Legendary Codco comedy troupe reunites in Halifax

Legendary comedy troupe Codco reunited in Halifax on Friday at Saint Mary’s University for a frank and hilarious discussion about their craft and the art of satire.

It was the first time Mary Walsh, Cathy Jones, Andy Jones and Greg Malone have been on stage together since the show went off the air in 1993. Tommy Sexton, the other member of the group, died that same year from AIDS-related complications.

“It’s really fun. We should get together, you know, every month, and have breakfast at Tim Hortons and talk about the old days,” said Walsh as she erupted in laughter.

Codco was a controversial, off the wall, sketch comedy show that started airing on CBC television in 1988. It helped launch the careers of its members and laid the groundwork for shows like This Hour has 22 Minutes and even Trailer Park Boys.

Despite going off the air 26 years ago, the cast had no trouble filling the McNally Theatre Auditorium. Once all the seats were taken, some people stood in the entryways to watch the show.

The audience gave the Codco cast a standing ovation as they entered the auditorium. (David Burke/CBC)

“We think Codco essentially started it all,” said Alexander MacLeod, a professor of English and Atlantic Canada studies at Saint Mary’s. He helped organize the Codco reunion as part of an annual lecture series.

While the cast has been asked to reunite before, this was the first time their schedules permitted a reunion.

“When you go back and look at these performances they were unlike anything that anyone had seen before,” said MacLeod. “We teach satire, we teach the art of comic writing, comedy performance and we just felt the best comic writing in the history of Canada was coming out of this group.”

Alexander MacLeod, a professor of English and Atlantic Canada Studies at Saint Mary’s University, helped organize the event. (Robert Guertin/CBC)

The show certainly had an impact on Carla Glavine and Lisa MACArthur. Glavine flew over from the Codroy Valley, N.L., to take in the show with her friend. The two grew up watching Codco and couldn’t miss the opportunity to see them reunite.

The pair were decked out in their homemade Codco T-shirts and showed up to the auditorium six hours early just to make sure they would get a seat.

‘I had to be here,’ says fan

“I had plans made and commitments and blew off all that, and it’s not cool, but hey, I had to be here,” said Glavine.

She said the comedy show changed her life.

“By making us laugh and getting us through the hard times because that’s what they did. Every week we looked forward to Codco, even reruns we looked forward to Codco, you know what I mean? So yeah, we just had to be here to kind of pay tribute to them for their craft,” said Glavine.

The pair weren’t disappointed by what they saw.

Lisa MACArthur (left) and Carla Glavine. The pair spent their youth watching Codco. Glavine even flew to Halifax from Newfoundland to see the reunion. (David Burke/CBC)

Each of the Codco cast members chose a sketch from the show that was their favourite and then explained why they liked it and the work that went into creating the sketch. The sketch was then played on a video screen. The cast also chose a skit they thought Sexton would have liked.

The cast then answered some questions from a professor.

‘We hit on everything’

“We touched every hot button issue you could find, you know, sex, religion, whatever it was … we hit on everything and made people laugh about it, so I think people liked that and I think the writing was good,” said Malone when asked about the show’s lasting appeal.

Jones said the show was groundbreaking, but he’s concerned about the comedians they inspired.

“I worry about their financial future immediately, I tell them if they ever make any money, please put some money away because it is the most precarious livelihood you can get,” he said.

The cast selected their favourite sketches to share with the audience. (Robert Guertin/CBC)

The cast members said while they were glad to be together again, there are no plans to revive Codco and start doing new sketches. However, Jones and Walsh said they could be open to the idea.

“I think we should get together and sell out a few Arts and Culture Centres so that everybody goes home with a little purse! I love the money!” said Jones laughing.

“I think it really makes us feel really good that anybody asked us to get back together again and that people have shown up and everything is really touching,” said Walsh.

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