The Sunday Magazine

Two Waynes and a Shuster

Their humour was corny and slapstick. They sang songs, dressed up - even parodied Shakespeare. Wayne and Shuster were Canada's first TV megastars. Sons Brian and Michael Wayne, and daughter Rosie Shuster pay tribute to their famous fathers.
Wayne and Shuster were Canada's first TV megastars. (CBC Still Photo Collection)

Their humour was corny and slapstick.

In "Burning of Rome Caper", 1959 (CBC Still Photo Collection)
In 1958, the Canadian comedy duo Wayne and Shuster made their debut on The Ed Sullivan Show. They appeared 67 times on the program, more often than any other guests. They sang songs, dressed up - even parodied Shakespeare. Wayne and Shuster were Canada's first TV megastars.
Sgt. Frank Shuster and Sgt. Johnny Wayne with announcer Joe Midmore on the air. (CBC Museum)
Johnny Wayne and Frank Shuster were high school chums in the 1930s and when they attended the University of Toronto they joined the campus theatre troupe, the UC Follies. So began one of the longest running comedy teams in entertainment history. During their 50-year collaboration,  Frank played the straight man and Johnny was the wacky one.
In 1964 production of "Hamlet (The Kid From Elsinore)" ( CBC Still Photo Collection)

In 1942, Wayne and Shuster enlisted in the Canadian Forces and performed for the troops in Europe, and later in the Korean War.

They launched their CBC careers on radio, and moved to television. The Wayne and Shuster Comedy Hour was a popular and lucrative export for the CBC, which sold the program around the world.
In "Three Musketeers", 1968 (CBC Still Photo Collection)
But, despite their enormous success in the U.S. and many invitations to move there, they refused and insisted that Canada was where they belonged.  

This month, the Toronto Jewish Film Festival will pay tribute to Wayne and Shuster by screening three rarely-seen programs from the television archives. To mark that occasion, we invited their children - sons Brian and Michael Wayne, and daughter Rosie Shuster - to reminisce about their famous fathers.

Michael Wayne is Professor Emeritus of history at the University of Toronto. His brother Brian Wayne was a successful TV sports producer. Rosie Shuster worked as an actress and a writer and won two Emmy Awards for her writing on Saturday Night Live


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