Oration | Address to Convocation
Greg Malone was born in St. John's and educated at St. George's School, St. Bonaventure's College, Gonzaga High School and Memorial University, where he graduated with a BA in English. Mr. Malone is best known for the CODCO television series and his impersonations of political icons such as Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, the Queen and Barbara Frum.
Besides the 63 CODCO shows, Mr. Malone wrote and performed in 43 Wonderful Grand Band shows for the CBC, many specials, radio programs, countless stage shows and international theatre tours. Most recently, he directed the popular and award-winning docudrama The Untold Story of the Suffragists of Newfoundland, in which he also appeared as Sir Richard Squires. His wildly funny one-man special for the Comedy Channel, Pocket Queen, picked up a Gold Award for comedy at the 1999 Houston International Film and Television Festival.
As a political activist, Mr. Malone participated in the campaign that stopped the privatization of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro. Mr. Malone has championed other environmental causes, including fighting the importation of garbage to Newfoundland. After the death of his long-time performing partner Tommy Sexton, Mr. Malone devoted some years of his life to making Sex, Drugs and HIV, to raise awareness of the impediment prejudice is to the health care of persons infected with HIV or living with AIDS.
Mr. Malone is currently the New Democratic Party candidate for the upcoming federal byelection in St. John's West.
Mr. Malone will receive an honorary doctor of letters degree.
Oration honouring David Gregory Malone
Shane O'Dea, public orator
There is no art without learning, nor real learning without art. They are a marriage of which the progeny is not just pleasure but also truth; the truth of seeing well. This applies as much to painting as to prose, to poetry as to theatre. Those who do not adequately observe the world cannot express its reality — they deliver only clichés of visual, dramatic or literary form. Thus our candidate — one who refuses clichés and who with his eyes and ears observes the world, to give it back to us transformed and, in so doing, transforming our perception of it. Greg Malone is an actor much alert to the world about him: as a young student attempting to use the vernacular cadences of Eliot to create his own poetry, later working with the vernacular dissonances of St. John's to make his own plays. It was this eye and ear that allowed him to create such wondrous caricatures as his Barbara (the late Barbara Frum of As It Happens — which she happened to like) to Elizabeth (the current Queen of England who has not yet said what she likes). But if Mr. Malone is good at doing women in skirts, he is far better at his savagely truthful portraits of men in skirts: Pope Pulpus VI, Cardinal Vignetti and Father Kevin McJesuit.
The remarkable success of CODCO and The Wonderful Grand Band are what he is celebrated for, but his range extends beyond these and his list of credits on stage, television and radio, as writer, actor and director, is very considerable. A martyr to the collaborative humility of the collective when working with CODCO, of recent years he has moved into directing. There, combining his learning with his patriotism, he made The Untold Story, an award-winning film on the Newfoundland suffragette movement.
His desire to direct things, visible always in those priestly roles he played (and we must remember that, as a child, he fantasized about becoming pope), took a new turn when Clyde Wells decided to privatize Hydro. Greg Malone was among the leaders in that group who sought to preserve — for the people — a potential engine of the Newfoundland economy. Sharpening his wit on the whetstone of reality, he was merciless in his imitations of the premier at his most puritanical precious. And the wit paid its way — the government backed down from its proposals to sell off our patrimony. His concern here for the Newfoundland economy developed into an involvement with the Newfoundland environment. He took on those who would have imported American garbage into our pristine landscape and who would have built a smelter on the earlier American garbage at Argentia. And then he put his name forward for party politics with great success for he almost won the federal seat in St. John's West. It would have been a most wonderful occasion for you, Chancellor, to hood as your successor in your seat — a left-wing loony, a pinko economic interventionist.
Mr. Chancellor, Greg Malone is a man who understands the role of art and artifice in our lives — and how deep their foundations must be if they are not to be mere forms, habits of the idle and the thoughtless. He is one whose seamless weaving of words and motion and idea make us ask, with Yeats, “How can we know the dancer from the dance?” I present to you, Mr. Chancellor, for the degree of doctor of letters (honoris causa) David Gregory Malone.
I want to thank you, everyone, for this wonderful honour. I have to say that when I first learned of this wonderful honour, Mr. Budgell leaped out of me, grabbed it from my hands and went dancing around the room with it with some glee and malevolence, as though he'd gotten away with something. I watched this schizophrenic reaction of mine in some horror but then I decided to give Mr. Budgell his head, since it's really much more his honorary degree than mine. God knows he lectured and diagnosed enough people in his career to finally get his degree for it.
And there's another person, of course, whom I have to share this honour with. That is of course Tommy (Sexton). Now the university doesn't give these degrees out posthumously. But I am sure if they were awarded post-humourously, Tommy would certainly be here for it. He, after all, was always after making someone laugh.
Tommy, the instigator of CODCO, as well as the glue of CODCO as Mary pointed out, was the one who asked me to come along one day and help to write and direct a play they were doing, which turned out to be Cod on a Stick, which turned out to be CODCO. And, I was thinking about that, and that play, the seed and the motivation behind that first play were intensely nationalistic and intensely political. That play was a direct reaction, an overwhelming reaction, to the overwhelmingly negative stereotype that we encountered in Toronto in the 1970s and this was our cultural reaction to that. We were the Newfie joke, a position we shared with Polacks and the Irish. You can remember it was the time of these wonderful humourous jokes about Polacks and the stupid lazy Newfs, and of course, our bog-trodding brethren from the Auld Sod, the Irish. We all shared that distinction.
Since those days, of course, the Poles have enjoyed a considerable revival. They got rid of their Russian overlords, they took possession of their own territory and the Polish jokes have stopped. And the Irish, much the same, got rid of their British overlords and took possession of their little island kingdom, their island nation, and the Irish jokes have given way to envy and accolades at their great success story.
I still do hear the odd Newfie joke, though. We haven't quite succeeded. Before they got their political revivals, both Ireland and Poland enjoyed great cultural revivals. Certainly we have enjoyed that great cultural revival. I remember the early days of the university, those halcyon days of free tuition, when we enjoyed endless carefree cups of coffee in the cafes, that a Newfoundland accent was not a prized possession in those early days. You tried to dampen it down with neutral tones or, if you could manage it, a British accent. So many of our fellow students used to go to England for the summer and come home with a permanent English accent. You could even go to Montreal and get one. I remember someone who went to Gander for the weekend and came home with an Oxford accent. You just had to leave town, it didn't matter where you went; come back, you got it.
But after a while that changed. I don't say we were the cause of the change, but we participated willingly in the change. And the accents changed and people rediscovered their Newfoundland accent. By God, it was honest, it was authentic, it was Old English, for God's sake, what are we thinking? So the new British accents went, along with cravats and mufflers and in the hallways you could see a lot of plaid shirts and rough, homespun turtleneck sweaters and gumboots in the hallways of learning. And people engaged in philosophical discourse in the thickest brogues the bays and outports could serve up. And so we've had our cultural revival. We've had it. But still, but still there's something missing. Still, our history, our image, our political and our economic history, is defined by Ottawa and it's written in Canadian images. It's written on Ottawa's terms. Our history is still the history as written by our conquerors.
Now what is the answer to this. I suppose, like Poland and Ireland, we could separate politically, leave, take possession of our territory, become a separate country. Or we could, on the other hand, simply take Canada over. Well, that is, after all, the kinder solution to the problem. I'd like you to think of that when you leave, of our own story. And don't believe what people tell you is our story. We have to tell our own story and use our education and our knowledge to tell that story. And I know many of you who leave here, will also leave Newfoundland and you'll take Newfoundland in your hearts with you. Also take it in your heads with you. And having found our cultural voice, let's put all of our passion and talent and joy into finding our political voice. Thank you.
Honorary Degree Recipients: Spring Convocation 2000
Dr. Michel Chrétien
William Hubert Rompkey
John David Allison Widdowson
Craig Laurence Dobbin
Dr. Peter Francis Neary