Wayne and Shuster

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Wayne and Shuster before a performance in France, 1944

Wayne and Shuster were a Canadian comedy duo formed by Johnny Wayne and Frank Shuster. They were active professionally from the early 1940s until the late 1980s.

Wayne (born Louis Weingarten, May 28, 1918 – July 18, 1990) and Shuster (September 5, 1916 – January 13, 2002) were well known in Canada, and were Ed Sullivan's most frequently recurring guests, appearing a record 67 times on his show.

Beginnings[edit]

The pair doing a radio broadcast during the Second World War.

Wayne and Shuster met as high school students at Harbord Collegiate Institute in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in 1930. They both studied at the University of Toronto, where they wrote and performed for the theatre there, and in 1941 they made their radio debut on CFRB in their own show, The Wife Preservers in which they dispensed household hints in a humorous fashion. This exposure resulted in the pair being given their own comedy show on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's Trans-Canada Network as Shuster & Wayne.

They enlisted in the Canadian Army in 1942, and performed for the troops in Europe during World War II as part of the Army Show (they would also later perform for the army in the Korean War). They returned to Canada to create the Wayne and Shuster Show for CBC Radio in 1946. They first performed on The Ed Sullivan Show in the United States in 1958, and set a record there by appearing 67 times over the next 11 years.

Wayne and Shuster turned down many offers to go to the U.S. permanently, preferring to remain in Toronto. (They did co-star in a CBS-TV sitcom, Holiday Lodge, which aired as a summer replacement for [and produced by] Jack Benny in 1961.)

In 1965 The Wayne & Shuster Hour won the Silver Rose at the Rose d'Or Television Festival.[1]

In 1965, the duo made a series of six short documentaries about comedians such as W. C. Fields and the Marx Brothers, titled Wayne and Shuster Take an Affectionate Look At..., which were telecast on CBS in the summer of 1966. The programs were scored by the young composer "Johnny Williams". This series, incidentally, was the last US network prime time series to premiere in black and white (at least until the 1991 CBS retro-spoof Morton & Hayes, which also included full-colour sequences).

Later career[edit]

The Mounties get their man when Ed Sullivan brought his show to Toronto in 1963.

After having a weekly television series in the 1950s, they began a series of long-running, monthly Wayne & Shuster comedy specials on CBC Television in the early 1960s, which continued into the 1980s. They were an influence for later Canadian comedians, such as Lorne Michaels (Shuster's son-in-law), the Royal Canadian Air Farce and The Kids in the Hall.[citation needed] In the late 1980s, many of their comedy skits were repackaged in half-hour chunks and syndicated around the world under the title Wayne & Shuster; the comedians filmed new introductions for the series.[citation needed]

Supporting players in Wayne & Shuster's television sketches included Don Cullen, Jack Duffy, Tom Harvey, Bill Kemp, Paul Kligman, Ben Lennick, Sylvia Lennick, Peggi Loder, Les Rubie, Eric Christmas, Joe Austin, Larry D. Mann, Paul Soles, Marilyn Stuart, Roy Wordsworth, John Davies, Carol Robinson, Lou Pitoscia, Peggy Mahon, Don Ewer, and Keith Hampshire. Musical director was Canadian jazz legend Norman Amadio.

The humour of Wayne and Shuster[edit]

They performed "literate" comedy, combined with slapstick. They often used classical or Shakespearean settings and characters; on their first Ed Sullivan appearance, for example, they performed Rinse the Blood off My Toga, a sketch which retold Shakespeare's Julius Caesar in the style of a then-contemporary police procedural television series such as Dragnet. This sketch spawned the popular catchphrase, "Julie, don't go!"

After the opening of the Stratford Festival of Canada in 1958, they created a baseball-themed skit involving characters from Hamlet and Macbeth. The duo treated these sketches the way singers treat their most popular songs by performing new renditions many times over the years.

Some of Wayne's characters were scientific in nature, and used Professor Waynegartner, a derivation of his birth name, which he created while still in high school. The duo often based their sketches on contemporary events, trends and television programs.

They spoofed All in the Family as "All in the Royal Family", with the king calling Hamlet, "Meathead", and his queen "Dingbat". As Paramount was about to release Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the duo spoofed it with "Star Schtick". When The Equalizer went on the air, they responded with "The Tranquilizer", dealing with mysterious deaths on a game show that was a cross between The Price Is Right and The $64,000 Question. Similarly, The Six Million Dollar Man became "The Six Hundred Dollar Man", assembled with body parts such as "rump: $6 at Loblaws". When Dallas was popular, it was spoofed with a character determined to corner the fertilizer market, and featured a cameo by Barbara Frum. Fantasy Island was spoofed with "Fantasy Motel". Not even their home network CBC was safe. Around the same time that Anne of Green Gables aired, they spoofed it with "Sam of Green Gables," in which Green Gables farm is mistakenly sent a curmudgeonly old man from a retirement home.

The duo spoofed the commercials "we love to hate" with their own versions: "Crazar TVs" spoofed the "Quasar" TV brand with the high-pitched overture; "Oil of Oyvay" spoofed the de-aging Oil of Olay; "Macedonian Formula" spoofed Grecian Formula, and questioned why a man would say he used it and thus reveal he has grey hair; "Russian Express" spoofed American Express, with a muscular KGB agent saying "Don't leave home!"

Occasionally, the troupe also satirized Canadian politics. For example, when televising the proceedings of the Canadian House of Commons was first proposed in the 1970s, Wayne and Shuster responded with "Question Time", a sketch which depicted Question Period as a Las Vegas-style musical revue, with the Speaker of the House and members of parliament all performing a synchronized song-and-dance routine, slapping their desks in unison, and "debating" the issues by trading vaudeville-inspired quips and puns.

They spoofed accents and dialogue. After Wayne brought down an escaping felon with a gunshot (off screen), Shuster would say, "You got him in the rotunda/cloisters/etc.", with Wayne looking wryly at Shuster. "Srightry ahead of Panasonic!" "Srightry?" (Later...) "I go plug it in." "Don't you mean, 'prug it in'?" "No. One ethnic joke per sketch is plenty... or prenty if that's the way you like it." In another sketch, Shuster was calling on the phone for "Inspector Slattery." Wayne said, "Slattery will get you nowhere."

Awards[edit]

Wayne died in 1990. After his death the group received a special Gemini Award for their outstanding contribution to Canadian television.

In 1996 Shuster accepted the Margaret Collier Award for the duo comedy writing and was later named to the Order of Canada.

In 1999 Wayne and Shuster were inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame .

Having a history that dates back to their time at Harbord Collegiate Institute in 1930. Johnny Wayne and Frank Shuster were recognized with a Heritage Toronto plaque on April 27, 2012.

"Frontier Psychiatrist"[edit]

In 2000, Australian music group The Avalanches created a track called "Frontier Psychiatrist", which was built on various samples of previously recorded material, most noticeably the Wayne & Shuster sketch "Frontier Psychiatrist".[2] (Audio clips of two other Wayne and Shuster sketches were also used in creating the track, along with samples of dozens of pieces of music.)[2] "Frontier Psychiatrist" was released as a single, and became a hit in the UK, reaching #18 on the charts.[3] Frank Shuster's voice is especially prominent on the track.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Rose D'Or website[dead link]
  2. ^ a b (2001) Album notes for Since I Left You by The Avalanches [Digipak inside sleeve.]. Sire / Modular (31177-2).
  3. ^ http://www.chartstats.com/songinfo.php?id=29203

External links[edit]