Thursday March 28, 2013

Dead Dog Cafe Comedy Hour


Dead Dog Cafe, Early Promotional Photo (CBC Still Image Library)

The Dead Dog Café Comedy Hour. Its biting satire and irreverent tone made Tom King, Jasper Friendly Bear and Grace Heavy Hand stars. And it demonstrated to all Canadians that aboriginal people have a wicked sense of humour. You can listen to the show right here!The Dead Dog Cafe Comedy Hour ran for four seasons starting in 1997 and was the creation of the acclaimed aboriginal writer Thomas King. It was set in the fictional town of Blossom, Alberta. Both the Dead Dog Café, where the 15 minute program was set, and Blossom originally appeared in King's novel Green Grass, Running Water. The radio drama featured three regular characters- Tom King, who played himself, Floyd Favel, who played Jasper Friendly Bear and Edna Rain, who played the café's owner Gracie Heavy Hand. The series was irreverent, political and sometimes breathtakingly politically incorrect. And funny. Very funny. As Kathleen Flaherty, the show's producer said, it blew apart some  stereotypes about Indians.

On Rewind a bit of the very first episode that introduces the concept to listeners, followed by three whole episodes.

It was in episode two that things really got going, when the infamous puppy stew was introduced. The show's producer Kathleen Flaherty recalls that before that episode aired she had a call from another CBC producer who asked her if she didn't think the idea of "puppy stew" went over the line of bad taste. She said simply "no." It stayed in. She goes on to say "We were very lucky to have one of the first websites at CBC and that, plus "snail" mail, brought us an overwhelmingly quick positive response to those first six episodes. Yes, there was some negative mail. There were people who complained that the actors couldn't act. There were people who found the content racist against white people. But most people loved it."  

After that, episode 19, at which point Flaherty says the show had really found its voice.

The final segment today is the 85th one. It was the last one of that series.

The last episode of the Dead Dog Café Comedy Hour aired in 2000. In 2006 the team returned to CBC for a season with Dead Dog in the City. Gracie had sold the café and moved to Toronto to star in a television cooking show. Tom and Jasper came along to peel vegetables and clean pots.

Thomas King presented the Massey lectures on CBC Radio in 2003. They were called The Truth About Stories. His latest book is The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America. He is currently working on his fourth novel.

Floyd Favel writes plays as well as directing them. He also works at journalism. He is based on his reserve of Poundmaker in Saskatchewan but works across Canada.

Edna Rain has been busy with the band politics of her home reserve outside Edmonton as well as winning awards for her traditional dancing on the powwow circuit in the summers.  

Thanks to Kathleen Flaherty for her help with this program.