North Vancouver native Dave Broadfoot, humorist, writer, performer, producer, director, died yesterday, his family confirmed to the CBC. He was 90.
Broadfoot left high school in 1943 to enlist in the merchant navy. In 1947 he joined the North Vancouver Community Players and discovered his gift for comedy; while working with three amateur theatre companies simultaneously, he developed his standup act.
His first professional engagement was at the Sirrocco nightclub in Victoria. He moved to Toronto in September 1952, the day CBC Television began broadcasting there. Within weeks, Broadfoot made his television debut in the variety show The Big Revue. He began a 10-year run as a featured comedian and writer with the satirical stage revue Spring Thaw.
In 1955 he made a breakthrough appearance on CBS Television's The Ed Sullivan Show.
His work in Canadian radio and TV spanned more than half a century. From the earliest days of CBC-TV in 1952, he appeared on Wayne & Shuster and in children's programming. In the 1960s, Broadfoot performed in CBC Radio's highly rated Montréal-based comedy show Funny You Should Say That, and on CBC-TV's Comedy Café.
"Through thousands of years of evolution, we human beings have learned to laugh at ourselves.
"Just last week, I was asked to appear on a talk show and to read out the winning jokes in a national joke contest. Fortunately I got there an hour and a half before show time, so I read through the jokes they were asking me to do, and almost without exception they were put-downs of minorities--either Ukrainians, Pakistanis, French Canadians or Newfoundlanders. Talk about divisive. Whether I was right or wrong, I thought I had no alternative but to refuse to participate. The only group that I dare to put down are Anglo-Saxons, because I am one. I feel I have a right to do that. For instance, there is new evidence that Adam, the first man who ever lived, was an Anglo-Saxon. Who else would stand in a perfect tropical garden, beside a perfect naked woman, and eat an apple?
"I can rationalize that. I can say I'm making fun of myself. But in a country where divisiveness is rampant I don't feel that it's a comedian's job to contribute to the problem. I want to contribute to the solution.
-- Dave Broadfoot, The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto), 9 Mar 1978
Broadfoot became famous from 1973 to 1988 for his starring role in the award-winning CBC radio comedy Royal Canadian Air Farce. He left the troupe after 15 years to focus on his solo career, but returned annually as a guest star. Characters he created are well known: Big Bobby Clobber, an inarticulate hockey player; David J. Broadfoot, the Member of Parliament from Kicking Horse Pass; and the police officer who never "gets his man," Sgt Renfrew of the RCMP.
In 1996, his first television special, Old Enough to Say What I Want, won one of the highest audience numbers of the season. Two more successful specials followed, Old Dog, New Tricks (1999) and First Farewell Tour (2002). His performances enjoyed lengthy runs in England and he made frequent appearances in the US.
He retired from live performance in 2006 but continued to appear in concert with symphony orchestras, in gala presentations for visiting heads of state, at business banquets and conventions, and on makeshift stages at Canadian military bases around the world. His autobiography, Old Enough to Say What I Want, was published in 2002.
His many awards included the Juno Award for comedy recording, 13 Actra awards for writing and performing for radio and television, and the Governor General's Performing Arts Awards for Canadian comedy. He was made an officer of the Order of Canada and an honorary sergeant major of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
-- Sources: Historica Canada, Wikipedia