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Series / Wayne and Shuster

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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 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. The secret to their longevity was in part that they agreed early on to keep their relationship strictly professional; they otherwise kept each other out of their personal lives to prevent tensions from work affecting them.

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 (1972) 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".
  • Catchphrase: "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", which was a send-up of Spaghetti Westerns. They also did an episode long parody of the Kung Fu (1972) TV show.
  • 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.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: "The Wonderful World of The World".
  • Drink-Based Characterization: This is the basis of one of the team's most famous jokes:
    Bartender: What're you drinking?
    Flavius: Gimme a martinus.
    Bartender: You mean a martini.
    Flavius: If I wanted two I'd ask for them
  • Exact Words: A parody of The Devil and Daniel Webster features a man making a Deal with the Devil to become Canada's greatest hockey player. When he becomes sick of hockey and wishes to return to music (like his mother wanted), the Devil holds him to his contract which says he must play at the stadium or forfeit his soul. The Webster character examines the contract and points out that it does not stipulate he must play hockey, so the player becomes the stadium's organist.
  • Frontier Doctor: The "Frontier Psychiatrist" bit (most famously used by The Avalanches in their song of the same name) features Dr. Tex Rorschach, a wild west psychiatrist who, despite his seeming unawareness of the situations surrounding him, manages to disarm a gun-toting outlaw by talking him down.
  • Gender Flip: "Cinderelton" flips the sexes of all of Cinderella's main characters. Including the Fairy Godfather, complete with pinstriped suit.
  • His Name Is...: A running joke in Rinse the Blood off My Toga.
  • Having a Heart: From "Rinse the Blood Off My Toga":
    Marc Antony: Yes. I just made a speech over the body of Caesar. I said, "Friends, Romans and countrymen, lend me your ears!"
    Flavius: Yeah?...What have you got in that sack?
    Marc Antony: Ears!
  • 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.
  • Like a Surgeon: They did a parody of Marcus Welby, M.D. called "Welby Marcus, Master Mechanic". It ends with Welby and his performing an emergency repair on a car engine that is treated with all of the drama and urgency of surgery on the show they were parodying.
  • 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.
    • Part of the secret to that longevity is that the pair soon realized that they got along best on a purely professional basis, so they agreed to stay out of each other's personal lives outside of work.
  • Mind Screw: Several. For example:
    Shuster Are you sure we're alone?
    Wayne Yes.
    Shuster Then who's that beside you?
    Wayne Beat That's you!
    Shuster Yes. But can I be trusted?
  • Misspelling Out Loud: In one Western sketch a deputy repeatedly says "He's dead, Sheriff! D-A-Y-E-D dead," to which the sheriff snaps that he knows the spelling.
  • Radio: The duo started out with radio shows.
  • Running Gag: constantly, sometimes including callbacks to previous running gags.
  • Shot in the Ass: Their Robin Hood parody ends with King Richard telling Robin to shoot an arrow from the castle window and wherever the arrow lands, he will grant him a country estate. Robin fires the arrow and it hits a peasant in the ass, causing Robin to comment it looks like it will be a country seat.
  • Straight Man: Shuster did it more often, but the team traded the role every so often.
  • Well, This Is Not That Trope: Spaghetti Western parody a "A Fistful of Fingers" begins with a narration about the hero of the story as a typical 1950s matinee cowboy rides across the screen on a White Stallion. The narration then goes "This guy is not the hero". Then camera then does a whip pan to Wayne dressed as a scruffy 'Man with No Name' type, and the narration ends "He is!"
  • 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.

Alternative Title(s): Wayne And Shuster