As Jim Carrey, Matthew Perry, and current Walk of Fame honourees 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 form 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 fellow 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. Now, after seven sensational seasons, the show is going stronger than ever " averaging an unprecedented 1.3 million viewers each week. No wonder CBC just green-lighted the Air Farce for another three full seasons.
Along the way, 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.
How is it that the Air Farce has succeeded where so many others have failed? As mimics and satirists, Abbott, Ferguson, Goy, and Morgan are rivaled only by that other CBC quartet over on This Hour Has 22 Minutes. And like their This Hour counterparts, they hold nothing sacred. Every headline, newsmaker, celebrity and politician is fodder for their canon " and their cannon. As Ferguson explains: "Air Farce provides a mirror "slightly cracked" for the nation."
And how best to pay tribute to Canadian comedy's foremost foursome? Nothing less will do than a 21-hen salute from the chicken cannon.
Air Farce's roots began in 1970, when John Morgan co-founded The Jest Society, an improvisational theatre revue that had Roger Abbott as one of the members. By 1971, the troupe included Don Ferguson and Luba Goy. In 1973, the four, with one other member, became the Royal Canadian Air Farce for their CBC radio debut.