Thursday, July 23, 2009

Les Lye, actor and broadcaster, dies

Actor Les (Leslie) Earnest Lye, best known for the 1979 hit children's program You Can't Do That on Television, died Tuesday in Ottawa. He was 84.

Lye's career as an actor and broadcaster on television and radio has spanned half a century.

The show You Can't Do That on Television, which featured teenage actors performing comedic skits, was a Canadian success. It went international a year later and earned a large following. The program went on for 10 seasons and was later syndicated on Nickelodeon.

Lye was born in Toronto, Ont., on Nov. 18, 1924.

He served briefly in the armed forces before enrolling at the University of Toronto. Lye earned a Bachelor of Arts degree and went on to study at Lorne Greene's Academy of Radio Arts.

In 1948, Lye moved to Ottawa to join CFRA, a talk radio station founded by Frank Ryan. It was there that he became a popular radio announcer and emcee.

After briefly returning to Toronto to work at radio station CKEY, Lye went back to CFRA with a new on-air personality he created named Abercrombie and became one of the station's most popular voices.

In 1958, Lye decided to venture into television. His first job was co-hosting a talk show program called Contact.

In 1961, Lye began creating comic characters for Bill Luxton's TV morning show in Ottawa. The two later teamed up and created the hit TV show Uncle Willy and Floyd. The half-hour program featured slapstick humour, puppets and gags and was eventually syndicated across Canada. The show featured many guest stars, including Margaret Trudeau, Alanis Morissette and Rich Little. It ran for 22 years.

In 2003, Lye and Luxton were honoured with a lifetime achievement award from the Alliance of Canadian Cinema for their work on Uncle Willy and Floyd.

Lye continued to work for several TV networks, including the CBC, CTV and Global.

Lye is survived by his wife, Johnni, and three children.

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