TORONTO - Whether it was playing a comical Mountie or performing for the U.S. president, Dave Broadfoot was deeply committed to Canadian culture and his craft, his colleagues said Wednesday in paying tribute to the prolific comedy trailblazer who died at the age of 90.
"He loved Canada and loved to compare the Americans to Canadians in a very unique and funny way," said "Royal Canadian Air Farce" cast member Luba Goy.
"Once he got going, once he was on a roll in front of an audience, he was unstoppable — just line after line after line. And you would just watch him with your jaw hanging open. He was just so focused and passionate about entertaining."
Perry Rosemond, who directed three of Broadfoot's comedy specials, noted he was "blessed with a great social conscience."
"He was one of the most highly principled people I've ever known. And oh yeah, he was also a lot of fun to hang out with."
Born in North Vancouver on Dec. 5, 1925, Broadfoot came from a "very religious" background but wasn't religious himself, said Goy.
"His sisters were ... missionaries, apparently, and would say things like, 'Oh David, you must come back to the fold,' and he'd say, 'I was never in the fold!'"
After serving in the navy during the Second World War, he began acting and arrived in Toronto just two days before the CBC first went to air in 1952.
"And it wasn't long till I was on it. And I wasn't that good, but I got on anyway. I was persistent," he said in a 2002 interview with The Canadian Press.
In the 1950s and '60s, Broadfoot appeared on the small screen in the "Wayne and Shuster Show," "The Big Revue" and "The Ed Sullivan Show," which was a coup for a Canadian performer and marked his big breakthrough.
Goy said when he called his dad to say he was going to be on Sullivan's show in New York on a Sunday night in 1955, "there was a little silence and then his father said, 'David, must you work on the Sabbath?' That was a true story. That was Dave's life."
Broadfoot also appeared on CBC Radio's "Funny You Should Say That" and toured in revues across the country and in the United States and England.
In 1973, he began his 15-year run with the "Air Farce" comedy troupe and radio series, playing characters including Sgt. Renfrew of the RCMP who "never gets his man" and hockey-playing dunce Big Bobby Clobber. Then there was David J. Broadfoot, the member of Parliament from Kicking Horse Pass.
Broadfoot was older than the rest of the cast and Goy said they looked up to him.
"His legacy is really monumental because he is a national treasure," she said. "Everything we learned to be on radio and timing, we learned from Dave. He was just a master. His timing was genius. And he was a master of one-liners."
Broadfoot was known for his high energy onstage and Goy said he was a fitness buff who liked to swim laps at his country chalet, where cows from the adjacent farm "would come down to the fence and they would just watch him go back and forth with their little heads."
Broadfoot went on to perform for the Queen and former U.S. president Ronald Reagan.
After leaving "Air Farce," he continued to appear as a guest on both the radio and TV versions of the series.
He also did comedy specials, published the autobiography "Old Enough To Say What I Want" and served as MC on a show tour of Canadian military sites in Afghanistan.
"He was a Canadian icon in comedy," said Gerry Dee, star of the CBC sitcom "Mr. D."
"He was a name synonymous with Canadian comedy and paved the way for a lot of us to make that leap into comedy.
"He was just someone that was relatable. He just had that appeal, that lovability that attracted people to his comedy."
Broadfoot's numerous honours included a Juno for comedy, a Governor General's Performing Arts Award and a distinction as an officer of the Order of Canada.
"(In Canada) you can be the biggest success ever and still have a very, very small bank account because that's the way we are," he said in 2003 as he received the Governor General's award.
He also remarked on receiving an honour from the same government he often poked fun at.
"We're loose enough, liberal enough, accepting enough in this country, we're mature enough that we can make fun of each other and still have great respect and honour each other."