Welcome to the third and final instalment of great Canadian comedy moments & people! Just a reminder, this is not a ranked list. There’s a lot to celebrate in Canadian comedy, these are just some of the people and moments. This week we wrap it all up with a list that features legendary French comedy institutions and performers, some fantastic venues, famous comics we all know and love and a couple people you may not be that familiar with.
French comedy is a real industry in Canada, the talent gets treated well and butts are in seats. Theatre seats. Quebec does comedy right. From Yvon Deschamps to Lise Dion, there is a legit star system in place for French comedy talent. Amazing.
Canadian-born Leslie Nielsen was the star of Police Squad and the Naked Gun movies, he was also a member of the Royal Canadian Airfarce at 17 years old. And his brother was deputy prime minister of Canada in the 80’s. So cool.
Jo-Anna Downey is a comic we lost far too soon. Funny, talented, warm and caring. She was a huge member of the community and built something truly special with her weekly show at Spirits in Toronto, the longest-running such show in Canadian comedy history. Lewis Black, Seth Meyers, Robin Williams – they all made it a point to drop by Spirits to do Jo-Anna’s show. She made some really special things happen.
Selma Diamond was born in London, Ontario in 1920 and moved to New York city with her family in the 1930’s. Selma is probably most familiar to people as the elderly bailiff on the 80’s sitcom Nightcourt, but before that she was a comedy writer. A comedy writer for GROUCHO MARX!!!!! C’mon!
We’ve all seen Gerry Bednob in movies such as The 40 Year Old Virgin, but how many people know his career started in Toronto? He was rocking rooms when this stand-up thing was just starting.
Speaking of comics who helped build this scene, Evan Carter was one of the first headliners in Canadian stand-up. He still gigs regularly and has even taught stand-up over the years, he’s a respected comic and someone who’s contributed to comedy on and off stage.
Compiling this list wasn’t easy, now I know how the GM for Canada’s hockey team feels. I coulda made 3 lists and they all would have featured amazing people and fantastic moments, we have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to Canadian comedy. Now go check out a show and support some of the great talent still calling Canada home!
Happy 150th birthday, Canada!!!