Memories Of A Royal Canadian Air Farce Intern (Part Six)

On Thursday evening, March 14th, 1996, the eighteenth episode of the third season was taped in front of two separate audiences in Studio 42.  During my internship, I only stayed for the early tapings because I didn’t want to miss catching the GO Bus as it departed Toronto for Hamilton.  (It doesn’t run 24 hours a day.)  I’m glad I did it that way because by the time each of the four episodes had been edited and premiered on CBC, they would be made up of mostly sketches recorded during the second taping.  How do I know this?  You could tell by the laughter, usually.  The second audience laughed louder than the first one.  Plus, there were subtle differences in the performances, not to mention different jokes that were quietly inserted into the final taping.  If a joke in the first taping stiffed, the writers would feverishly throw in something better for the next go-round.  Ultimately, audiences were very receptive to their comedy.
It was neat sitting in the control booth watching Director Perry Rosemond and his crew put the show together.  He was all business on show night.  When he wanted a camera cut, he snapped his fingers authoritatively.  If something irked him, he didn’t keep quiet about it.
For The Chicken Cannon News sketch, Don Ferguson, Ralph Brown (the special effects guy), and John Morgan were supposed to march on the spot behind this scrim which would then be raised.  Then, they would continue marching until they got to the right spot on set to do their thing.  Unfortunately, it was taking a bit longer than usual for the scrim to go up.  It seemed an eternity for Perry who loudly complained about it.  As he wondered aloud what was taking so long, it finally rose and everything went fine for the rest of the sketch.  By the way, because loading the Chicken Cannon can be time consuming, some ingredients were pre-loaded by Ralph.
While the show was being taped, I would sit as far away from the action as possible so no one would be disturbed.  Line Producer Laura Buchanan insisted on it.  I was always right near the back of the control room.  In front of my eyes were several rows of TV monitors and lots of blinking lights.  To Perry’s right was Assistant Director Linda Bain who looked after timing.  (She always had a stopwatch in her hand.) To his left was the cute graphics operator (the person who flashs words on the screen), Shanna Manning.  Like myself, she was a big Friends fan.  There was a TV in a cramped area separate from the control room where we would catch the show during a break in the action.
Right beside me in the back of the control room were a couple of steps that led up to a back row filled with chairs and a table.  This is where Laura and a few other people sat, drank (usually bottled water) and watched the proceedings from on high.  There were phones on the table, too.
I was amazed when Air Farce decided to do the entire fifteenth season live.  Back in the third season, there was no chance in hell of that happening.  Here’s why.  First, the audience would file in.  Then, either Don or Roger would greet them and maybe say something funny.  They would roll the original theme (which was written and performed by The Barenaked Ladies) which the audience would be instructed to watch on their monitors and then there would be a bit of a wait.  The cast members needed for the first sketch would be in costume and make-up and the appropriate set would be wheeled out for them, if it wasn’t already out there.  Floor Director Pat McDonald, the man who never smiled despite being extremely personable, would explain to the audience what was happening.  Sometimes, the cast members would talk to them, too, maybe make an off-the-cuff remark.  Then, they would shoot the sketch.  Sometimes, someone would flub a line and they’d have to redo the whole thing, or simply find a place to continue from.  (It didn’t happen often.)  Perry would speak over the intercom when this happened to give direction.  (He would pipe in on other occasions, too.) Once completed, they would strike the set and the whole process would start over again with the next set-up.  Then, there would be a delay that would last anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes before tape would resume rolling.
To keep the audience awake during these seemingly long breaks, The Symphony would come out and play some music.  In truth, they were a low-key duo.  Joe Macerollo played the accordian and Scott Irvine played the tuba.  Incredibly, the audience loved them.  They were a little too old-fashioned for me.
Other times, if there was a pre-taped bit that could be played in between in-studio sketches, the audience would be instructed to watch their monitors accordingly.
Among the standout sketches that night was one that featured CTV News anchor Lloyd Robertson (Don) interviewing Yoko Ono (Luba) and Yassar Arafat (Roger) who were in bed together.  (One of the running gags of the show involved Arafat being routinely mistaken for Ringo Starr.)  Don stole the show by making fun of Robertson’s mannerisms, like his tendency to move up and down in his chair for no apparent reason and overemphasizing random words for needlessly dramatic effect.  Even just reading his dialogue and stage directions in the second draft of the script years later still tickles the funny bone.
Jock McBile (John) returned to rail against NAFTA and Senator Jesse Helms; Prime Minister Jean Chretien (Roger) had second thoughts about returning to Canada after a heart-to-heart with Deputy Prime Minister Sheila Copps (Luba); and The Queen (Luba) and The Queen Mother (Roger in drag) were interviewed.
Because John Morgan’s bathroom skit was excised early on in the production week and another one called Hockey Mom was just not ready in time for the tapings (more on that later), episode 18 was running short on time.  Thankfully, there was an easy solution.  Insert The Separatists Antiques Road Show sketch which had been taped two weeks earlier.  It wasn’t dated, it was funny and it had the right running time.  I don’t remember who initially suggested the idea but I do remember being a strong supporter of its inclusion.  I was disappointed when it was dropped from episode 16 and was thrilled that it was being given a second chance.  The McDonald’s ad parody, a separate bit within the original Road Show sketch which had already aired in episode 17, would achieve a rare feat:  a second airing.  It was the only bit to get sampled on two shows during my four-week internship.  (It aired a third time during an “Instant Classics” compilation show, which featured the best bits of the season, on April 12th, 1996.)
Coming up, my final week as a Royal Canadian Air Farce intern.
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, November 8, 2008
9:55 p.m.
Published in: on November 8, 2008 at 9:57 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. Royal Canadian Air Farce is produced by Air Farce Productions, George W. Bush’s cross-border memory loss, Keith Richards’ Napster rap, Harry Potter-mania.=========================Brian newfoundland drug rehab

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