So fair a foul I have not seen!
Ancient knave with heart as black
as coat you wear upon your back,
get thee a pair of glasses, get thee
to an optometrist!
— Rocky in The Shakespearean Baseball Game: A Comedy of Errors, Hits, and Runs
An early sketch comedy series that went through a number of different incarnations. Hosted by the comedy team of Johnny Wayne and Frank Shuster. The earliest version was Shuster & Wayne
, a radio program they were given as a result of their earlier radio work The Wife Preservers
. The next show was The Wayne and Shuster Show
created for CBC
radio in 1946 after they left the army after the second world war. There was a weekly television series in the 1950s, but that gave way to the better known appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show
(where they appeared 67
times!) and their monthly CBC specials that ran from the early 1960s to the 1980s. Later CBC-aired and syndicated compilations of their skits from the 60s-80s are also marketed under this title.
Their comedy has been referred to as literate comedy combined with a liberal amount of slapstick. They often mixed classic references, genre parodies, silly puns and bloodless violence in equal parts (not to mention copious references to Canadian culture, at least on their CBC shows). A famous example being the retelling of William Shakespeare
's Julius Caesar
as the modern, noir-ish
detective story Rinse the Blood off My Toga
. They also parodied and spoofed then current events and popular culture such as All in the Royal Family
with All in the Family
) and Star Schtick
and even Macbeth
done as an in-period Police Procedural
While some of the sketches might be slightly dated, and the style of comedy can seem a little old fashioned, much of their work is still side-splittingly funny and should be watched when the chance is given. The literate nature of much of their comedy, especially their Shakespeare spoofs as well as other skits such as "The Picture of Dorian Wayne" has also gained admirers.
This show provides examples of:
- Anachronism Stew: Rule of Funny prevails in most cases.
- Aside Comment: Frequently, especially in Noir parodies.
- Aside Glance: Frequently, especially in Noir parodies.
- Boogie Knights: Wayne and Shuster once had a TV special that parodied fairy tales - they star as a court jester and royal physician, breaking into an impromptu softshoe dance in the dining hall, followed by a knight in armor doing a more vigorous tapdance.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: occasionally, the boys notice the audience, the sound effects, the soundtrack... Some skits involve addressing the audience, such as "Rinse the Blood Off My Toga".
- Camera Screw: an early silent sketch involving the two painting the interior of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The camera is on an angle so that the tower looks vertical, but the pair and their equipment are constantly leaning/falling over/sliding around.
- Catch Phrase: "Julie, don't go!" from "Rinse the Blood Off My Toga" became a catch phrase on both sides of the border and was often reprised and sometimes worked into other sketches (though it's always delivered by a female character rather than Wayne or Shuster).
- Cowboy Episode: "A Fistful of Fingers"
- Deal with the Devil: The feature story of one episode was about a musician selling his soul to the Devil in exchange for becoming Canada's greatest hockey player.
- His Name Is...: A running joke in Rinse the Blood off My Toga.
- Killed Mid-Sentence: Also a running joke in Rinse the Blood off My Toga.
- Large Ham: Oh, yes.
- Lights Off, Somebody Dies: Parodied in a sketch where Sherlock Holmes and Watson are holding a Summation Gathering in a stately country home. Every time that Holmes dramatically announces who the murderer is, the lights go out. When they come back on, the suspect he has just named is dead. After all of the suspects have been killed, Holmes deduces that he must be in the wrong house.
- Long Runners: Wayne and Shuster's first show, The Wife Preservers, aired in 1941. They continued to perform until the late 1980s; Wayne succumbed to cancer in 1990. Shuster continued to act occasionally and host retrospectives until shortly before his own death in 2002.
- Mind Screw: Several. For example:
Are you sure we're alone? Wayne
Then who's that beside you? Wayne Beat
That's you! Shuster
Yes. But can I be trusted
- Radio: The duo started out with radio shows.
- Running Gag: constantly, sometimes including callbacks to previous running gags.
- World of Pun: They never pass up an opportunity. Ever.
- Your Mime Makes It Real: Happens in "Comedy Olympics" special. The case in point is the gold medalist for pantomime. Here, we see a Marcel Marceau type mime doing his "Walking on Stairs" act and physically ascends about 10 feet off the stage without any physical steps in place.