Network: CBC Television Network
Broadcast Run: 1957 to 1990
Broadcast Medium: Television
The history of Canadian comedy begins with Wayne & Shuster. Johnny Wayne [John Louis Weingarten] and Frank Shuster met at Toronto’s Harbord Collegiate in 1930. Starting in high school they produced and performed their own brand of comedy that was clever, satiric and widely appreciated by audiences. It led to a regular stint on CBC Radio during WWII and later on television. Their career on television lasted over 30 years, from 1957 to1990, with regular appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show, which solidified their fame in the United States. In 1965, two BBC shows were produced featuring Dudley Moore at the piano. But the team preferred to work in Canada, specifically Toronto, where they lived.
A 1965 Wayne and Shuster special, produced by Bill Davis, was awarded the Silver Rose at the European Broadcasting Union’s Golden Rose Festival in Montreux.
Johnny Wayne & Frank Shuster
The show started as a monthly special but over time was reduced to only a handful of programs per year, but the writing and production values were strong. Wayne & Shuster had high standards and took their work seriously. As a result, they produced some of the best-written and most famous sketches ever to be broadcast. As graduates of English from the University of Toronto, they often satirized Shakespeare, with a large dose of alliteration in every sketch. Some of the most famous sketches in the catalogue include the Julius Caesar parody, “Rinse the Blood off my Toga” and the classic Shakespearean baseball sketch featuring lines like, “Oh, what a rogue and bush league slob am I, who has ten days hitless gone”.
The pair gained such international renown that they were invited to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show on CBS more times than any other act.
In 1990, Johnny Wayne died of cancer. Frank Shuster continued to work by editing hours and hours of W & S material into a package of half hours for distribution on videotape and eventually DVD. The series was called Wayne & Shuster in Black & White. In 1995, Shuster donated some of his personal collection of scripts to the National Archives in Ottawa. He died in 2002.
First Producer/director, Don Hudson; succeeded later by Stan Harris, Bill Davis, Trevor Evans and Stan Jacobson.
Executive Producer, Len Starmer;
Music by Sammy Hersenhorn;
Announcer, Bernard Cowan.
Principal writers: Johnny Wayne and Frank Shuster. Special musical comedy material by Stan Daniels.
Regular performers: Don Cullen, Jack Duffy, Tom Harvey, Bill Kemp, Sylvia Lennick, Larry Mann, Lou Pitoscia, Carol Robinson, Paul Soles and Roy Wordsworth.
Written by John Corcelli – April, 2002