Thirty below with a killer wind chill.
Sounds like the ideal time to send a film crew to Radisson, Saskatchewan.
But for comedian Jonny Harris and the other members of CBC Television’s hit series, “Still Standing,” it’s all in a day’s work.
From January 21 to 27, Harris and a crew of about ten of his CBC colleagues will roll into Radisson to film the final episode of their third season. For five days, they’ll be immersing themselves in the community, picking up anecdotes and meeting local characters in an effort to capture the soul of the town, and then boil it all down into an original rousing and heart-felt stand-up comedy show.
“It’s a toast, not a roast,” said Anne Francis, Executive Producer of the CBC Television series. “It’s about celebrating the humble Canadian sense of humour that allows us to persevere through tough times.”
Radisson is only the fourth location in Saskatchewan to be highlighted in the series. The others are Maple Creek, Willowbunch and Manitou Beach.
Why was Radisson chosen this time around?
“We got an e-mail a while back from Judah Tyreman, a young man who set up a very unique rock shop in Radisson,” said Francis in a phone interview January 9. “He suggested we should come to his town. We were interested because Radisson is exactly the kind of place we want to highlight in our series, which is all about communities that are still standing despite the odds, and despite things that have happened.
“Radisson has had a bit of a shift over the years, from relying almost completely on agriculture to being more of a bedroom community,” said Francis. “But what hasn’t changed is that it’s home to a very feisty group of people who take what comes and deal with it. They clearly love their hometown, and that’s what we want to showcase.”
Francis said the film crew will “hit the ground running when they arrive” and will be filming for five days. They’ll be billeted in the community with local residents and spend every waking minute picking up material they can use in the final comedy stage show on Friday night.
“The idea is to soak it all in,” said Francis. “It’s a balancing act, because we want to be accurate and not misinterpret things. But in the end, it always seems to work. Jonny has a real knack for finding the lighter moments and playing with them. Finding out what’s great about the town, and looking for things that aren’t always noticed, but which really resonate with the residents.
“It’s a show that’s seen nationally, but it is really put together for the people of the community. It’s very personal because the show has a lot of ‘inside jokes’ that are part of the stand-up act, but may not make into the televised portion.”
Along the way they’ll be talking with Judah Tyreman at his rock shop. They’ll also meet characters like Jean and Lilly, who are ballroom dancers and own a cafe. They’re also slated to meet Don Harris, the long-time ice-maker at the Radisson rink who was one of the organizers of a famous nation-wide fundraiser that saw Ken Dryden as their celebrity front-man (back in the days when Dryden’s main claim to fame was as an outstanding goaltender in the 1972 Canada-Russia Summit Series before he became a Liberal Member of Parliament). It’s likely they’ll run into former Radisson Mayor and award-winning fiddle player Walter Kyliuk.
The highlight of the week of filming in Radisson will be the final evening when Harris and two other stand-up comics in the CBC crew do their original stage routine.
Ironically, the show is scheduled to take place in the Borden Community Hall, because the old Radisson town hall on Main Street was recently closed as structurally unsound. It’s slated for Friday, January 26, beginning at 6:30 p.m.
“We’d like people to get there early, by about 6:00 at least,” said Francis. “It’s going to be a great show.”