Final Exam

Love him or hate him, former teacher Gerry Dee pokes fun at the profession in the CBC sitcom, Mr. D, and talks about the road to his TV classroom in our inaugural Final Exam.

by Laura Bickle

Deciphering Mr. Dee

How did teaching prepare you for comedy?
High school students are as tough as any comedy club audience. It was a pretty easy transition to go from standing in a classroom to being in front of an audience.

Any teaching skills that you carried into stand-up?
There’s a lot of improvising in teaching. You have to be off the cuff and adjust to kids’ questions. It’s the same in stand-up. An audience member will say something and you have to alter your train of thought very quickly.

My greatest strength as a teacher was …
Classroom management. People think I was this big joker, but I was actually pretty by-the-book. Kids didn’t always like me, but they respected me.

How do you think your students would describe you?
Half would say, “He was a great guy who helped me a lot,” and that I was funny. The other half would say, “I didn’t like him, he was terrible.” As a teacher you want to have that balance. If everyone hates you, you’re doing something wrong. If everyone loves you, you’re probably not tough enough.

What saved your life as a teacher?
The principal liked me [laughs].

Describe your school-aged self.
I was a smart aleck but a 70s-average student. I was also a bit of a bully. I made fun of kids, and when I saw an opportunity to walk all over a teacher, I would. But then I got picked on in Grades 6, 7 and 8 — bad karma, I guess.

What is the quality you most appreciated in a teacher?
The ability to be feared but also liked. I respected teachers who didn’t micro-manage discipline but could be intimidating when need be.

What do you wish you’d been taught in school but weren’t?
That you don’t need to figure everything out when you’re 16. There’s so much emphasis on following a particular path, and that if you don’t, you’ll fail. I don’t think that’s the right route for every kid — my career took a big turn at 33.

Name: Gerry Dee, St. Gabriel CS, Grade 3

  • born in Scarborough and grew up in Toronto
  • a former provincially ranked tennis player
  • taught high school phys ed at Toronto’s De La Salle College until 2003
  • played the unseen character, Donny, in Trailer Park Boys: The Movie
  • a finalist in the 2007 edition of the American reality show Last Comic Standing
  • won Best Male Stand-Up at the 2008 Canadian Comedy Awards
  • has appeared as a comedic sports reporter on The Score sports channel since 2007
  • currently cracking up Canadians with his Life after Teaching comedy tour
  • plays a clueless teacher who is anything but a paragon of the profession in Mr. D
  • his book, the somewhat autobiographical — but sure to be funny — Teaching: It’s Harder Than It Looks, is set to hit bookshelves this fall