Les Lye, 1924-2009

Les Lye

Les Lye, Ottawa area actor and comedian, died on July 21, 2009 at the age of 84. Many of you may have never heard of him, but for those who have, he will be fondly remembered.

Born in Toronto as Leslie Earnest Lye in 1924, Les was an actor and comedian whose performances have successfully reached an international audience despite working almost exclusively in the Ottawa area. He worked in both radio and television since 1948, starting out with Frank Ryan’s team on Ottawa radio station CFRA.

In 1961, he moved on to television when he joined the new Ottawa television station CJOH-TV as a freelance writer and performer where he met Bill Luxton. Five years later, the two were asked to produce a replacement children show, and the long running show Uncle Willy & Floyd was born.

In 1979, Les Lye began working on You Can’t Do That on Television, a children’s(?) television show that was way ahead of its time, and which is fondly remembered by many Ottawa area children who are now between 30 and 50 years of age.

Les played alongside Abby Hagyard as one of the two only adult cast members in a show predominantly populated by children (a hundred of them during the show’s entire run), playing all of the adult male roles such as Barth the cook, the Dad, Mr. Schidtler the teacher, Nasti the Executioner, and Ross the stage director just to name a few. His ability to change acting styles to suit each character was pretty remarkable.

The show reached international acclaim when in 1981, the newly launched US cable channel Nickelodeon picked up the show for national broadcast. From there, Les’ characters became household names for children across the North American continent.

YCDTOT is one of the shows that made me believe that it was still possible for Canadians to produce Canadian made content that not only reflected our values and beliefs, but which also could make us laugh out loud at some of the craziest antics ever seen on television, on a children’s show no less! And while this may not have been Les’ favourite show in his career, it was definitely a favourite for many children of the time who discovered that children’s television didn’t have to be the dull and bland landscape that it was back in the late seventies and early eighties.

Les, thank you so much for making us happy even if it was only for half an hour at a time.

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