The sold-out event of the final day of the Kingston Canadian Film Festival was the Gerry Dee event at the Grand Theatre on Sunday, Mar. 3, 2019. Commencing right at 3:00 p.m., Reid from 98.3 FLY FM introduced the event, which began with an episode of Gerry’s CBC show Mr. Dee. The audience was in the mood for a little laughter, and for the next twenty minutes we watched the ‘Principal for a Day’ episode where a student in Gerry’s class, who happens to dislike him, becomes the principal for the day and proceeds to make Gerry’s day at school very difficult.
The show hit everyone’s funny bone just right. At the end of the show, Dee was welcomed out to the stage by Bill Welychka. For the next forty minutes the audience was regaled with stories of Dee’s start in television, and how his life as a teacher was the basis for his stand-up comedy routine which led to the television show.
The student who tormented Dee throughout the episode ‘Principal for a Day’ was played by his real-life daughter. Dee explained that they had trouble casting an actor for the role and finally his daughter agreed to audition, and in Dee’s own words, “she nailed it.”
For years, Dee taught in a private school in subjects ranging from physical education to grade 12 history. His brand has been built on his life as a teacher, and his humour has engaged fans for years.
Gerry Dee portrays the teacher that makes questionable choices, and while he makes the viewing audience at home laugh, he often annoys his students and makes you wonder about his ability to lead students in the classroom.
Dee talked about what it was like to teach grade 12 history. He described how the most annoying students to him were the ones that were smart and would read ahead. When these students read ahead, they would often ask him questions about things he would not know, which put him on the spot in his classroom. His trick to maintain control of the class was to turn the question back on his students. “I’m not here to spoon feed you the answers.” This got much applause from the crowd.
How did this former teacher become a television star? Dee explained that, for years, he would do stand up at night while teaching during the day. It was his appearance on the American show Last Comic Standing that elevated his status and started to open some doors to him. Rather than staying in Los Angeles, he came home to Canada to raise his family.
The rise to stardom was not easy in Canada. Dee mentioned that it would take “thirty ‘no’s before you get to the yes,” in regards to how his show was created and produced by CBC.
Gerry Dee was personable and friendly during the Q&A session after his discussion with Welychka. Three kids were brought up on stage to ask Dee questions, and while Dee’s humour may have been lost on the kids, he treated them with respect and engaged with them. At one-point Dee asked the kids what they wanted to be when they got older.
One of the kids named Izzy mentioned that she wanted to be a singer. Dee encouraged her to sing for the audience, and for the next minute the crowd was enraptured with this young grade 6 girl as she belted out a fantastic rendition of Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5. The audience was on its feet for the student, and thanks to Gerry Dee, she will have a memory that will last a lifetime.
The discussion ended with Dee talking about how he is still actively pursuing new projects and continuing with his stand-up comedy career. The star of CBC’s Mr. Dee is aware that fame is fleeting, and as he mentioned many times, Canada needs to do a better job at promoting its talent.
An audience member might wonder, what is Gerry Dee really like? He seems to be an average person who just happens to be the star of a popular show. Throughout the afternoon, he mentioned many times how important his family is to him. Dee said that, when he has a gig, he will often arrive to the destination as close to the showtime as possible, and then leave as soon as his show is over so that he can get home to his family.
The star of Mr. Dee is a family man at heart with a fantastic sense of humour.