Ancient knave with heart as black
as coat you wear upon your back,
get thee a pair of glasses, get thee
to an optometrist!
An early sketch comedy series that went through a number of different incarnations. Hosted by the Canadian 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, as well as Wayne and Shuster in Black and White, which recirculated episodes from the 1950s and 60s.
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 (Hamlet with All in the Family) and Star Schtick and even Macbeth done as an in-period Police Procedural. Most of their shows also included a least a couple of comedic musical numbers.
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.
- Arrowgram: In their Kung Fu parody, a throwing knife with a note attached buries itself in the wall next to the railroad president's head.
- 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 - usually actress Sylvia Lennick - 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, though more Wayne than Shuster, who was more frequently the straight man. There were exceptions, though, where the two switched roles.
- 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, about a year after their final TV show. Shuster continued to act occasionally and host retrospectives until shortly before his own death in 2002.
- Mind Screw: Several. For example:Shuster Are you sure we're alone?
Shuster 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.
- Straight Man: Shuster did it more often, but the team traded the role every so often.
- World of Pun:
- They never pass up an opportunity. Ever.
- One skit was based on this, with Wayne playing a man who'd go into a homicidal rage upon hearing a pun. Which proves to be a problem the day he visits Queen Victoria to suggest a street be named in her honor: Victoria Mews. To which Her Majesty replies, indignantly, "I am not a mews." Cue homicidal rage.
- 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.