DAVE BROADFOOT’S “FIRST FAREWELL TOUR” OF 2001
from the archives of “The Muskoka Times”
by Helen Heubi
“Dave Broadfoot’s First Farewell Tour” stopped for three sold-out performances August 30 and 31 at the Gravenhurst Opera House near the end of the Straw Hat Festival of 2001.
This was not the first time that the Dean of Canadian comedy has trod our boards, and we may hope it is not the last. I have muzzy memories of him in earlier Straw Hat days, about the era of the Davis family, Barbara Hamilton and Charmion King, to mention a sparkle of the outstanding theatre folk steeped in the Muskoka tradition.
Oddly enough there was a moment when a lock of my hair near the back of my crown lifted, as if some other personality were also haunting the place, the better to see how Dave is working the audience in 2001, some fifty years after first appearing here.
“He sneaks up on you,” remarked one fan. A master of timing, Dave also manages to be always a heartbeat ahead, still checking our reflexes. “Am I speaking too quickly?”
Another signature jibe, in the middle of a diatribe, “Am I touching a nerve?”
That’s the whole idea. Dave’s got an irreverent finger on the pulse of Canada and of an audience. This “old dog”, as he calls himself at 75, is always teaching himself, and us, new tricks. For half a century he has been constantly refining his unique vision of our country and its world.
“I think of Gravenhurst as the gateway to -- Bala!” may touch a nerve -- the one on the funny-bone.
A ticket to a Broadfoot show entitles us to what amounts to a three-ringed circus. At centre stage: one spry commentator on our life and times, who has us laughing before we know it at very unamusing topics, like pollution.
Stage right: a parade of real-life animals, notably our politicians, expertly caricatured.
State left: Dave’s own creations -- characters so numerous that he can afford to be selective in customizing each show, and fine-tuning to each audience. The line-up in the current show includes the fuzzy-minded hockey player, Big Bobby Clobber; the sharp TV evangelist who’ll made sure of your credit card number; the memory expert who plaintively inquires of us, the audience, whether we’ve seen a set of keys. Heroic Sergeant-Major Renfrew of the Mounties copes with California, while, back home, homeless Bartholomew X can’t wait to get deported so he can see the world.
Probably by popular request (or did I strike a nerve complaining that the MP from Kicking Horse Pass was missing from the 2000 show?) the cowboy-hatted parliamentarian was back. You’d never know he’d been in mothballs.
After the warm standing ovation of Dave’s opening performance, a few of us matinée types trickled down to the Trillium Room in hopes of the artist coming out to sign videos, which he graciously did. After a short old home week with a long-time fan from the Beaches and earlier days, Dave was on to preparations for the night’s performance.
And I was out into the sunlight, wondering how I would recreate this delightful afternoon beyond writing, “Wunnerful!” all over the page -- shades of this Canadian icon’s first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1955.
“We grew up with him,” said one of a group lingering outside. “His timing was always impeccable,” she added. “I thought it couldn’t be improved, but in this show it’s the best ever.”
“But does anyone else know him besides our generation?” piped up an anxious voice. I rather thought so, according to my impromptu survey at the hair stylist’s the day before.
“Hang on a moment, and we’ll see,” I said, and asked two passers-by to help us out. The teenager admitted ignorance, then looked toward her mother as to an oracle. Mother, who didn’t look old enough to have a teenaged daughter, had been waiting with an indulgent smile to settle the matter beyond all doubt.
“Dave Broadfoot,” she pronounced slowly and clearly for us all to hear, “Is the quintessential Canadian comedian.”
Posted in "The Muskoka Times" Sept. 7, 2001
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