Jean-Guy Moreau, CM, impressionist, comedian, writer, singer and musician (born 29 October 1943 in Montréal, QC; died 1 May 2012 in Montréal).
Jean-Guy Moreau, CM, impressionist, comedian, writer, singer and musician (born 29 October 1943 in Montréal, QC; died 1 May 2012 in Montréal). Moreau was one of the first artists in Québec to pursue a career in caricature and impressions.
Education and Career
Jean-Guy Moreau was from a middle class Montréal family. His father, Henry James Moreau, a telegraph operator with Canadian Pacific, had a profound influence on him. A live wire at family celebrations, Henry-James liked to impersonate Camilien Houdeand Jean Drapeau, two of Montréal’s mayors, as well as Mussolini, Hitler and Tony Bennett. He passed this talent for impressions to Jean-Guy who by age eight impersonated his teachers to make his friends laugh. Jean-Guy also liked to perform Félix Leclerc songs at school productions.
As a teenager, he met Jean-Guy Chapados (a professional musician, who went on to accompany several Québec artists on the bass guitar, including Renée Martel and Diane Dufresne), with whom he impersonated the Everly Brothers. They appeared together on Billy Monro's Talent Parade, a radio show broadcast on CKVL. Subsequently, they were asked to perform with professional musicians at the Rockliffe, a club in Ahuntsic, Montréal. In 1960, Moreau entered the Montreal School of Fine Arts. He also trained in ceramics at a workshop in Val-David in the Laurentians with Maurice Achard, a well-regarded ceramist.
Moreau was torn between pottery and the stage, but his path was decided in December 1961 when he was offered his first professional performance. He impersonated Georges Brassens and his song “L'orage” at the opening of the Saranac, a cabaret in Ahuntsic. His friend Robert Charlebois accompanied him on piano. Together, they developed and performed shows at La Butte à Mathieu, a legendary place founded in 1959 in Val-David, where great names in French music such as Gaston Miron, Guy Béart and Félix Leclerc gathered. A little later, in 1964, Moreau was the opening act for the singer Pauline Julien at the Comédie canadienne (now the Théâtre du Nouveau Monde). His parodies of Gilles Vigneault, Jean-Pierre Ferland and Claude Léveillée can be found on his first album Mes amis chansonniers (1965). In 1966, Moreau finally abandoned ceramics and focused on the stage.
Theatre, Radio and Television
In the late 1960s and through the 1970s, Moreau assumed roles in cabaret, theatre, radio and television. He first appeared in film with his role in Jacques Godbout’s 1971IXE-13 and in Y a toujours moyen de moyenner! by director Denis Héroux in 1973. He participated in several Bye Bye shows (end of year specials presented by the CBC) in the 1970s and 1980s. He was the first host for the Just for Laughs festival at the Théâtre Saint-Denis, along with Serge Grenier, in 1983. In the fall of 1985, he hosted the ADISQ gala and in 1987 his show Chasseurs de têtes earned him a Félix Award for best comedy series of the year. Throughout his career, Moreau recorded several albums of his impressions including Tsordaffaires, Alouette je t’y plumeray and even Tabaslak! In 2002, he played Jean Drapeau in the TV series Trudeau directed by Jerry Ciccoritti and broadcast in English and French by CBC and Radio-Canada.
Heritage and Artistic Legacy
At a festival gala in 2001, Moreau was inducted to the International Comedy Hall of Fame at the Just for Laughs Museum. During his long and prolific career, he collaborated with some of the biggest names in Québec, including Clémence Desrochers, Denise Filiatrault, Louise Latraverse, Yvon Deschamps, Dominique Michel, André Dubois and Claude Meunier. In 2005, he received the Order of Canada.
By adopting the traits of a range of well-known personalities such as René Lévesque, Jacques Brel, Claude Dubois and many others, Moreau was recognized as a perfectionist who was well aware that comedy is a demanding discipline. A true pioneer of impersonation in Québec, Moreau helped bring this type of humour recognition. He influenced an entire generation of impersonators, including Pierre Verville. As for his creative process, he confided in a biography written by his daughter Sophie that: “My best impressions are not made by copying a cassette, but from my memory. If I touch something essential, everyone will recognize it” [trans.].
Moreau died in May 2012 at age 68 of kidney and heart failure. In October 2012, the release of his posthumous album, Un jour je serai un océan, allowed the Québec public to discover for the first time (but unfortunately the last) the words, poetry and “real voice” of a man who had lent his own voice to so many public figures.
Jean-Guy Moreau, vol. 1 - Mes amis chansonniers [trans. My songwriting friends], 1965, Select
Tsordaffaires, 1969, Trans-Canada
Alouette, je t'y plumeray! [trans. Lark, I will pluck you!] 1969, Trans-Canada
Tabaslak! 1975, Presqu'île
Les enregistrements secrets du showbusiness québécois [trans. The secret recordings of Québec showbusiness], 1975, Solo
Mon cher René [trans. My dear René], 1975, Presqu'île
De Félix à Desjardins [trans. From Felix to Desjardins], 2005, Analekta
Un jour je serai un océan [trans. Someday I'll Be an Ocean], 2012, Vu de la lune
Prizes and Awards
Best comedy show of the year (Chasseur de têtes [trans. Headhunters]), Felix Award (1987);
Induction into the International Comedy Hall of Fame, Just for Laughs Museum (2001);
Member of the Order of
Robert Aird, Histoire de l’humour au Québec de 1945 à nos jours (Montréal : VLB éditeur, 2004).
Sophie Moreau, Jean Guy Moreau, 50 ans, 1000 visages (Montréal : Éditions Michel Brûlé, 2011).