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Wayne and Shuster

WAYNE AND SHUSTER

WAYNE AND SHUSTER , Canadian comedy team often regarded as the founding fathers of English Canadian tv comedy. frank shuster (1916–2002) and johnny wayne (John Louis Weingarten; 1918–1990) were both born in Toronto. Johnny Wayne, son of a successful clothing manufacturer, was raised in downtown Toronto, the eldest of seven children. Frank Shuster grew up in Niagara Falls, Ontario, where his father operated a local theater before returning to Toronto. The two first met in Toronto's legendary Harbord Collegiate, high school to many in Toronto's inner-city Jewish community. Wayne and Shuster each went on to complete a degree in English at the University of Toronto, where they also wrote, produced, and starred in a number of student variety shows. They worked briefly at cbc radio in the early 1940s before joining the Canadian infantry in 1942. In the military they wrote and performed for the Big Army Show, which entertained Canadian troops across Canada and, after the invasion of Europe, in the Netherlands, Belgium, and France. After the war, they returned to cbc, where they remained Canada's premier comedy team until Wayne's death in 1990. During their early years they wrote all their own material, but they later hired other writers to work with them. In general, their comedy was literate, middle-brow, and upbeat. They never resorted to cruel humor, preferring the send-up to the put-down.

Relentlessly loyal to Canada and the Canadian "voice," the comedy team resisted the temptation to relocate to the United States. But Wayne and Shuster's comedy became well known in the United States. They made a record-setting 67 appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show. After first appearing on the The Ed Sullivan Show in 1958, Sullivan was so enamored of the pair that he agreed to a one-year contract granting them complete freedom to decide on the length, frequency, content, sets, and supporting cast of all their sketches. They proved to be Sullivan's most popular act in 10 years of broadcasting. Edited versions of their many cbc television specials were also highly popular in American syndication, and Wayne and Shuster made frequent appearances on the bbc. The pair won numerous awards, including the illustrious Silver Rose of Montreux. In 1998 the Margaret Collier Award paid tribute to the duo's routines at the Gemini Awards, and twice tv critics and editors in the United States chose Wayne and Shuster as the best comedy team in North America. In 1999, their names became part of the Canadian Walk of Fame in Toronto. A year later, the duo was also among the first six inductees into the Canadian Comedy Hall of Fame.

bibliography:

P. Rutherford, When Television Was Young: Primetime Canada 19521957 (1990).

[Joel Greenberg (2nd ed.)]

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