children”, an orphanage relief program, Co-chair of Volunteer Canada, and also a supporter of "The Quilt: A Breast Cancer Support Project". 

Furthermore, Air Farce’s next generation co-stars, Jessica Holmes, Craig Lauzon and Alan Park, are continuing the tradition of giving back to the community.

Global Television Network's sponsorship of the Gemini Humanitarian Award includes a financial contribution of $10,000 to the recipient’s charity of choice.  Royal Canadian Air Farce’s has and continues to improve the lives countless people in Canada and around the world.  Their diverse activities has lead them to select three charities: The Easter Seals Society of Ontario supporting children with physical disabilities; The African Jesuit AIDS Network working to alleviate the devastation of HIV/Aids in Africa, and the Therapeutic Clown Program at Sick Kids Hospital which minimizes stress during treatment by using spontaneous humour and gentle play.

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October 25, 2005 - AIR FARCE STILL FLYING HIGH AFTER 35 YEARS

Alex Strachan - The Ottawa Citizen

(CANWEST NEWS SERVICE) Tuesday, October 25, 2005: Where others may look at Paul Martin and see only grey, Don Ferguson sees inspiration.

The veteran Royal Canadian Air Farce impressionist says Bill Clinton may be more fun, especially while singing Addicted to Love, and Bob Dylan may be more of a stretch, but Martin is where the real challenge lies.

Challenge is everything when you've been flying with the Air Farce as long as Ferguson has -- 35 years now, ever since the group first appeared as improvisational stage company the Jest Society in Montreal in 1970.

Twenty-four years of radio with Roger Abbott (Peter Mansbridge, Leonard Cohen), Luba Goy (the Queen, Kim Campbell) and the late John Morgan (Boris Yeltsin, Mike from Canmore), followed by that increasing rarity, a bona fide homegrown hit TV show on CBC Television in 1992. That first episode struck a chord with Canadian viewers, and not just because the Barenaked Ladies composed the opening theme.

Ferguson, the only Air Farce player born in Canada -- he was born in Montreal -- says his favourite Air Farce characters are the ones that get the biggest laughs at the moment. Who knew our current prime minister could be such a repository of wit?

"I like doing him because he's a bit of a challenge," Ferguson said, proffering a rich, deep chuckle between rehearsals for Air Farce's season opener. "He's not easy to do. For me, there's not a lot to work with.

"I only like to do him if the material is good. The problem is that sometimes there's a tendency to do these people because they've said something this week, and so we think we should do them. I've never agreed with that. I believe that if somebody says something that isn't worthy of comment, then you should just ignore it. It's funny. Some of the characters over the years that I've enjoyed doing the most have been the ones who are personally the biggest stretch."

Mike "the Knife" Harris for example. Preston Manning, doing the underwear jig from Risky Business.

Air Farce returns Friday (8 p.m.), the linchpin of a CBC all-night comedy lineup that includes The Red Green Show, This Hour Has 22 Minutes and Just for Laughs.

Air Farce registered a ratings uptick last season, peaking at 1.7 million viewers in mid-February, thanks in part to an infusion of new blood -- Craig Lauzon and Ottawa's Jessica Holmes -- and an emphasis on shorter sketches and more animation. A new player, Alan Park, will join the cast this season.

Ferguson is delighted the much-speculated-about federal election now looks as if it will be delayed until spring: It means his favourite source of inspiration will be in the public spotlight at least until then.

"The election campaign, even though it's going to be in the spring, has really already begun. They'll be at each other's throats through the fall session. And I think that's delightful. At its best, it's great theatre.

"And when it gets really ugly, it's even better theatre, as far as we're concerned."

Ferguson is predicting a Hudson's Bay Rules donnybrook between Martin and Conservative leader Stephen Harper, and that's all to the good.

"They're under great pressure, and I think we're going to see them warts and all. In a sense, both Martin and Stephen Harper are fighting for their political life. And that makes it interesting, because the stakes are going to be high for both of them."

One topic probably won't be mined for an Air Farce sketch: the recent CBC labour dispute.

"It really depends on how mad we are," Ferguson said, and then admitted it's old news. But the lockout continues to stick in his craw -- "You miss the paycheque no matter what the situation is, but there's something emotionally different about being told by your employer not to come in, that they don't want you" -- but good comedy is about knowing when to end the joke.

Looking ahead, Ferguson believes Air Farce's future is in good hands with the recent additions to the cast.

Holmes and Lauzon breathed fresh life into the sketch troupe last season, and Park is expected to do much the same this year.

"That is going to keep us young, I hope -- for the next three years, anyway," Ferguson said.

"A comedy show is to some extent like a renewable resource. You have to bring new people and new ideas. That way, the show refreshes itself. And the audience, when it comes, discovers that."

Just as in politics.

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CBC TV'S AIR FARCE RETURNS FRIDAY NIGHT WITH ANOTHER INJECTION OF YOUNG BLOOD

John Mckay - Canadian Press

TORONTO (CP) - Geezers 3, New Kids 3 will be the cast score when Royal Canadian Air Farce returns for its 13th season of sketch comedy and political satire on CBC-TV this Friday night.

Two newcomers are being added to the cast: Craig Lauzon of Ottawa and Alan Park, who claims both Toronto and Vancouver as home, will join veterans Roger Abbott, Luba Goy and Don Ferguson. Last year, the first injection of younger blood came with the addition of Jessica Holmes. So now it's a six-pack.

Abbott says he and Ferguson and Goy were once the newbies who joined retired Dave Broadfoot and the late John Morgan, but eventually they realized it's easy to be made up to look older, but not younger, and there were plenty of young public figures - from Belinda Stronach to Britney Spears - to parody.

"If the times are a-changin', we better change with the times," says Abbott. "Time for us to move to the elder chairs."

Not that Lauzon and Park are fresh faces to the show. They've been supporting cast members for a couple of years now and are just being elevated to the opening credits.

And they have no intentions of shoving the old timers onto an ice floe any time soon.

"I'm just happy to be in the group," says Lauzon humbly, turning to Abbott. "I still can't believe it. You're not pulling my leg, are you?"

Park says people are wrong to say he's replacing John Morgan.

"No. I'm now on the show that he was on. I get that sense of pressure from people who think that. But it's definitely not the case. You can't."

The two younger comics already have their own fan base and kit of favourite impersonations. Lauzon - who is one quarter Ojibwa and used to be a member of the comedy troupe Tonto's Nephews - has some aboriginal bits down pat, including the guy in the Lakota pain-relief commercials. He also does deadly send-ups of Stephen Harper and George Stroumboulopolis. Park has a regular commentary feature called Not the Official Story.

There's a mistaken impression afoot that the Air Farce (which actually began on radio in 1973 making it even older than Saturday Night Live) is a lightweight comedy show that pulls its punches. But when watched carefully, there's often a sting beneath the laughs, which is the way Abbott wants it. He says they get a lot of critical mail.

"The conservatives say we're too soft on the liberals and and vice versa," he says.

"Everybody's a critic. . .lots of little smacks on the wrist."

Abbott says with political satire you have to operate on two levels: a laugh on the surface and a little lingering zinger.

"People don't laugh at satire. They laugh at the joke. It's like Caramilk. The joke's on the outside and the satire's on the inside."

For young humorists, Lauzon and Park have long memories. Lauzon cites as his heroes and inspirations early film stars Buster Keaton and the Marx Brothers and Bob Newhart.

For Park it's a wide array of funny folks, including George Carlin, Woody Allen, Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor and the Monty Python gang.

"Who do I not find inspiration from? Then you're down to prop acts: Carrot Top and Gallagher!"

So what to expect Friday night when the Farce joins that CBC lineup that also includes The Red Green Show, This Hour Has 22 Minutes and Just For Laughs?

Sketches hinted at include Don Cherry's Rock-em Sock-em NHL Lockout, Condoleezza Rice's visit to Ottawa this week and maybe something on that Brian Mulroney-Peter C. Newman book flap.

And yes, the messy chicken cannon will be back but the cast agrees it would be nice if the cannon's target could be in person, and not just a photograph.

Abbott thinks the CBC lockout might be ancient history but concedes that if the recently-locked-out crew had its way, network boss Robert Rabinovitch would be in the cannon's line of fire.

"It would be stuffed with over-enthusiasm on the part of the crew," quips Park.

On a more serious note, Park is impressed that the Air Farce, Rick Mercer's Report (returning Nov. 8) and 22 Minutes all air on the CBC.

"You're not gonna see a show on Global that skewers the elites and the powers-that-be and the governmental structure. There's no way they're ever going to do that."

Abbott agrees, noting that the CBC is the only network in North America that has satirical news shows in prime time.

"Even on Comedy Central (in the U.S.) which you pay for, and on which you'd think you could get away with anything, they don't even let Jon Stewart out till after 11 o'clock."

The Farce tapes twice before studio audiences on Thursday evenings and goes to air with the best from both edited into the final product Friday night.

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October 25, 2005 - AIR FARCE STILL FLYING HIGH AFTER 35 YEARS

Alex Strachan - The Ottawa Citizen


(CANWEST NEWS SERVICE) Tuesday, October 25, 2005: Where others may look at Paul Martin and see only grey, Don Ferguson sees inspiration.

The veteran Royal Canadian Air Farce impressionist says Bill Clinton may be more fun, especially while singing Addicted to Love, and Bob Dylan may be more of a stretch, but Martin is where the real challenge lies.

Challenge is everything when you've been flying with the Air Farce as long as Ferguson has -- 35 years now, ever since the group first appeared as improvisational stage company the Jest Society in Montreal in 1970.

Twenty-four years of radio with Roger Abbott (Peter Mansbridge, Leonard Cohen), Luba Goy (the Queen, Kim Campbell) and the late John Morgan (Boris Yeltsin, Mike from Canmore), followed by that increasing rarity, a bona fide homegrown hit TV show on CBC Television in 1992. That first episode struck a chord with Canadian viewers, and not just because the Barenaked Ladies composed the opening theme.

Ferguson, the only Air Farce player born in Canada -- he was born in Montreal -- says his favourite Air Farce characters are the ones that get the biggest laughs at the moment. Who knew our current prime minister could be such a repository of wit?

"I like doing him because he's a bit of a challenge," Ferguson said, proffering a rich, deep chuckle between rehearsals for Air Farce's season opener. "He's not easy to do. For me, there's not a lot to work with.

"I only like to do him if the material is good. The problem is that sometimes there's a tendency to do these people because they've said something this week, and so we think we should do them. I've never agreed with that. I believe that if somebody says something that isn't worthy of comment, then you should just ignore it. It's funny. Some of the characters over the years that I've enjoyed doing the most have been the ones who are personally the biggest stretch."

Mike "the Knife" Harris for example. Preston Manning, doing the underwear jig from Risky Business.

Air Farce returns Friday (8 p.m.), the linchpin of a CBC all-night comedy lineup that includes The Red Green Show, This Hour Has 22 Minutes and Just for Laughs.

Air Farce registered a ratings uptick last season, peaking at 1.7 million viewers in mid-February, thanks in part to an infusion of new blood -- Craig Lauzon and Ottawa's Jessica Holmes -- and an emphasis on shorter sketches and more animation. A new player, Alan Park, will join the cast this season.

Ferguson is delighted the much-speculated-about federal election now looks as if it will be delayed until spring: It means his favourite source of inspiration will be in the public spotlight at least until then.

"The election campaign, even though it's going to be in the spring, has really already begun. They'll be at each other's throats through the fall session. And I think that's delightful. At its best, it's great theatre.

"And when it gets really ugly, it's even better theatre, as far as we're concerned."

Ferguson is predicting a Hudson's Bay Rules donnybrook between Martin and Conservative leader Stephen Harper, and that's all to the good.

"They're under great pressure, and I think we're going to see them warts and all. In a sense, both Martin and Stephen Harper are fighting for their political life. And that makes it interesting, because the stakes are going to be high for both of them."

One topic probably won't be mined for an Air Farce sketch: the recent CBC labour dispute.

"It really depends on how mad we are," Ferguson said, and then admitted it's old news. But the lockout continues to stick in his craw -- "You miss the paycheque no matter what the situation is, but there's something emotionally different about being told by your employer not to come in, that they don't want you" -- but good comedy is about knowing when to end the joke.

Looking ahead, Ferguson believes Air Farce's future is in good hands with the recent additions to the cast.

Holmes and Lauzon breathed fresh life into the sketch troupe last season, and Park is expected to do much the same this year.

"That is going to keep us young, I hope -- for the next three years, anyway," Ferguson said.

"A comedy show is to some extent like a renewable resource. You have to bring new people and new ideas. That way, the show refreshes itself. And the audience, when it comes, discovers that."

Just as in politics.

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October 6, 2005 - AIR FARCE IS NOW A GANG OF SIX: HIT SERIES RETURNS TO CBC-TV ON FRIDAY, OCTOBER 28 AT 8PM

Thursday, October 14, 2005 - UPDATE - ROYAL CANADIAN AIR FARCE launches its 13th lucky season on CBC Television, Friday, October 28 at 8pm with six permanent cast members.

Craig Lauzon and Alan Park are now full-fledged conspirators in Air Farce’s comedy antics, joining Roger Abbott, Don Ferguson, Luba Goy and Jessica Holmes for a new season dedicated to sending up the newsworthy, the pretentious, and the just plain silly.

Both Craig and Alan have made regular appearances on Air Farce - Lauzon sending up Stephen Harper and George Stroumboulopoulos among others, and Park with his weekly ‘Not the Official Story’ sit-down satirical look at the news. Both comics will see their roles in AIR FARCE expanded during the upcoming season.

“There’s a hot supply of funny business, political intrigue, and assorted scandals for us to sink our teeth into this Fall, and we’re ready to ridicule them all,” says Roger Abbott. “Plus, now that we’re a cast of six we can take on even more personalities. More faces means more Farce, more fun.”

Alan Park, who claims both Toronto and Vancouver as hometowns, is a veteran comedy club performer and seasoned comedy writer who has appeared in Montreal’s Just for Laughs Festival, and toured extensively in England. He also starred in his own episode of CTV’s Comedy Now.

AIR FARCE is taped every Thursday evening at the CBC Broadcasting Centre, Toronto. Free tickets are available by calling 416.205.5050 or online at www.airfarce.com.

Ottawa native Craig Lauzon has been part of the alternative sketch comedy scene since 1996. He has appeared on The Comedy Network’s Chez Carla show and co-wrote and starred in the Canadian Comedy Award nominated show, The Chick and Cubby Comedy Hour. He is a member of the aboriginal sketch comedy troupe, Tonto’s Nephews.

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October 6, 2005 AIR FARCE RETURNS FRIDAY OCTOBER 28 @ 8PM

Thursday, October 6, 2005 - UPDATE - Our season launch will be Friday October 28 at 8:00 PM on CBC Television. Our first taping is the night before, Thursday October 27. Please join us in the studio (click here for tickets) and on CBC Television for our first new show of the season. Roger, Don, Luba, Jessica and Alan, and the Air Farce writers - Gord, Rick, Rob and Wayne - and the entire Air Farce production team are looking forward to the new season of Canada's #1 sketch and satirical comedy show.

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October 6, 2005 NEW AIR FARCE DVD NOW AVAILABLE

Available Now! Click Here. Here are 50 favourite funny scenes from the past Air Farce season, including two visits from special guest (and WWE wrestling Diva) Trish Stratus, plus more than 5 minutes of never-broadcast “flubs and quacks” blooper scenes.

CastAir Farce built its award-winning reputation by spinning daily news headlines into comedy punchlines, taking shots at world and national politics, and finding the funny in everyday events. And the 2005 season provided tons of topical targets: The NHL hockey lockout, George Bush's second term, Same-sex marriage, the Gomery Inquiry (complete with Jean Chrétien's golf balls), Prince Charles and Camilla tying the knot, Paul Martin's minority government, and Stephen Harper's deadly defence of all things Conservative.

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October 3, 2005 - CBC LOCKOUT SETTLED; AIR FARCE RETURNS SOON

Monday, October 3, 2005 - The good news is that the Canadian Media Guild, representing 5,500 CBC technicians, journalists, designers and production staff, and CBC have reached an agreement to end the 7-week lockout and sign a new labour contract. In the days to come, the deal is expected to be ratified by union members and the doors to CBC studios across Canada will be re-opened.

We hope that our new season of Royal Canadian Air Farce will be able to launch on Friday, October 21. Because so many of the people who work on Air Farce are CMG members, and our studio is at CBC Toronto -- and because we're a topical show that is broadcast within 24 hours of taping -- we have not been "stock-piling" new episodes, ready for immediate broadcast. As soon as CBC crews are back at work, the full Air Farce team will be busy and in production.

Please keep checking in at airfarce.com for further updates, and our official 2005-2006 launch date. If you'd like to join our studio audience, click here for tickets. If you'd like to be on our e-mail list for updates, please e-mail us here and you'll be one of the first to know.

Meanwhile, if CBC is important to you, why not tell your member of parliament - send him or her an e-mail, and copy Prime Minister Paul Martin at Martin.P@parl.gc.ca and Heritage Minister Liza Frulla at Frulla.L@parl.gc.ca.

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September 22 , 2005 - AIR FARCE RETURNS IN THE FALL

Royal Canadian Air Farce is scheduled to return for a new season on CBC Television. Due to the ongoing lockout, our new season start date remains uncertain. Please check back regularly for more information as talks between the CBC and the Canadian Media Guild continue.

Air Farce saw a ratings uptick during the 2004/2005 season, both on Friday nights (up a modest 3%) and the Monday repeat, which scored a 14% increase in viewers.  The dual telecasts delivered an average-per-minute audience of 1,291,000 viewers for each episode of the season, peaking at 1.7-million in mid-February.

The Farce welcomes the ratings rebound, attributing it to the expansion of the cast (as Craig Lauzon and Alan Park joined Roger, Don, Luba and Jessica for most of the season) and the improved pace of the show with more shorter sketches and animations.  Viewers responded favourably to the additions, finding more reasons to laugh more often.

CBC Television will repeat episodes from the just-completed season, Fridays at 8:00 PM, from June 17 through September 23.

Classic episodes from earlier seasons (currently 1996-1999) are screened Tuesday to Thursday afternoons at 3:00 PM on CBC.

And episodes from the recent past air daily on the Comedy Network at 7 AM, 1 PM and 7 PM (Eastern and Pacific time; that's 6, 12 and 6 in Atlantic and Mountain; 8, 2 and 8 in Central).

Thanks for another great season, and please join us for our new season starting sometime in the fall.

 

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