Monday, December 20, 2010
Media: Air Farce New Year's Preview
One of the monitors showed the title screen for the Air Farce's only 2010 appearance, the New Year's Eve show, during a taping on 16-December-2010
TORONTO, ONTARIO - Originally a radio satire show, long a weekly television show, the Royal Canadian Air Farce has been reduced since 2008 to a single annual appearance--an hour-long special that airs on New Year's Eve. When an e-mail went out to past attendees about the 2010 taping, I responded in about 45 minutes and figured I had a chance of getting a seat. I was at least 30 minutes late--the shows had been filled in less than fifteen minutes, and supposedly there were enough ticket requests to fill 21 shows. Yet, the high demand apparently scared potential rush ticket seekers away last Thursday night--there were only five of us, and we were all allowed in!
Original cast members Luba Goy and Roger Abbott chatted with the crowd between scenes during Air Farce taping on 16-December-2010
Not only was I allowed in--I ended up in the front row! I had the best possible photo angles of the set, right in front of the house band when they came on stage, and I was close enough to smell Luba Goy's perfume. Goy, one of three remaining cast members from the radio show still with the program along with Don Ferguson and Roger Abbott, clearly was enjoying doing the show again. All three original cast members made a point of talking to the audience as much as possible between skits.
Alan Park played President Obama and Luba Goy played Secretary of State Clinton in an Old Spice commercial parody on 16-December-2010
For those used to the fast-paced humor of The Daily Show or even the CBC's own This Hour Has 22 Minutes, the Air Farce has a completely different feel. Rather than a series of one-liners, the show takes its time to develop and deliver humor, whether in the form of a long parody of the Old Spice commercials with President Obama in place of Isaiah Mustafa, or a scene about the planning of next year's royal wedding.
Director Pat McDonald spoke with Alan Park between takes of a bed bug skit during the Air Farce taping on 16-December-2010
Attending a taping is so much more interesting than just watching the show not only because of the art of television can be observed, but because the humanity of it can be observed, as things go wrong and re-takes occur, and people have to wait. Nobody on television will see Penelope Corrin trying to hide a recycling bin with her skirt (or Alan Park pretending to be groping Corrin from a distance). At an Air Farce taping, much of that humanity is centered around director Pat McDonald, whose admonishments that "This is still funny" before a re-take, or "This one really made me laugh in rehearsal" delivered in his dry style helped set the tone for the audience. It's hard to imagine an Air Farce show without him.
The "Ground Crew" of David Matheson and Maury Lafoy had donned heavier clothing during taping of the Air Farce on 16-December-2010
There's substantial down time in a live taping while sets are moved and costumes adjusted, and to fill that time for the audience, they play the pre-recorded "Farce Films" to be used during the show. This year, a number were filmed at Roundhouse Park, a treat for me. Most of the time, though, was filled by the Air Farce house band, called the "Ground Crew," consisting of David Matheson and Maury Lafoy. While it is amazing that the whole cast and crew manages to come back together for just one show a year, the consistency of the "Ground Crew" with their old performances from the regular show run was amazing, singing such standards as "Raccoons" and "The Lake's Largest Johnson"--with only holiday songs added to mix to match the time of year.
The final "F-Bomb" of the Air Farce show was dropped during the taping on 16-December-2010
Without giving away the ending, suffice to say that the crew was worried enough about splattering the audience that those of us in the front row were asked to hold a plastic sheet in front of us to catch any flying debris. The camera zoomed in on those of us holding the plastic, so if the footage from Thursday and not the second taping on Friday is used, I will likely appear on television.
The Air Farce New Year's special will air at 8 pm on 31-December-2010 on CBC Television, with a repeat at midnight.