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Injecting some comedy into the country

Stan Iutzi and his cousin Mary Lou Ruby Jonas are The Amish Ambassadors, who’ll be providing a comedic interlude during the Larry Mercey Trio’s performance at Maryhill’s Commercial Tavern on Sunday afternoon. [Submitted]
Stan Iutzi and his cousin Mary Lou Ruby Jonas are The Amish Ambassadors, who’ll be providing a comedic interlude during the Larry Mercey Trio’s performance at Maryhill’s Commercial Tavern on Sunday afternoon.[Submitted]
Stan Iutzi and his cousin Mary Lou Ruby Jonas are The Amish Ambassadors, who’ll be providing a comedic interlude during the Larry Mercey Trio’s performance at Maryhill’s Commercial Tavern on Sunday afternoon. [Submitted]
Along with the music it’s legendary for, you can expect to hear laughter filling the Commercial Tavern in Maryhill Sunday afternoon. The Larry Mercey Trio, making their first appearance in a few years, will be joined by The Amish Ambassadors, who’ll provide a lighthearted look at a distinctive part of the local community.

The trio will play, then there’ll be a “comic interlude” before the band gets back to the music, Mercey explains.

The comedy portion comes via his old friend Stan Iutzi. Though they’ve known each other for decades, it’s only been in the last two or three years the two have arranged to be on stage together.

“We had to see if it was a fit,” said Iutzi of the two acts, somewhat facetiously, from his St. Jacobs home.

The Amish Ambassadors are the result of Iutzi’s humorous bits about an Amish farmer’s insights that started years ago when he emceed events. He’d throw in a few minutes of a routine. Gradually, it worked into a show.

“It just evolved. Now, I’ve been all over the place with it,” he said of the show (upcoming performances will include Community Care Concepts seniors’ dinners in New Hamburg and St. Jacobs, for instance).

In recent years, the addition of his cousin Mary Lou Ruby Jonas as The Missus has added another dynamic to his routine. For example, The Missus is the one in charge of Amish Airlines – an extended buggy drawn by a horse that takes off  by driving off a cliff.

Much of the humour involves an Amish couple who  leave the farm and move into St. Jacobs – a “four-storey highrise” that provides stories about the old folks’ home and flashbacks to life on the farm.

“Some real, some not so real, made-up stories,” he notes.

“It’s all in good fun. There is nothing obscene or off colour. You can be funny without having to do that stuff.”

While the two play Amish characters, they’re very mindful of doing so respectfully and without offense.

“I have an Amish background – my folks were Amish Mennonites.

“We do not make fun of the Amish people. Nothing that we say or do is offensive to the Amish people,” said Iutzi, who watches the reactions of any Amish or Old Order folks in the audience. When they’re laughing along, he knows things are working well.

While the audience yuks it up, a key ingredient in an Ambassadors’ show is the fact the two never crack a smile throughout the routine.

“We’re just stone-faced from the beginning to the end.”

He expects to be on stage – unsmilingly – for about 30 minutes on Sunday between Mercey’s sets.

On the musical front, fans will be treated to the kind of show they’ve come to expect from the veteran performer.

“We haven’t been there as a trio for a few years now. We’ll be playing some Mercey Brothers stuff and all the crowd favourites,” said Mercey of the Commercial Tavern show.

A founder of the legendary Mercey Brothers – the pride of Hanover, the same spot where Iutzi once boarded at the family home – Mercey went solo in 1990 after the band packed it in, eventually ramping things back up with the formation of the Larry Mercey Trio and subsequent return to recording.

Mercey got his start in 1956, performing with the CKNX barn dance broadcast from Wingham. The following year, he and his brother Ray founded the Mercey Brothers. The duo was joined by brother Lloyd in 1966, and the Mercey Brothers continued to record and perform until 1989. During that time, they issued 17 albums and some 50 singles, many of which went to number-one on the charts. The brothers have been inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame.

The Larry Mercey Trio and The Amish Ambassadors perform Nov. 1 starting at 3 p.m. at the Commercial Tavern in Maryhill. Tickets are $20. For more information, visit www.commercialtavern.ca.

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