Canada comes to Chelsea

Johnny Wayne and Frank Shuster are the stars this week

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From the TVTimes for week commencing 20 September 1959

BACK on television on Thursday comes Granada’s Chelsea at nine. And with the first two shows Britain is introduced to two Canadian comedians who have rocketed to the top in North American TV.

Their names: Johnny Wayne and Frank Shuster. Their hometown: Toronto. Their ages: “incredibly old.”

They look, in fact, incredibly young. Wayne, the shorter, stockier of the two, reminds me — in appearance — of Mike Todd. Shuster looks like John Wayne (the film star, that is).

They have been working together ever since they joined the Boy Scouts 25 years ago. Their first show was a play produced for a Scout jamboree — “it wasn’t the best script we’ve ever written,” said Wayne. “But then, it probably wasn’t the worst, either.” Their first professional break came years later at university in Toronto. It is said an advertising man saw one of their college shows and offered them a radio programme.

Two men in musical hall garb
Johnny Wayne (left) and Frank Shuster in action

Neither Wayne nor Shuster knew anything about radio. But they bought a handbook and got down to finding out. “That book certainly taught us something,” said Shuster. “I must try and remember some day what it was.”

Individualists they have always been. With energy and ingenuity they work out satirical sketches which, frequently, require elaborate sets.

“We believe sets are important, especially in our kind of work,” said Shuster.

Unlike many comics who have an assembly line of gag writers, Wayne and Shuster work on their own scripts and produce their own shows.

“We go 50-50 in the writing and ideas for our shows. Sometimes we sit down and feel we’re absolutely dry of new ideas, but then something turns up,” said Wayne.

The first Chelsea at nine has a musical opener — words and music by, of course, Wayne and Shuster. Three sketches, interspersed by appearances by the Ray Ellington Quartet and Valerie Masters, will include a skit on boxing movies, entitled “Bell, Book and Canvas.”

“It’s a father-son tussle, but please ask don’t who plays father,” says Shuster.

Another sketch introduces The Professor (Wayne) who is the original expert. “He knows about everything and is a regular character of ours ” explained Frank.

“In this particular sketch he’s a submarine know-all.”

Third sketch, entirely mimed, concerns the leaning Tower of Pisa — any further description would be impossible.

Compering the first two Chelsea at nine shows is another Canadian, Bernard Braden, who used to work for Wayne and Muster in radio many years ago.

“We always thought that boy would go far,” they say, nodding wisely. “And he did, too … 3,000 miles.”

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