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To most American viewers (especially those in Gen X and Gen Y), Canadian comic Les Lye will forever be associated with his multirole contributions to the children's sketch comedy program You Can't Do That on Television, though Lye's career extended well beyond the scope of this series. Born Leslie Ernest Lye on November 18, 1924, in Toronto, Ontario, the future comedian served in the Canadian armed forces, then attended and graduated from the University of Toronto and studied at Lorne Greene's Academy of Radio Arts. Following a stint at the talk radio station CFRA (where he collaborated with Canuck Rich Little on a popular recording called My Fellow Canadians), Lye joined CJOH-TV in Ottawa circa 1961 as a freelance actor and enjoyed one of his most successful programs working with Bill Luxton as one half of a comedy duo called Uncle Willy and Floyd. The pair headlined their own series; it ran for over 20 years and became something of a phenomenon in Canada. Beginning in the late '70s, Lye experienced a second wave of popularity thanks to his involvement in CJOH's You Can't Do That on Television. Conceived as a Saturday Night Live or Laugh-In for young children, its main conceit had an ensemble of preteen and teenage actors playing themselves on a set made to vaguely resemble one of the CJOH sound stages; the everpresent Lye played Ross Ewich (a homophone of "Raw Sewage,") a sleazy, mustachioed studio director whose main role involved coaxing the ambivalent youngsters to fulfill their contractual obligations when they weren't getting doused with green slime from above. In break-off sketches, Lye (the only adult cast member for several years) played an assortment of unsavory characters, such as the leader of a firing squad intending to execute the children, the repulsive proprietor of a burger stand, and the grungy father of a working-class family. You Can't Do That ran from 1979 through 1994. On the side, Lye specialized in voices for animated programs, such as Dennis the Menace and The Adventures of Teddy Ruxpin. The actor spent his last 15 years in semi-retirement and died at age 84 in the summer of 2009.
Quotes from Les Lye's Characters
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