Canadian Comedian Jonny Harris . . . “Still Standing” On Pelee Island
“For a flat piece of land in the middle of Lake Erie, it is stunningly beautiful.”
These words describing Pelee Island were spoken by Constable George Crabtree of the Toronto Constabulary Station House 4 after his five day stay on Pelee Island, from October 12 to 16, 2019.
My bad . . . the words are actually from Jonny Harris who has played Constable Crabtree in all 204 episodes of CBC’s hit drama “Murdoch Mysteries”, now in its 14th season.
Harris has another award winning show on CBC — “Still Standing” — where, for the past five seasons, he has hosted, co-written, co-produced and demonstrated his comedic genius through 64 episodes.
As described by CBC: “Still Standing follows Canadian comedian Jonny Harris as he sets off across the country once more, veering off the main highway to discover the hidden comedy in Canada’s far-flung small towns. Each week, Jonny takes a hilarious and heart-warming journey to find humour in the unlikeliest of places — small towns on the ropes. After immersing himself in the lives of local characters and unearthing the tall tales in these tiny towns, Jonny delivers a rousing original stand-up comedy routine — a toast, not a roast — for the whole community.”
“Still Standing” Season 6 premieres Tuesday, October 6 at 8 p.m. on CBC and the free streaming service CBC Gem, with an episode highlighting Pelee Island.
I was sent — for my eyes only — an advance copy of the episode to view for this article. All I can say at this point is that you will absolutely love the episode! I give it a 15 on a scale of one to 10!
Forty-four-year-old Harris hails from Pouch Cove, Newfoundland and Labrador, a small hamlet of 2,000 residents located 27 km north of St. John’s.
He is frequently asked where the “h” in his first name has disappeared to, and Harris with that infectious smile of his replies ,“I was born Jonathan Harris, but by the time I had entered pre-kindergarten in Pouch Cove, my classmates all had renamed me ‘Jonny’, and it has stuck with me ever since.”
Before describing Harris’ adventures on Pelee Island, let’s start with a few facts about the island . . .
- Pelee Island has 234 permanent residents, with the population rising to around 1,500 during the summer months.
- Pelee Island covers 10,000 acres. It is 12.5 km long and 6 km wide.
- Pelee Island is the largest island in the Western Basin of Lake Erie, in the Province of Ontario. It is located less than 30 kilometres south of Leamington, Ontario. If arriving from the south, Pelee is 22 miles from Sandusky, Ohio.
- At 41.7 degrees north of the equator, there are 27 U.S. states at least partly north of Pelee Island and 13 states that are entirely north of it.
- Pelee Island is the birthplace of Canada’s wine industry. Vin Villa was established in 1866 and is also the birthplace of champagne in North America.
- And, according to The Pelee Island Bird Observatory, a non-profit charitable organization devoted to the study and conservation of birds, 314 species of birds and forms have been identified so far on the island.
A few weeks back, I had a conference telephone conversation about the Pelee Island episode with Harris and Anne Francis, who is an Executive Producer on “Still Standing”. I started our conversation by asking how they chose Pelee Island as a small community to visit.“We have been trying to get to the island for quite a while, but trying to fit certain communities in between Jonny shooting two different shows can be quite challenging,” explains Francis.
Harris and Francis both told me they have a top-notch group of researchers who scour the country looking for towns to visit. They look for those small communities who have faced struggles and challenges, and for those that have a unique history. And they add: “Pelee Island was a perfect fit.”
On October 12, 2019 Harris crossed over to the island with his dog, Macy, on the recently christened, MV Pelee Islander, one of two seasonal ferries bringing people and vehicles from the mainland to the island.
Harris’ advance crew preceded him and had already spent hours chatting with island residents. They selected a cross-section of about five or six residents and heard their stories, which helped tell the story of the island.
In this episode you will meet a young couple, Alyssa and Matt Staples, who own and run At The Farm Table B&B; the Manager of the island’s Co-op/General Store; a field ornithologist and bird bander; the Pelee Island Winery viticulturist; the former Mayor and bike rental owner, as well as a number of other Pelee Island residents.