December 28, 2008

Air Farce, For Better and For Worse

Royal Canadian Air Farce is having one of its yearly “Year of the Farce” news roundups/show retrospectives.  It airs New Year’s Eve at 8:00 PM ET/PT on CBC, but that’s beside the point.  This edition of “Year of the Farce” marks the end of Royal Canadian Air Farce after sixteen seasons on television and twenty-four seasons on radio.

Much has been written about the show’s passing.  Personally, I’m glad the show is dead after thirty-five years.

I don’t hate the show for no reason.  It was Air Farce‘s radio show that introduced me to the world of Canadian comedy.  I was a part of the Air Farce fan club when the show was on CBC Radio.  I went to a December 1995 taping of the television show.  I remember what Air Farce was and I hate what it’s become.

Air Farce was never the funniest comedy series on CBC Radio, but it had its moments.  Twenty Twenty, a compilation of the show’s best non-political sketches, shows that Air Farce wasn’t all cheap jokes about Brian Mulroney’s chin and Ed Broadbent’s being Ed Broadbent.

Many of John Morgan’s characters, in particular socialite Amy de la Pompa, were entertaining to listen to.  Dave Broadfoot was the main reason to listen to Air Farce in the 1970s and 1980s with his Bobby Clobber and Sergeant Renfrew routines.  It’s fashionable to say “Air Farce has been shit since the 1930s,” yet the radio show was still listenable when its most well-known television counterpart was launched in 1993.*

Air Farce was not the funniest show on CBC Television at the time it debuted.  Kids in the Hall was still a going concern.  Comics! was given a prime-time slot, a boon to Canadian stand-up comedians everywhere.  This Hour Has 22 Minutes was beginning its long run.  Even so, Royal Canadian Air Farce didn’t start off unfunny.

I know people complain about Saturday Night Live‘s reliance on recurring characters and lack of actual humour, yet Air Farce has become the worst sketch comedy show in North America for those reasons.  Air Farce has been overly reliant on the same catchphrases, easy jokes about political figures (haha, Stephen Harper really is a robot!) and broad-based humour.  The same writers, castmembers and director have been on the show for years.  How does a show not get stale with the same people at the helm?

I’ve given Air Farce a chance multiple times since 1996-97, only to be met with “Ralph Klein makes me want to RALPH!”-type gags and sweetened laughter at every turn.  I have the same love-hate relationship with Saturday Night Live, but SNL replaces some of its personnel every few years.

Jessica Holmes, Alan Park, Craig Lauzon and Penelope Corrin might be funny away from Air Farce, but they’re new people attached to a horribly outdated show.  The newer castmembers combined do not equal the talents of Dave Broadfoot and the late John Morgan.  This isn’t a slight on the new castmembers, as no one can replace Broadfoot and Morgan.

Even Morgan’s work suffered due to Air Farce‘s late-1990s quality decline.  Mike from Canmore can be done only so many times before his idiot savant routine grows stale.

Royal Canadian Air Farce has run the gamut from popular comedic institution to the bane of Canadian sketch comedy.  I don’t care if a comedy isn’t “edgy,” but it should be at least funny.  Air Farce has not met my personal mandate for more than a decade.

I await the impending Kids in the Hall revival.

*There was an attempt to mount a Royal Canadian Air Farce television series in 1981.  It was quite literally a televised radio show and stiffed after one season.

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