He was the first comedian ever to perform at Just For Laughs and mentored a teen-age Jim Carrey into stardom. He was Wayne Flemming. Friend to many comedians in Toronto and across Canada. Flemming died earlier this week from lung disease.
Flemming’s promotional materials described himself as “the Canadian father of stand-up comedy,” and while that may be a bit overblown, Flemming certainly was a father figure in comedy to Carrey. They remained close friends for decades, long after Carrey crossed the border to make it big in Hollywood. Carrey halted production of The Grinch in 2000 when Flemming almost died from a hemmorrhage. A few years later, Carrey helped Flemming nab a small role in his movie, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, although Flemming’s part got cut.
But when Carrey received a spot on Canada’s Walk of Fame, Flemming introduced him by doing a bit with him.
Flemming also would appear onscreen in the past decade in Fever Pitch, Cinderella Man, Fun with Dick and Jane (another Carrey starring vehicle), parts in In Living Color on FOX and Comics on CBC, and was the first stand-up comic to appear on stage at Montreal’s Just for Laughs Festival in that event’s inaugural year.
Here’s an interview he did with Canada’s Mojo channel in 2010, in which he tells the tale of trading spots with Norm Macdonald so he could go up first at the first JFL.
In March 2010, Flemming was sentenced to house arrest and probation after pleading guilty to sexual assault involving a teen girl. That was his most infamous moment in Canadian comedy history. Here’s his most famous bit in Canadian comedy history, “Rindercella.”
That’s how more people remember him.
His son, James, writes: “The most notable thing my Dad did in my childhood was take in 3 friends of mine over the years and raise them as his own. Their parents had given up on them, so he took them in and gave them everything that I got too. He paid for their hockey, helped them with school work, gave them meals, spending money etc. We often called his van “Wayne-Mobile Taxi service” because he’d drive us to every sports event we had when other parents were busy. He did the same thing for one of my older brother’s friends. There was so much that he did outside of his profession that people never knew about. He’d buy kids equipment, teams their jerseys, etc. Things like that made me proud to be his son.”
Rest in peace, Wayne.