Canadian Comedy Hall of Fame: Eugene Levy Leads This Year’s Inductees As The Institution Looks for a Permanent Home

Eugene Levy

Eugene Levy, seen here in 'The Reluctant Traveler', is being inducted into the Canadian Comedy Hall of Fame this week. Photo: Apple TV+

For Tim Progosh, establishing a Canadian Comedy Hall of Fame has been no laughing matter.

For over a quarter century, the actor/comedian has been committed to achieving his goal to build a brick-and-mortar shrine to the nation’s top mirth makers.

Progosh, 66, remembers growing up in the 1960s and watching the popular American variety series The Ed Sullivan Show with his father. That is where he discovered the Canadian comedy duo Wayne and Shuster.

“Knowing that they were on [that series] more than any other act,” says Progosh, and knowing this series showcased The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and America’s greatest comics, “it gave me a great sense of pride in my country.”

Progosh’s original goal was law school and politics but he went on to try his hand at standup comedy, for a while running his own comedy club in the Ottawa area. That’s where he was mesmerized by comedians such as Mike MacDonald and Jeremy Hotz. 

He just felt these Canadians never got their due. If Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe and Rocket Richard can be enshrined in a Hall, he reasoned, so can Jim Carrey, Eugene Levy and Marie Dressler.

And if you don’t know who Marie Dressler is, then all the more reason to establish a Canadian Comedy Hall of Fame. She was the No. 1 box office attraction in the world back when she was making films like Min and Bill (1930), Tugboat Annie (1933) and Dinner at Eight (1934). She won the Oscar for Best Actress for her performance in Min and Bill, and the Cobourg, Ont.-native even co-starred with Charlie Chaplin in the silent days in Tillie’s Punctured Romance (1914).

Canadian Hall of Fame
Montreal-born actress Norma Shearer presents fellow Canadian Marie Dressler with the Best Actress Oscar for her role in Min and Bill in 1931 . Actors George Arliss (left) and Lionel Barrymore, who also won Oscars, look on. Photo:  Bettmann/Getty Images


Progosh set out in 2020 to establish a virtual Canadian Comedy Hall of Fame. The original class included John Candy, Rich Little, the Royal Canadian Air Farce, Wayne and Shuster, Dave Broadfoot and Don Harron. The 2022 class celebrated the likes of Catherine O’Hara, Dan Aykroyd, Leslie Nielsen, Michael J. Fox and others.     

And this year’s, Dressler, along with Carrey, Levy and several others, including the cast of the landmark sketch comedy series SCTV, are among the inductees. They will be saluted Feb. 21 to 24 in live comedy shows and other events taking place in Hamilton, Ont.

Levy and fellow inductee Martin Short both hail from Hamilton. They later established themselves on Toronto’s Second City sketch comedy stage as well as on the Emmy-winning SCTV.

Being named to the Hall “was really something,” Levy said last week in Pasadena, Calif., while promoting the second season of his AppleTV+ series The Reluctant Traveler. “It doesn’t get much better than that, that’s for sure.”

Another who launched his career from the Ontario steel town was Steve Smith, who duct-taped his way to success as plaid-shirted handyman Red Green on The Red Green Show. Produced out of Hamilton’s CHCH studio, that series crossed the border on many PBS affiliates, running for 16 seasons and 300 episodes and spawning a feature film.

Retired now and living in the States, Smith, 78, will return to Hamilton for his Hall of Fame salute on Feb. 23. He’ll be joined by Red Green Show regulars Patrick McKenna and Graham Greene.

“I’m honoured,” says Smith. “When I first heard about it, I thought, this can’t be real.”

Canadian Comedy Hall of Fame
Image courtesy @canadiancomedyhallof


Smith says one of his comedy inspirations was another of this year’s inductees: Billy Van. The Toronto-native, who died at 68 in 2003, performed on TV with Sonny & Cher but is probably best-remembered for playing almost every colourful character on the bizarre 1971 comedy-kids series, The Hilarious House of Frightenstein.

That series “was so good,” remembers Smith, “I thought it was American.”

Correcting that impression is part of Progosh’s grand plan for the Hall, which still doesn’t have a permanent brick and mortar home, although not from a lack of trying.

Efforts to establish a Hall go back to the year 2000. Then the 9/11 attacks occurred on the eve of a major fundraiser, derailing efforts. A plan to establish a permanent home in Toronto’s Woodbine area was scuttled by the 2008 recession. The focus switched to partnering with a Toronto casino project until that gamble met community resistance and went bust. A Niagara Falls venue seemed a safer bet, with the group going so far as to buy land, but that also failed to float.

Meanwhile, in 2018, a National Comedy Center opened in Lucille Ball’s hometown of Jamestown, N.Y., just a few hours drive from the Canadian border. Ottawa-born Saturday Night Live original Dan Aykroyd donated a motorcycle and Progosh’s dream, like so many Canadian comedy careers, seemed to go south.

Progosh hopes to still have the last laugh. He wants to salute a unique Canadian sense of humour, one influenced by the U.S. and Britain but also diversified through waves of immigration. He imagines a hands-on, interactive Hall, one where you can have your photo taken on the Bob and Doug McKenzie SCTV set, or take aim at ex-bosses or other targets with the Royal Canadian Air Farce’s chicken cannon or F-bomb.

In the meantime, a three-year deal with the city of Hamilton to host an annual week of festivities will begins with a full schedule of events this week, through February 24. 

Among the highlights is an Uncle Buck Pancake Breakfast honouring John Candy; an Indigenous comics show; a French-language comedy showcase; and gala events featuring Canadian standup road warriors Ron James, Shaun Majumder and Elvira Kurt. 

For tickets and information, visit