If you remember the antics that occurred at the House of Budgell, the surreal odyssey of The Adventure of Faustus Bidgood or the kitchen sink comedy of the Friday Night Girls, you’ll want to be at Saint Mary’s University on Friday night for a rare reunion of the CODCO crew.
Founding members of the groundbreaking Newfoundland comedy troupe Andy Jones, Cathy Jones, Greg Malone and Mary Walsh will share their memories of the long-running collective for the 2019 Cyril J. Byrne Memorial Lecture in the McNally Auditorium at 7 p.m.
With fifth member Tommy Sexton, CODCO formed in the early 1970s and went on to appear on stage, in films and on its own Halifax-shot CBC-TV series that ran for five seasons, starting in 1988. These days, the group’s legacy lives on with This Hour Has 22 Minutes, the weekly news satire show created by Mary Walsh and Cathy Jones in 1992, but its roots go back to independent theatre in the ’70s and short films directed by Michael Jones (brother of Andy and Cathy) like Dolly Cake and Sisters of the Silver Scalpel. These films paved the way for the 1986 feature The Adventures of Faustus Bidgood, a Joycean epic comedy with Andy Jones in the title role as a civil servant experiencing visions of St. John’s past and present while planning Newfoundland’s independence from Canada.
The prominence of the movie and the success of TV offshoots like The Wonderful Grand Band series, which showcased Malone and Sexton along with the Newfoundland group that featured songwriter Ron Hynes, and The S&M Comic Book (also with Sexton and Malone) led to Halifax production company Salter Street Films (now DHX Media) teaming with CBC to produce CODCO in the late ’80s. Sharing a prime time slot with The Kids in the Hall, the team generated memorable characters like Sexton’s Marg at the Mental, Andy Jones’ talk show host Frank Arsenpuffin and Walsh’s macho male Dakey Dunn, usually inspired by their Newfoundland home but also spoofing pop culture figures of the day.
CODCO was frequently outspoken about current events, and the show’s satire was razor sharp and unsparing of its targets. Controversy hit the show in 1991 when the network refused to air the sketch Pleasant Irish Priests in Conversation, inspired by the Mount Cashel Orphanage sex abuse scandal, and Andy Jones left the show in protest of the censorship. The sketch was later included in a Best of CODCO compilation released on home video.
Sexton died due to AIDS-related complications in 1993, and was profiled by his sister Mary Sexton in 2001 in the documentary Tommy... A Family Portrait. After the series ended, and This Hour Has 22 Minutes continued in its place, Andy Jones continued a busy career on stage and writing children’s books based on Newfoundland folk tales. Malone worked in theatre and wrote the 2009 memoir You Better Watch Out, as well as becoming increasingly involved in politics and environmental activism.
Seating for the event in the McNally Auditorium is limited, early arrival is recommended for admission, as well as RSVP-ing at https://smu.ca/codco. An RSVP doesn’t guarantee entry, but it does give organizers an estimate for attendance.