9 December 1973 the first radio show by The Royal Canadian Air
Farce comedy troupe was broadcast coast-to-coast on CBC Radio
and CBC Stereo. Now in its 24th year of political commentary, social
satire and general nonsense, the Air Farce, a Canadian institution,
moved into television in the fall of 1993 with a weekly series on
CBC Television. Like the radio show, Air Farce is topical, on the
edge of controversy, and performed in front of a live audience.
The group consists of Roger Abbot, Don Ferguson, Luba Goy and John
Morgan. Dave Broadfoot, who was a member for fifteen years before
going out on his own, makes frequent guest appearances. Two non-performing
writers, Rick Olsen and Gord Holtam, have been with the troupe for
In 1992, the group became the first Canadian inductees into the
International Humour Hall of Fame. The editors of Maclean's (Canada's
national news magazine) chose the Air Farce for the 1991
Honour Roll of Canadians who make a difference. The group has won
fifteen ACTRA Awards (Association of Canadian Television and Radio
Artists) for radio and television writing and performing and a Juno
Award (Canadian recording awards) for Best Comedy Album. In 1993,
the four current members of the Farce were each awarded Honorary
Doctor of Law degrees by Brock University in St. Catharines.
The Air Farce keeps in touch with Canadians and ensures that
their humour remains relevant by performing and recording in all
ten provinces and two territories. "We're reluctant to give up radio,"
Ferguson told Toronto Star journalist Phil Johnson. "Radio allows
us to showcase new acts and characters." They generally play in
halls which hold 2,000 or 2,500, even when taping for radio. This
creates the need for more visual interest. "I did [former Prime
Minister] Brian Mulroney for 20 years--the worst years of my life
I might add," Ferguson has told Globe and Mail columnist Liam Lacey.
"On-stage, I'd have a long walk over to the microphone, so I'd start
from the side of the stage with just the chin first, and then the
stuckout bum would follow. The audiences would be roaring before
I reached the microphone. Then we'd edit all that out, and cut to
the Farce first tried a television show in 1981, it was shot
in advance and produced with canned laughter. The lack of live performance
and topicality destroyed the spontaneity that is at the heart of
the Farce and the show failed. Then in 1993, a New Year's
Eve special was made, raking in two million viewers, almost 10%
of the entire Canadian population. Network honcho Ivan Fecan approved
a series. It became one of the top 20 Canadian shows, and one of
the CBC's top five.
politicians and media figures regularly show up in person to do
sketches on the show. John Morgan, a Welsh journalist, pub-owner
and teacher who came to Canada in 1957, has a theory about Canadian
political comedy: "You know what they say: we use satire against
our leaders; Americans shoot theirs," he says. Rather than leaning
towards a particular point of view, the Farce points fingers at
all parties. Individuals don't even know how the other members of
the group vote and wouldn't dream of discussing it. As Liam Lacey
wrote in noting indirect governmental support of the Farce in
the form of the CBC: "One would be hard-pressed to imagine another
country in the world where purveyors of official disrespect would
be regarded with such widespread affection." Dave Broadfoot used
to say, "Do you know what they'd call us in the Soviet Union? Inmates."
Diane. "The Air Farce is Flying High." Macleans (Toronto),
26 February 1996.
Programming in English