A beloved comic who died earlier this year and a movie about a guy who believes he’s the reincarnation of Leon Trotsky were two of the big winners at last night’s 11th annual Canadian Comedy Awards.
Irwin Barker, a comic’s comic who wrote for This Hour Has 22 Minutes and The Rick Mercer Report and who passed away in June from leiomyosarcoma, won three posthumous awards, including the prestigious Dave Broadfoot Comic Genius Award.
In her moving acceptance speech, Barker’s wife, Joanna, said that Irwin joked before he died, “There is no cancer of the funny bone.”
Barker also won awards for Best Male Stand-Up and the Canadian Comedy Person of the Year.
The tribute to Barker, as well as ones to actor Maury Chaykin, producer John Aylesworth and Eric Tunney, added class to a rough-around-the-edges show.
Host Dave Foley began by saying he brought notes to read out. “There’s a problem with the teleprompter,” he explained. “It needed to be rented.” That got a big Canadian laugh. Later he laid into the dinky red carpet outside. “That was fun,” he said. “And ‘fun’ is synonymous with ‘sad,’ right?”
Other glitches? A wonky projector repeated the names for best female improvisor on a loop. Several presenters missed their cues to come out, and it was a stupid idea to have the entertainment then proceed to switch gears and hand out an award.
This was especially awkward with Teresa Pavlinek and Kathryn Greenwood, who after a sketch from their Women Fully Clothed act pretended that we hadn’t seen them as they presented the award to best comedy play or revue.
Gee: don’t most awards shows curtain off an area for performers and keep the podium somewhere to the side so presenters can slip in and out smoothly? Transitions were so embarrassing that by the end of the night, the stagehands were getting the biggest ovations of the night.
Foley’s response to the raucous audience, as he followed a stagehand? “Fuck you.”
Jacob Tierney’s The Trotsky swept the film categories, winning best writing, direction and male performance (NOW cover boy Jay Baruchel). Accepting all three awards was Tierney’s father, producer Kevin Tierney, who bizarrely said that he was the filmmaker’s brother. The younger Tierney was apparently in Prague, but maybe that was a lie, too.
The TV series Less Than Kind won lots of awards as well, including best performance by an ensemble (Jesse Camacho, Wendel Meldrum, Benjamin Arthur, Nancy Sorel, Maury Chaykin, Brooke Palsson) and best performance by a male (Dave Foley). In accepting his award, Foley said: “I’m glad my son is here, so I can say, ‘Fuck you, I am famous.'”
Mark McKinney won for writing an episode of Less Than Kind, and when his KITH colleagues Foley and Scott Thompson appeared to the side, he said, “I’m up here on my own and it feels fucking good!” He ended his speech by dedicating the statuette to the late Maury Chaykin.
Stand-up Laurie Elliott won two awards, one for female stand-up and another for best performance by a female on TV. Jon Dore wasn’t there to accept his trophy for best taped live performance, but Steve Patterson, reading from a fax that Dore sent him, returned the award to protest the treatment of American Indians a la Marlon Brandon’s Oscar win for The Godfather.
That kind of irreverence added life to the show, as did the appearance of Sean Cullen and Gordon Pinsent, who amped up the last quarter of the three-hour show. Cullen made up various awards that Pinsent had won (Softest Skin of a any Canadian Celebrity, 1978) and grilled him on his appearance in the cult film Blacula.
And Pinsent remained the affectionate butt of jokes later on. Accepting the award for Canadian Comedy Person of the Year on behalf of Barker, Joanna said, “I know Irwin would have wanted me to thank Gordon Pinsent,” which got a huge laugh. Kristin Booth, accepting her award for best female performance in a film (for At Home By Myself… With You), thanked Pinsent for narrating the film.
And Foley summed it all up when he said, “Sean Cullen and Gordon Pinsent will be doing a six-month theatre run… earlier this evening.”
Other winners included Naomi Snieckus (Best female improvisor), Sean Tabares (best male improvisor), the Carnegie Hall Show (best improv troupe), the Imponderables (best sketch troupe), Naughty Little Children (best one person show), 0% Down, 100% Screwed (best comedic play or revue) and Mark DeBonis (best stand-up newcomer).
And Harry Doupe, who’s done a lot to improve the annual awards recently, was honoured with the Chairman’s Award, an old 8 x 11 of his young stand-up self projected onto a screen behind him.
Surprise appearances at the show included a more-manic-than-ever Tom Green (performing this Saturday at the Phoenix), and, bizarrely, Loretta Swit from M*A*S*H, who’s currently performing in Shirley Valentine at Stage West.
Without a doubt the most buzzed-about appearance came from Jessica Paré, nominated for best film performance by a female for her terrific turn in Suck. A huge part of Mad Men’s season four finale Sunday night, she prompted co-presenter Scott Thompson to blurt out, “I’m a fan of yours since I realized you were fucking Don Draper.”
Foley topped that by delivering a spoiler for those of us haven’t seen the episode yet. Gee, Dave, talk about less than kind.
For a full list of winners and nominees see here.