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Yes, Gerry Dee will be alone, on a stage.
But you can bet hundreds of fans will be watching, listening and laughing when he brings his standup routine to London’s Centennial Hall Wednesday on a mini-tour of Ontario and Quebec.
The 53-year-old actor, standup comic, game show host, director, producer and writer is on a break from shooting Family Feud Canada that he’s hosted for three seasons.
Despite the pandemic, Dee’s been busy.
“I tried to keep busy, doing some virtual standup for corporate Christmas parties,” he said. “I pitched a sitcom and I’ve been writing a book which will be coming out next year and I just couldn’t get done. I was just trying to get through it all like everybody else.”
The new book follows Dee’s 2012 national bestseller, Teaching: It’s Harder Than It Looks, based on the 10 years he spent as a teacher before taking the leap into comedy full time. He also became an actor, starring in the sitcom Mr. D that ran for seven season on CBC until 2018,
Dee was also the creator and producer of the show about a school that became one of Canada’s longest-running sitcoms. But his comedic talents were evident long before when he was placed third in the fifth season of NBC’s Last Comic Standing in 2007, the most successful Canadian on the show.
Not long after Mr. D ended, Dee, whose real last name is Donoghue, headed to Los Angeles to appear in 10 episodes of the short-lived sitcom, The Moodys (based on an Australian show of the same name) starring big and small screen veterans Denis Leary and Elizabeth Perkins.
“The cast was great in that show. . . and it was great meeting them all,” Dee said of his first crack at the US TV market. “I was disappointed it ended. But it’s a learning curve.”
Today, he’s still enjoying Family Feud Canada.
“It’s a dream job,” Dee said. “I was never a host of a game show before, but I love it. The families have all been fantastic, always so excited and fun.”
Dee was born and raised in Scarborough, the son of a bus driver, who played varsity hockey and golf while studying kinesiology and athletic therapy at Toronto’s York University and education at Nova Scotia’s St. Francis Xavier University. He then taught phys-ed at his alma mater, De La Salle College “Oaklands” for 10 years before jumping to comedy.
In a 2016 Free Press interview, Dee said teaching provided him plenty of comedy fodder, noting he “opened up what goes on behind the staff room door.”
“To most of us, teachers are heroes and we’re taught that, but a lot of them shouldn’t be,” he added then. “A lot of my jokes come from my experiences. We’re great pretenders as teachers, yet we’re at the forefront of raising kids more than anyone else in their life.”
With that in mind, it will be interesting to see the comedy he’s found amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, during down times that pushed students out of classrooms into online learning, Dee offered his services to teachers struggling along with their students with virtual classrooms.
In January, Dee went on social media and asked educators across Canada to send him a link to their virtual classrooms so he could pop in and surprise the kids. Some 500 requests were made and Dee visited more than 60 virtual classrooms.
“It was funny because the teachers all knew who I was, but not a lot of the kids,” said Dee, whose first online visit was to class of kindergarten students unfamiliar with Family Feud or Mr. Dee.
“One kid asked, ‘Is he somebody’s dad?’ So, it was kind of humbling.”
Dee said the idea came to him while setting up his three school-age kids for online learning.
“I thought it would be nice just to give (teachers and students) a 10-minute break,” he said.
“I think the teachers really appreciated it and I was glad I did it.”
Dee said the pandemic also gave him time to update his standup routine, so he’ll have plenty of fresh laughs for his pandemic-exhausted fans.
“It feels really good to get back out there,” he said. “London’s always been really good to me. I’ve really missed live performance. It will be nice to hear and see the live responses.”
IF YOU GO
Que: Gerry Dee: Alone. On a Stage
When: Wednesday, May 18, 8 p.m.
Where: Centennial Hall, 550 Wellington St.
Tickets: $59.50 – $89.50 (plus taxes and fees) online at centennialhall.london.ca, at the box office or by calling 519-672-1967.