Royal Canadian Air Farce
As Jim Carrey, Matthew Perry, Martin Short and Michael J. Fox can all attest, most of the biggest names in Canadian comedy had to leave the country to earn proper recognition. But leave it to the comic masterminds who formed the Royal Canadian Air Farce to reverse that trend.
Only one of the four, Don Ferguson, was born in Canada. Roger Abbott hails from Birkenhead, England; John Morgan came from Aberdeen, Wales; and Luba Goy is immensely proud of her Ukrainian heritage. Together the Air Farce farceurs not only reflect Canada's multicultural spirit, but are living proof that it is, indeed, possible to achieve superstardom within the country's borders.
The genesis of the Air Farce dates back to 1970, when Morgan and Montrealer Martin Bronstein formed an improvisational troupe called The Jest Society. The original group also included Abbott, Gay Claitman, and future Newsworld host Patrick Conlon. Within a year, Claitman and Conlon were out; Goy and Ferguson were in.
Two years of touring led the troupe to CBC Radio, where, joined by Dave Broadfoot, they became the Royal Canadian Air Farce. When the Air Farce made its debut on December 9, 1973, no one anticipated that it would become one of the longest-running and most beloved shows in the history of Canadian radio, lasting 24 years and totalling 306 hours of original airtime.The Air Farce's first foray into television came relatively early in its radio run. In October 1980, the CBC commissioned a one-hour special that proved a major ratings winner, landing at No. 2, right behind Hockey Night In Canada. A 10-episode series followed in early 1981, and new specials in both '82 and '83. But the troupe grew wary of management changes at the network and retreated to their radio roots.
Then, on December 31, 1992, in what has since become a treasured New Year's Eve tradition, Air Farce returned to TV with a year-in-review special. Eight months later, on October 8, 1993, Air Farce joined the network's prime-time lineup. With an incredible 16 seasons, Abbott, Ferguson, Goy, and Morgan have won just about every award and honour in the business, including 15 Actra awards, a JUNO award, the Governor-General's Performing Arts award, honorary doctorates from Athabasca and Brock universities, and inclusion in Maclean's Honour Roll of Canadians Who Make A Difference.
Since the debut of the TV show on CBC, the Air Farce cast has shifted and evolved to include such Canadian comedic talent as Jessica Holmes, Alan Park and Craig Lauzon, to name a few.
In 2001, Air Farce founding member John Morgan announced his retirement from the show. In 2004, Morgan tragically died from a heart-attack in his home in Toronto, Ontario.
On March 26, 2011, after a 14-year long battle with leukemia, Roger Abbott died at the age of 64 at Toronto General Hospital. The CBC aired an hour-long tribute to Abbott, featuring many of his memorable sketches, on March 29, 2011. Many of Abbott's castmates spoke at his memorial service, entitled "Roger's Wrap Party", which was held in Toronto on April 11, 2011.