In July of 1973, Wayne and Shuster came to Stratford to film one of their sketches. Pictured here are Wayne and Shuster running down a hill beside the Festival Theatre while being filmed. An article about their visit appeared in the July 25, 1973, edition of the Stratford-Beacon Herald:
Wayne, Shuster film here. Johnny Wayne and Frank Shuster were in Stratford yesterday for murder – – Murder Stratford, that is.
Murder Stratford is the name of their Sept. 15 comedy hour which features a take-off on the television series Columbo with Hamlet mixed in. Columbo gets called in after three Hamlets die in the course of a production. Mr. Shuster is the theatre manager who decides he has to take over and play Hamlet. Wayne is Columbo. For their production yesterday, the comedy team ranged from the Festival Theatre throughout Queen’s Park to the docking of the Juliet II. It looked like the production crew was improvising as they went along but Mr. Wayne said everything had been planned out in detail ahead of time. He said the Queen’s Park area had been surveyed for yesterday’s filming with final details worked out then. All that was left were changes for camera positions because of time of shooting and lighting.
Although their act had been scripted, Mr. Wayne’s humor still came through outside the script. As the crew was deciding where to go for lunch, he decided he should stay in the Festival area. “Columbo never leaves the scene of a crime.” he said.
If you would like to watch this classic, click on picture. In this sketch, Wayne played the character of Mavor Mirvish, “Canada’s most famous artistic director,” and Shuster played Lieut. Columbo.
Wayne and Shuster began their careers on the radio in 1941 on CFRB in Toronto before transitioning to television. Prior to getting their own show, they made a few appearances on other television shows, such as The Ed Sullivan Show. In 1954, they debuted their weekly hour-long sketch comedy show on CBC. In the 1960s, they changed their format and moved away from a weekly show to comedy specials. By the 1970s, three to four specials were produced per year, with more than two-million viewers tuning in.
Wayne and Shuster would often create Shakespeare-inspired theme sketches. In 1958, they created a sketch titled A Shakespeare Baseball Game to parody the celebration of the opening of the Stratford Shakespearean Festival. It depicted a fictional baseball game at Bosworth Field, a fictional baseball stadium near Stratford. It featured lines from Hamlet and Macbeth and was written in iambic pentameter and rhyming couplets. It first appeared on television on May 22, 1958, and became Wayne and Shuster’s signature sketch.
Wayne and Shuster’s last comedy special aired in October 1988. Johnny Wayne passed away on July 18, 1990, and Frank Shuster on January 13, 2002. Wayne and Shuster paved the way for sketch comedy in Canada.