Canadians are funny people – not odd (although some are), but humorous. And our comedians? They’re hilarious. Canada is the birthplace of some of entertainment’s most successful comedians by any measure (even for what’s trivial, like the number of times Canadian duo Wayne and Shuster appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show – 67, if you want to know).
Our ability to make the world laugh is something we take so seriously, that we teach it. Two colleges, one in Montréal and the other in Toronto, offer post-secondary programs in comedy writing and performance. Comedy is also big business. Montréal’s internationally renowned bilingual festival, Just For Laughs, is a magnet for tourists. Canadian impresario Lorne Michaels’s Saturday Night Live in New York has remained on the air for decades, launching many Canadian comedy careers. For more than 50 years, Toronto’s Second City troupe has been a training ground for generations of comedians – and was where the sketch comedy show SCTV began.
The funny people honoured in this stamp issue are some of the many Canadian comedians who keep us laughing.
Olivier Guimond rose to fame on Quebec’s burlesque scene, appearing at age 17 with his parents, Effie MacDonald and Olivier Guimond senior. Knowing the difficult life of a performer, his parents tried to point him in a different direction. Fortunately for his fans, he continued to shine in on Montréal’s celebrated cabaret stages, including the Théâtre National, the Théâtre des Variétés, the Théâtre Odéon-Mercier, the Comédie-Canadienne and Place des Arts.
In the 1960s, Guimond lent his fame and recognizable face to Labatt’s Brewery. At the same time, various appearances on popular television stations added to an already impressive resume. Then from 1965 to 1970, Guimond starred in the title role of Basile Lebrun in the popular TV series Cré Basile.
Guimond crowned his successful career with an appearance on Radio Canada’s well-known annual comedy review Bye Bye in 1970. The landmark sketch drew on the tension created by the October Crisis. In it, Guimond stars as a Francophone soldier who guards the home of a wealthy Anglophone. When the homeowner speaks to the guard, their humorous conversation – punctuated with Guimond’s popular physical humour – poignantly reveals the similarities and shared interests of the two communities. Luc Guimond says that this sketch and his father’s portrayal of Basile Lebrun on Télé-Métropole stand as the elder Guimond’s greatest achievements.
Photos: Courtesy of the Guimond Family