Here is an update: March 29, 2011: Watch this tribute to Roger…

Roger Abbott, Canadian actor and comedian passed on – March 26, 2010 after a long, and (private battle), with leukemia.

The co-founder and, in my opinion, driving force of “The Royal Canadian Air Farce” comedy show that began on CBC radio and moved to television, (now on the Comedy Channel), embodies Canadian humour to the greatest artistic achievement.

Roger was a friend and not just a personal friend, but, a friend to the arts in Canada. He, in the mid 1980’s, boldly accepted an invitation, (a challenge), to move the “Air Farce” comedy into unchartered territory – performing with a symphony orchestra.

He, (with some guidance on the orchestra side from me), created a show that entertained, enchanted and even cajoled a symphony orchestra audience in to believing that this was a marriage of comedy and music.

But, that was the easy part.

The challenge was to also be the “kick off” of Orchestra London’s Corporate Annual Giving Campaign, in the midst of the bastion of what was then the “old boy network” in London, Ontario.

Undaunted, the press conference led by Roger was a hoot! But the point of the press conference was driven home by fellow “Air Farcer”, Dave Broadfoot who, when it was his turn to speak, put a fine point on why symphony orchestras need corporate support, and I quote: “a symphony orchestra is like one of “those chatty dolls” you wind it up and pull the string and it says – “deficit, deficit, deficit!” – visual prop provided by Mr. Broadfoot; (no truer words have been spoken).

The Air Farce orchestra show was a rousing success and a sellout! (Probably the first sellout in the orchestra’s POPS series history).

Roger was never one to be outdone – so at Orchestra London’s Corporate Luncheon, chaired by the able Cheryl Dipenta of Bell Canada, he carried in a pile of papers; not just any papers, (you know the computer paper with the holes on the side that you loaded into an old fashioned printer), and proceeded to plop it on the table where he was sitting at with the “the old boy” network of London, Ontario. That action and statement aroused more than just curiosity, but that did not matter to Roger.

Roger was the last of the Air Farce to speak at the luncheon. And in true Roger fashion, he proceeded to read his list of needs that his company “The Royal Canadian Air Farce” wanted funded too; especially following a successful sellout concert, not to put too fine a point on it.

Roger’s point was – what the heck, why not ask, because if you do not ask, you do not get noticed! Well noticed he got and so did Orchestra London.

The corporate leaders at the luncheon opened their personal and corporate coffers and Orchestra London had its most successful corporate campaign to date that year in the mid-1980’s.

I still have one burning question. (And I did ask Roger when he came back down to London from Toronto, to support the Corporate and Individual campaign, braving a typical Ontario blizzard, (he came by train), “did you get funding for the “Air Farce” too?

He smiled, and said politely – “we will not discuss that in civilized company!”

Roger you made us laugh, you made us cry while laughing, and you made us laugh again!

It is a true honour and privilege to be counted as a personal friend, and I too, like Don Ferguson, am heartbroken at your early passing.

Rest well and rest in peace – you are the greatest treasure I personally know of!

Lots of love! – “Susieopera”