An Interview with Comedian Gerry Dee
The popular Canadian comic has teamed with Doritos to recreate American Super Bowl ads. Bill King talks to the Canadian comedian and 'Family Feud Canada' host about his go-to comics, iconic ads and, of course, football.
Comic Gerry Dee is ready for prime-time Super Bowl Sunday with a series of Canadian ads to counter-balance epic American fare. With party favourite snack Doritos, the recipient of his family friendly comedy, the marriage of the two will most likely provide Canada with a bundle of homegrown laughs.
Gerry Dee, neé Gerard Francis-John Donoghue, a multi-faceted Canadian talent, boasts a diverse career spanning acting, stand-up comedy, game show hosting, directing, producing and writing. Best known as the affable host of Family Feud Canada, Dee has left an indelible mark on the entertainment industry.
Dee's academic journey led him to York University, where he delved into the realms of kinesiology and athletic therapy. Furthering his dedication to education, he pursued studies at St. Francis Xavier University. Notably, his father's legacy as a bus driver for the Toronto Transit Commission for over two decades adds a touch of humble origin to Dee's narrative.
The comedian's ascent in the entertainment world reached new heights when he secured the third position in the fifth season of Last Comic Standing. Subsequently, he showcased his creative prowess by writing and starring in the sitcom Mr. D on CBC.
Dee's charisma and wit, honed both in the sporting arena and the classroom, converge seamlessly in his role as the genial host of Family Feud Canada. With a career characterized by versatility and an enduring connection to his roots, Gerry Dee stands as a testament to the vibrant talent emanating from the Canadian entertainment scene.
Who are your go-to comics right now?
I’m a big fan of this Nate Bargatze, who, I’m actually doing some shows opening for him this summer. Nate Bargatze to me is as good as I’ve seen. Brian Regan, I love. I still love Eddie Murphy's stuff. But Brian Regan and Nate Bargatze are in my world a little, a little cleaner. Kind of my style, and they’re way funnier. I always like to watch them, and I’m just shaking my head. Like, wow, so funny. So, so good.
Do you explore the back history of comedy on YouTube? The old Carson shows?
No. If they come up, I do. There are so many iconic moments with comedians and comedic actors. To me, John Candy was my all-time favourite. Not a standup, but to me, that was the pinnacle of comedy. I don’t know if we’ll ever have anyone like that again. He just made it look so easy. Michael J Fox, John Ritter are two guys I grew up watching. But they were comedic actors. So, um, once in a while, I’ll see clips of all those people on Carson and Letterman. But the new breed is great. There are some great comics in Canada too. There’s a girl opening for me, Fiona O’Brien, who I like.
How did you find yourself doing a series of Doritos Super Bowl commercials?
I was excited they asked me to do it. I jumped at the opportunity. When I heard their creative idea, its brilliance amazed me. Saying yes was effortless. It was a lot of fun to do what we did. Unique, and I thought very creative what their team came up with.
Is it a play on the Doritos ads that ran in the U.S. over decades past?
Canadians, I think we often miss the complete Super Bowl experience here in Canada. We don’t always get those ads. This was Doritos doing something I thought very creative, very funny, where Amrit [Kaur], the actor and me and will tell you what you’re missing. We will reenact the ad for you, which is obviously not anything close to the real ad. Sometimes a train wreck, but we hope the comedy shines through. It’s a Doritos ad, but it’ll feel unique to the viewer, as we all address the fact that Canadians cannot see the U.S. ads.
And there have been some successful ones. Amazon with “Alexa,” “Where’s the Beef” with Wendy’s, ‘Mean’ Joe Greene and the 1979 Coca Cola spot,
There are so many, and I watch the game every year. We have some great ads in Canada, but you still go searching for those American ads. For many reasons, American ads have bigger budgets and celebrities. So we miss those as Canadians. And I think it’s one of the more talked about things in the Super Bowl.
The ads and the halftime show are two other things talked about besides the game. Some people don’t even go for the game. They go for the ads. So, it’s a bit of everything. And I think this was an interesting spin, admitting that we missed those ads in Canada.
The Bills and Chiefs came a couple of weeks ago, 57 million viewers in the U.S. and four or five million in Canada. The Super Bowl will be closer to a billion. Those numbers in Canada will be huge.
It’s going to be big. The Taylor Swift situation has added many fans to the iconic nature of her celebrity status. Add all those other layers, yet we still talk about the ads. We talk about the American ads a lot.
I remember years ago people getting frustrated. Why we not get the American ads and not understanding the TV world but now understanding it? I’m glad we have Canadian ads. This is a Canadian ad. So, it’s just a little play on us not seeing them. We talk about it. Now you’re going to see them through Amrit, and I explain to you what you’re missing. I thought it was just a creative idea.
It’s said the financial impact Taylor Swift has had on the Kansas City Chiefs, if you put that in money terms, is around $331 million.
A lot of chips. I look at everything in chips.
How much input did you have in the Doritos campaign?
We both did. You’re shaping their idea, and you’re just trying to make sure it works for them and keep everybody on the same page. Any great creative team will always work with the performers, and they were no different. The idea was clear to me what had to be done. We just had to execute it. It was so well written and created. They were great at letting us use our comedic skills and add more. I’m all about the funny, and Armrit was the same, and we just want it to be funny.
Are you getting family and friends together for the big view?
Friends, family, not as much. My wife and daughters, and my son, don’t watch it. Their attention is on the halftime show. While they watch the commercials, I watch the game. Despite the games being on, they'll talk as if they aren't. I don’t want to watch that near them. So, I kind of watch it with friends or myself. If I watch it myself, I just sit and eat all day. It’s great.
Do you have a favourite Super Bowl?
Good question. I’m excited about this one. This is like a pick 'em game. There’s no big favourite.
Not a favourite, but memorable when Seattle blew that game on the goal line instead of running the ball with Marshawn Lynch. I generally haven’t had a team in it. It’s not like it’s a Toronto team. I love watching a good game. My friends and I’ll do a pool You eat a lot of things and just chuck your diet.
What’s coming up for you on the comedy side?
I have a tour. I’m on an American show right now called Animal Control with Joel McHale that films in Vancouver. I’m back and forth a lot to Vancouver. I’m doing a small tour, and then I’m going to hit some U.S. cities next year, which is the first for me. Family Feud Canada is coming back in the fall, I hope. Working on writing new shows. I always have my stand-up tour, which I appreciate. I’m doing a new tour with new material. Six states are coming up starting in March.