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The show's writers, directors and cast had a remarkable collective ability to spin old jokes into seemingly fresh full length sketches that would usually feature heavy padding via Byner's antics and asides. Distill just about any sketch down to it's raw elements - minus sets, cast, and the usual digressions for time - and you've got jokes that had been done on any number of variety shows in the decade before this one - Bizarre reformulated the brew in large part by added healthy doses of cynicism, sexism and slapstick violence - and of course the naked women (an earlier poster was right in noticing a thankfully mute Ziggy Lorenc as a piece of furniture, but failed to point out she was wearing a bikini like four other "pieces" placed in a slum apartment rented out by crotchety landlord Byner).
The cast list here fails to give credit to the contributions of many bit players who went on to greater things, most notably Canada's own Mike Myers (as Byner's nephew in a show closer in which Byner reacts to a review that claims he stuffs the audience with relatives, only to learn that all but one audience member is family!) and future Crow villain Michael Wincott (look closely at the Mexican Nephew seated beside Luba Goy in the legendary Bigot Family sketches). Donnelly Rhodes, another Canadian mainstay who had a memorable run on the U.S. sitcom Soap, plays one of Super Dave Osborne's stunt coordinators in a second-season sketch involving a mechanical bull. There were others...Someone here earlier pointed out the early, popular appearances of a young Howie Mandel, though guest stand-ups were generally more along the lines of Willie Tyler and Lester.
In the first and, to a lesser extent, the second seasons, Bizarre would include sketches filmed outside of Toronto, including an amusing bit filmed in an L.A. cemetery in which "priest" Redd Foxx sends bad TV shows to their rightful resting places surrounded by a platoon of Let's Make A Deal contestants), and a peculiar filmed segment where a gorilla holds up a grocery store and speeds off in a stolen Mercedes.
When something clicked on Bizarre, viewers could rest assured the idea would be tweaked and repeated on a future episode. Witness the ever-increasing insanity of the Super Dave Osborne stunts, or the "Byner Originals," in which the host would claim to be introducing some new comedy creation - Boy John, Johnny Jackson - that were blatant ripoffs of actual personalities of the day which would prompt producer Bob Einstein to interrupt the sketch, calmly berate Byner, and then suffer a litany of insults in return ("it's called the wandering Jew and it'll be here in about 5 seconds", went one memorable line from a similar sketch). The aforementioned Bigot Family proved popular enough to fill several repeat sketches with well-delivered ethnic humor (although 90's syndication episodes oddly removed what few Asian gags there were and cut several watermelon gags). Other popular returning characters included the Reverend T.V. Seewell, who broadcast from the Enzlo Veal Animal Healing Pavilion (the location of which changed from bit to bit), a Yoga For Health instructor with fake stretchy legs who invariably closed his sketch to Devo's Whip It, and a perennially bottom-rated news team featuring a sportscaster who only favored black athletes, a drunken film reviewer (Saul Rubinek in some sketches) kept on a leash, a clueless weatherman (Don Lake) with an atrocious toupee and a lead anchor (Byner) who took exception to his female co-host's bitter digs by punching her out of her chair. Another great repeat gag was often played on regular Tom Harvey, who would be whisked from a sketch to correct a makeup problem, only to return to the re-shoot and discover doors nailed shut, breakaway furniture and real booze in the glasses. Audience members were often used to supplant "under whelming" actors, or to heap further indignity on Tom Harvey. And finally, long before Conan O'Brien thought he came up with the idea, the creators of Bizarre used the process of superimposing real lips over cardboard celebrity cutouts to often delirious effect (politicians of the time singing cheesy love ballads, for example)
Bizarre's peak seasons were probably 1982, 1983, 1984 and even most of 1985-86, after which other comedy shows on then burgeoning cable networks (and regular broadcast TV) started to steal their thunder, signaling and end to the sketch comedy format as many had known it throughout the 60's and 70's. Nonetheless, these shows represent one of the last bastions of political incorrectness in broadcast comedy, particularly for something shown on a major Canadian network during early prime time hours!
The show today, were it to be released on DVD, might not provide the hearty laughs it once did to those of us who were there to witness it during its initial run, but there are still many fondly recalled laughs to be savored.
Actor Tom Harvey got regular work here outside of his usual Wayne & Shuster berth. John Byner and the crew delighted in bombarding Tom's groin with cream pies. Luba Goy was the Jewish daughter in the recurring "Bigot Family" segment, which while it wasn't politically correct by any stretch, was one of my favorite bits. Billy Barty, Billy Van, Super Dave Osborne and a host of others bumbled their way into our hearts each week. Seriously, one of Bizarre's bimbos, Sherry Miller, went on to become a legitimate news anchor on Global-TV. Only in Canada...
Many of the show's topless lasses ended up somewhere, but I don't know if any became stars. All I can say is that if Bizarre is any indication, Toronto could've been called "Hooterville" in the eighties.
from Toronto and that is where "Bizarre" was taped. I could go on and on about what I recall from the show, but I think everyone gets the general idea. I fear that this show will remain a curio and remain in a time capsule somewhere. Someone resurrect "Bizarre"!
Only two other commentators here, one a Canadian who predictably trashes a program produced on his own soil, and an American who loved it (like me...although a Canuck).
John Byner was a GENIUS!!!!
But I remember these 2 particular skits that counted as my first ever time laughing to tears (except at my teachers of course). They were both of the puppet show nature... for some reason, maybe cuz I was a young girl, maybe cuz my hometown was quite "liberal" I don't even remember topless babes, hmmm... But anyway, the 2 skits:
A simple down turned hand dressed as superman, with the 2 "peace fingers" as legs, flying around in front a black curtain, I don't know why, in print it sounds so lame, but the way it was done was just a riot. It was a really good spoof of Superman, which had to be one of my first satirical laughs, weeeee
The other was a puppet fly on a stick, bumping into a light bulb, in front of a black curtain, OVER AND OVER AGAIN, going bzzzzz bump, bzzzzz bump, bzzzzzz bump, bzzzzz bump. You know, in that same exact annoying way as when you're trying to quietly read a book at night with your ceiling light on and some dumb fly just don't get the message that it's pointless to fly to the darned light bulb.
They both made me cry, I loved the show entirely, as much as Benny Hill!
Feel free to share your comments with me about any of your beloved shows. I am a huge TV and FILM buff.
It wouldn't play well today. It would be accused of being sexist (there was never any male nudity) and female nudity isn't half as shocking today as it was back in the early 1980s. Then again host John Byner himself was very funny and he carried the show. Maybe it would work. So--it had its moments but when every single episode had a joke involving a woman taking her top off it got boring real quick.
Why the great Billy Barty kept returning to the site of this mess I'll never know. Maybe the breasts.