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Dan St. Yves: Talkin’ funny with Jamie Farr

Dan St. Yves 2005There are months when I must confess I’m skating on thin ice here, when I insert a column that really doesn’t have all that much to do with real estate – aside from the consideration than man (nor woman) does not live by real estate alone, which I feel redeems these occasional off-topic pieces. After all, at the end of a long hard day out in the field cobbling together a difficult deal, the average Realtor will return to their home and unwind with perhaps a good book, or a few hours in front of the television. And there’s where I find my loophole for this column.

Jamie Farr has been a fixture of the entertainment world for the past 57 years, most notably as the popular character of Corporal Max Klinger, which he brought to life weekly in the long-running TV series M*A*S*H. But outside of the shadow of that enduring role, he’s been entertaining audiences from his earliest appearances as a cast member of The Red Skelton Show, and on through truly classic TV (to me at least) – The Gong Show.  Currently he appears in live theatre productions across North America.

I recently asked Mr. Farr if comedy was a deliberate route early on in his career, as he had started his career with a role in the dramatic film Blackboard Jungle – a movie that incidentally featured the earliest appearance of rock and roll music in the soundtrack. “Yeah, I enjoyed making people laugh, and I enjoyed laughing myself – I looked at all types of comedy, and I tried to somehow find a way to emulate and deliver in the same vein,” he says.

He grew up listening to classic radio comedy – Red Skelton, Milton Berle, Bob Hope and Jack Benny – and then ended up working with many of them. He also worked with some of the other biggest names in movies and TV (Lucille Ball, Andy Griffith, Dick Van Dyke).

I was curious to know what might be that magical quality that makes some actors so successful in comedy. “It’s an inherent thing – they’re born with a tickle,” he says. “It’s something you just can’t learn – I think you either have it or you don’t.”

Despite deliberately trying to steer our conversation away from M*A*S*H, we kept referring to the show – it stands up as a time he’s especially proud of, particularly working with his fellow cast members.

“The quality of the writing, the performances from the cast members, it was just a great chemistry that everyone had. Everything worked right in that series.”

For those readers in the Toronto area, Farr will be appearing at Mississauga’s Stage West Theatre Restaurant in Mitch Albom’s heart-warming autobiographical production of Tuesdays With Morrie, from April 28 to July 3, 2011. The book was a sensation when it was first released, and at its core is a reminder that we can’t forget to include balance in our lives, while chasing success and dreams. Hey, there’s another redemptive feature for including this column here!

You can download an audio version of this interview, either at, or from iTunes by typing in “thatdanguy’s podcast”. Either way, it’s a free download, and filled with far more conversation tidbits than we had space for here, including a discussion on that aforementioned Gong Show.

Humour columnist and author Dan St. Yves was licensed with Royal LePage Kelowna for 11 years. Check out his website at, or contact him at [email protected].