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Air Farce's crew, from left to right, Don Ferguson, Craig Lauzon, Penelope Corrin, Roger Abbott and Jessica Holmes, with Alan Park behind them and Luba Goy in front, are ready for their last TV hurrahs. ((Russ Martin/CBC))

The political satire is ready and the Chicken Cannon is primed as Royal Canadian Air Farce prepares to tape its final New Year's special at the CBC broadcasting centre in Toronto.

The popular sketch comedy show is ending after a 16-year run on CBC Television.

The Final Flight episode is being taped Thursday and Friday in Toronto.

Roger Abbott, who has been with Air Farce since it began on radio on Dec. 9, 1973, said he is veering between "sentimental and philosophical" as he approaches the final performance.

"More and more people are stopping us on grocery stores or on the subway and saying …'Thanks for all those years of laughs,' and then there are people who say, 'There's no way you would ever know it, but you helped our family through some tough times,'" he told CBC News.

"It's amazing to hear that because we think we're just churning out a show every week making fun of politicians, but in television, if you're on long enough, you make that personal connection with people and you build a relationship.

"That's the toughest part is saying goodbye to that relationship."

Tickets for the two final tapings were awarded under a lottery system because they were in such demand.

Abbott said he won't miss the 12- to 14-hour days involved in writing and perfecting Air Farce scripts, "and having to write it all over again after the Governor General decides to prorogue Parliament."

Playing with political fire

This year has had plenty of fodder for political satire, and viewers can expect to see fresh send-ups of Ottawa's political chaos with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Stéphane Dion and Dion's successor as Liberal leader, Michael Ignatieff.

The evening would not be complete without U.S. president-elect Barack Obama, failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and James Bond making an appearance, as well as references to the economy and Guitar Hero.

Air Farce will also update a film classic, with It's a Wonderful Investment, and bring a familiar doughnut shop to life for a final time.

Air Farce veteran Dave Broadfoot is returning for a cameo. Other special guests include CBC Sports' Ron MacLean, CBC anchorman Peter Mansbridge, writer Margaret Atwood and hockey legend Johnny Bower.

The Royal Canadian Air Farce has had over a million viewers since its second episode.

The show was already familiar to Canadians when it moved to a regular TV slot in 1993 because it had debuted on CBC Radio on Dec. 9, 1973. It was a popular addition to Sunday afternoon radio for 20-plus years.

'A personal triumph'

"I think when we went to TV we had no idea how it would play and scoring that magic million viewers with our second episode — it was kind of a personal triumph for us," Abbott said.

Abbott, Don Ferguson, Luba Goy, John Morgan, Dave Broadfoot and Martin Bronstein were members of the original cast.

Abbott and Ferguson, now the show's co-producers, and Goy remain with the program, joined by Penelope Corrin, Jessica Holmes, Craig Lauzon and Alan Park .

The first TV version of the show, like the final show, was a New Year's special on Dec. 31, 1992.

Abbott said the cast wanted to do its final taping in front of a live audience, as it always has.

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