Writer, Broadcaster

Tag: Gracie Heavy Hand

Live Effects with a Dead Dog

Gracie Heavy Hand (Edna Rain), Thomas King (playing himself), Jasper Friendly Bear (Floyd Favel Starr), and me

One day I showed my wife a picture.

It was me performing sound effects for the radio show Dead Dog Café.

“You look a little silly,” she suggested.

She’s probably right. Judge for yourself: that’s the pic at the bottom. That particular picture’s staged, obviously, but it is an accurate representation of the sort of sound effects I was called upon to perform. Just—not usually all at once.

Of all the jobs I ever had to do for CBC radio, the job I hated most was working for the radio show Sunday Morning back in the eighties. There were a couple of jerks on the show at the time (not the host—I liked Mary Lou Finlay).

Performing sound effects came a close second.

At least I got paid for it.

Don’t get me wrong, I had nothing against sound effects per se: I loved sound design, for instance—taking sound effects from different sources and electronically creating worlds out of them that you could fully believe in. But I didn’t like performing sound effects live with actors. It just wasn’t my specialty. We had a couple of guys—Anton Szabo and Matt Willcott—who did specialize in it. They were good at it. Then Matt retired and the rest of us had to divvy up the job. Myself, I preferred being the recording engineer, or producing, or jabbing forks into my eyes. Anything other than perform sound effects live with actors.

So when I was assigned to do sound effects for the Dead Dog Café I was a bit dismayed. I concealed my feelings on the matter from Dead Dog producer Kathleen Flaherty. I really liked her and didn’t want to let her down.   

Making matters worse, I had been shipped a Compaq Armada laptop from Edmonton especially for the Dead Dog Café recording sessions that was not making me happy. It had an audio program on it called Dalet, a program I loathed at the time because of what I perceived to be its editing deficiencies. I’d always likened editing on Dalet to “editing with your elbows” when compared to other programs such as ProTools (I would change my mind later when we upgraded to DaletPlus and I received training from Brian Dawes). I was stuck with the laptop because it had been pre-loaded with many of the music and sound effects cues that I would be required to play back during the taping sessions, and I didn’t have time to come up with an alternative. (Eventually I would come to appreciate that someone had actually made my life a lot easier by prepping the laptop for me.)

Floyd Favel Starr, Edna Rain, Thomas King, and Tara Beagan taping the Dead Dog Cafe in Studio 212

I went into the first taping session with a sense of dread. I was afraid that I wasn’t adequately prepared, and that everything would go wrong. We were taping on a Sunday morning. Greg DeClute helped me bring some props in on the Go Train. He brought his son Randy’s hockey sticks and I brought some umbrellas belonging to my daughters. In the studio, I wheeled out the Dead Dog Cafe door—the one with the bell attached to it, held together with duct tape and wire—and several other props I would require. The cast arrived. Gracie (Edna Rain), Jasper Friendly Bear (Floyd Favel Starr), and Tom King (playing himself, or a version thereof), along with someone new to the show, a woman named Portia (played by Tara Beagan).

I had prepared my sound effects by reading the scripts and getting a sense of the sounds required. I deleted all the dialogue, leaving me a list of sound cues. Any sound cues that were kind of vague, I referred back to the script to see what the context was. Most sound cues were obvious. Like, say, “plunger.” How many different kinds of plungers are there? 

Dead Dog Plunger
Dead Dog Plunger

Shortly before our recording session I reviewed my list, a couple of weeks after having created it. Seeing a plunger listed I thought, well, we don’t have any of those kicking around in the studio so I’d better bring one in from home. I found one, disinfected it, stuck it in my bag, and carried it all the way in on the train along with the umbrellas and Greg’s hockey sticks. I placed it close by so that when the script called for it I would be able to grab it easily.

We started recording. The actors read their lines. We got to the sound cue that said, “SFX: Plunger!” I grabbed the plunger and begin vigorously plunging the floor, making “thwocking” sounds that I thought were really quite outstanding.

Producer Kathleen Flaherty immediately called a halt to the proceedings. “Cut! Joe, just what the heck do you think you’re doing?”

“Uh… making plunging sounds. Is it working?”

It was not.

Turned out the cue was actually calling for a plunger to test Tom King’s blood sugar level. It was a medical device. Which was obvious when I took a closer look at the script.


Fortunately the Dead Dog Café was a comedy show. Everyone had an excellent sense of humour. We had a laugh about it and moved on. And I learned to read my scripts more closely.

Margaret Atwood during Dead Dog Cafe taping

We had a guest on the show that day—Margaret Atwood. I’d met her years earlier—spent four days at her house, actually, recording her interviewing Victor Levy Beaulieu (and vice versa)—but she didn’t appear to remember me. There was no reason for her to have (it wasn’t like we’d stayed in touch over the years, exchanging Christmas cards). But she was friendly and pleasant, like just about everyone else I’ve worked with at CBC Radio over the years (there really have been precious few exceptions).

The entire Dead Dog Café team was unfailingly friendly. Always interesting, consistently entertaining. Tom King told us stories in between takes. He told us how he’d lost a lot of weight recently, after dramatically adjusting his diet upon learning that he had diabetes, remarking that although he still ate bananas, he took great care to eat only bananas that weren’t particularly ripe. He spoke of writing, of particular interest to me. He was fond, he said, of instructing his students to practise writing passages with no adjectives. And that is why, you will observe, there isn’t a single adjective in this piece.  

It was a privilege to be amongst these folk. And yet, as much as I appreciated the experience, I never did really warm up to performing sound effects with them. And not just because I’d made a silly mistake with a plunger.

I just never got comfortable doing it.

Whenever I was assigned to perform sound effects live with actors I almost always felt apart from them. Ill-at-ease. Often, the actors all knew one another. At the very least they could relate to one another. I was a part of the cast in that I had to perform with them, but I was not one of them. I was just this guy off to one side smashing plates and tinkling teacups.

Looking a little silly.

Me attempting to perform multiple Dead Dog Cafe SFX

Dead Dog Cafe Sound Effects…

Gracie Heavy Hand (Edna Rain), Thomas King (playing himself), Jasper Friendly Bear (Floyd Favel Starr), and Yours Truly (Joe Mahoney, playing the Foley guy)

Once upon a time I did sound effects for a CBC Radio show called Dead Dog Cafe. I wasn’t the only one who did sound effects for them, but when they came to Toronto, I became the guy, for a while. Just now, looking through some old files, I came upon a master list of the sound effects I required for a series of Dead Dog Cafe episodes.

Looking at some of them, I remember thinking at the time, how the heck am I going to come up with a sound for THAT? But somehow I did. Some I found on CD, which I played back from an old DaletPlus laptop, others I had to create from scratch and perform alongside the actors. Boy, those were the days!

So here, posted for posterity, is a list of all the crazy sound effects (and some music cues) required for that series of episodes:

Performing Sound Effects for the Dead Dog Cafe
  • Music to start the show.
  • Danger stab.
  • Music for Pithy Saying.
  • Drum beat
  • Shrill whistle from Gracie.
  • Computer amb
  • Fanfare
  • Music for when Money Doesn’t Matter.
  • Music for the Elimination Dance.
  • Dead dog in the city stab.
  • Music for Why Do They Do That?
  • Bull noises. Tom is trampled.
  • Music for New World News.
  • Music for Friendlybear’s Pithy Sayings.
  • Drum beat.
  • Opening bars of the Greek national anthem.
  • Music for Secrets of the Toronto Trapezoid.
  • Bull noises, Tom trampled.
  • Sound of starter rope being pulled. 
  • Sound of Tom hitting the floor.
  • Motor doesn’t catch.
  • More pulls, finally motor catches.
  • Motor sounds.
  • Engine does a putt-putt and dies.
  • Sound of rope yanked, Tom hits floor.
  • Motor sputters and dies.
  • Rope yank.  Motor starts.
  • Music for Aboriginal Wrestling. 
  • Animal noises and human cheering.
  • Cheers.
  • Cheers, crowd noises.
  • Music for the next match.
  • Porcupine noises [good luck].
  • Porcupine scratching its way out of a box.
  • Scrambling sounds.
  • More scrambling sounds.
  • Music to end the show.
  • Dogs barking.
  • Ballistic Eagle: internet trailer: (Music like Amazing Race only more military, yelling and shooting, sound of an explosion etc) Sound of bull, bull tramples Tom.
  • Dead Dog stab.
  • Music for the game show, “Trust Us.”
  • Crowd cheers.
  • Sound of a gong.
  • Meadow music.  Birds.  Running water.
  • Game show clock.
  • Music to end “Trust Us.”
  • Music for The Forum, and to end show
  • Sound of body hitting the floor.
  • Sound of a power sander.
  • Sound of an electric drill
  • Sound of glue bottle.
  • Squeaky steel post inserted into bellybutton.
  • Sound of colour wheel.
  • Sound of a spatula in a can of putty.
  • Sound of heavy trowel on concrete.
  • Sound of power sander.
  • Power sander across rough planks 5” then off.
  • Sound of alcohol hitting Tom’s body (splash).
  • Sound of a metal pole.
  • Sound of a drill.
  • Exertion, swinging noises (pole dance)
  • Music to end the show.
  • Electric polisher (polishing bellybutton)
  • Sound of running, door opens.
  • Moving travois
  • Sound for heavy metal hooks.
  • Music to start the show.
  • Asian music for Iron Chef First Nations.
  • Sound of a gong.
  • Buzzer.
  • Sound of a blow to upper thigh.
  • Music for “Affordable Vacations.”
  • Music for Making Money.
  • Flapping of wings and banging box noises.
  • Sound of a pigeon. 
  • Public Eye Awards for 2006 fanfare.
  • Announcement music.
  • Loud applause.
  • This Week in the House music.
  • Music for Iron Chef, First Nations.
  • Clock music.
  • Music for the Urban Cowboy Rodeo.
  • Sound of chain mail gloves.
  • Sound of chain mail chaps.
  • Sound of a heavy cage being slid across the floor and the grumbling of a large raccoon.
  • Grumpy raccoon.
  • Really angry raccoon.
  • More screaming, grumpy raccoon, and running.
  • Music to end the show.
  • Sound of chickens.
  • The End of Nature funeral music.
  • Sound of a spray can.
  • Sound of drum.
  • Taped lead out of Kicking Woman Honor song.
  • Music for The Quote of the Day.
  • Sound of door opening. 
  • Door closes.
  • Sound of a very large bottle hitting the counter.
  • Sound of a cap being pried off a bottle. 
  • Sound of a window opening.
  • Sound of tape recorder.
  • Sound of coffee being poured into three cups.
  • Sound of the large bottle.
  • Sound of liquid being poured into a glass.
  • Sound of zipper.
  • Sound of tester.
  • Sound of paper.
  • Sound of a tape recorder.
  • Sound of a business card.
  • Sound of money hitting the counter.
  • Sound of paper.
  • Sound of pages.
  • Sound of a heavy gun being slid across the counter.
  • Sound of a book.
  • Sound of a tiny stick hitting the floor.
  • Sound of two really heavy sticks hitting the floor.
  • Sound of potato rolling on the floor. 
  • Sound of stick hitting potato. 
  • Sound of spud.
  • Sound of paper in a box.
  • Sound of a magazine.
  • Stick hitting Tom.
  • Sound of pills.
  • Sound of Jasper going through his pockets.
  • Sound of tester.
  • Sound of umbrellas.
  • Sound of a chair.
  • Sound of a rope being whacked on the floor.
  • Tom hitting the floor, chair flying across the room.
  • Sound of a t-shirt being taken out of a box.
  • Sound of Jasper getting into a lounge suit.
  • Sound of microphone being turned on.
  • Microphone turned off.
  • Click sound.
  • Sound of pillow being taken out of a bag.
  • Sound of a squeeze.
  • Sound of a tight squeeze.
  • Sound of keys and coins and junk from Jasper’s pockets.
  • Sound of keys and coins, etc, coming out of Gracie’s pocket.
  • Sound of a few coins and the sound of a wad of paper money.
  • Sound of coins being slid across the counter.
  • Sound of paper money being counted.
  • Coin sound.
  • Sound of coins and paper money being scooped up.
  • Sound of a very large certificate (poster).
  • Sound of Tom jumping.
  • Sound of a manual.  Pages.
  • Sound of a cash register being lifted.
  • Sound of cash register landing in Tom’s arms.
  • Sound of the cash register hitting the floor.
  • Sound of register hitting the counter.
  • Sound of a large machine being moved around. 
  • Sound of velcro straps.
  • Sound of switch being turned off.
  • Sound of Tom getting out of the harness.
  • Sound of Tom taking off the lederhosen exercise suit.
  • Sound of scale models of weapons.
  • Sound of a bow being unwrapped.
  • Sound of spoons on the counter, and several spoons clinking
  • Sound of a spoon bouncing off Tom.
  • Another spoon off Tom X 4
  • Sound of forks.
  • Sound of Kraft Dinner box.
  • Sound of a box.
  • Sound of phone being dialed.
  • Phone hang up.
  • A can of Coca-Cola hits the counter.
  • Sound of a bottle (toilet cleaner).
  • Sound of a bottle (blood cleaner).
  • Sound of the Mp3 player being whacked.
  • Sound of turnips and carrots and ginger hitting the counter.
  • Sound of a turnip on a board.
  • Sound of Tom trying to smash the turnip.
  • Sound of Tom’s hand hitting the carrot.
  • Sound of a large piece of ginger being put of the board.
  • Sound of cards in a box.
  • Sound of Jasper sorting through the cards.
  • Sound of newspapers in box.
  • Sound of a calculator.
  • Sound of brochures.
  • Sound of phone answered.
  • Sound of wrappers.
  • Sound of plunger.
  • Sound of a package on the counter.
  • Sound of brochures.
  • Sound of a large decal.
  • Door bangs open and shut.
  • Sound of two deodorant sticks.
  • Sound of underwear.
  • Sound of a phone being dialed.
  • Sound of a box being opened.
  • Sound of tape recorder.
  • Sound of a fountain being moved.
  • Sound of $1.25 going into machine.
  • Sound of a DVD player.
  • Sound of DVD being turned off.
  • Music to end the show.

More Dead Dog Cafe adventures here.

Jasper Friendly Bear (Floyd Favel Starr), Gracie Heavy Hand (Edna Rain), Thomas King (playing himself), and Portia Jumpingbull (Tara Beagan) of the Dead Dog Cafe

© 2021 Joe Mahoney

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑