Gerry Dee is one of the undisputed kings of Canadian comedy. He currently hosts CBC’s Family Feud Canada and for eight seasons, he starred in the hit sitcom Mr. D. Oh, and his book, Teaching: It’s Harder Than It Looks,
was a national bestseller.
Despite all that success and a packed schedule, Gerry took time out in October 2021 to headline Humour Me, an annual charity event where CEOs and stand-up comedians join forces to raise money for worthy causes. This past year, the comedy gala benefited Baycrest. Gerry recently spoke with BrainMatters
about his participation in the event.
(The following interview is edited for clarity and space.)
BrainMatters: What does Baycrest mean to you
Gerry: “I lost my mother to dementia, so it is important to me that places like Baycrest are doing everything they can to educate, treat and care for people who suffer from it, as well as other brain health issues.”
BM: How were you approached to do the Humour Me gig in support of Baycrest, and what was your reaction to the ask?
Gerry: “I had done the event about 10 years ago before my mother was diagnosed. So when they asked me a second time, it was even more important for me to be a part of it.”
BrainMatters: Can you tell us about what it was like to care for your mother after she was diagnosed?
Gerry: “We really knew nothing about [dementia]. There are so many things we still don’t know. People think it’s just some memory loss, but it can affect a person many ways. My mother starting falling a lot and then slowly lost the ability to care for herself. My father handled a lot of the duties, at his request, which was a lot for him as well. We still have so much to learn… and places like Baycrest and events like Humour Me are so important to help with this.”
BrainMatters: Having been a phys-ed teacher, hockey player and coach, you can attest to the benefits of physical fitness. What have you learned about the connection between physical fitness and brain health?
Gerry: “It’s very important. It is known to help with many details of brain function on top of many other issues, including mental health. I often wonder if my mother would have had better health outcomes or if the effects of dementia would have been delayed if she had exercised more.”
BrainMatters: What do you do to stay "brain healthy"?
Gerry: “I try to do cardio as much as possible. I also try to just have some down time, so my brain gets a rest. My mind is always going, so it’s certainly important for me.”
BrainMatters: How do you feel knowing that Humour Me raised more than $2M for Baycrest's work in care, education, innovation and research into dementia?
Gerry: “It’s amazing but we still need more. The more money we raise, the more we can learn about and treat it; and perhaps one day understand more about its progression.”
BrainMatters: Any final comments about your experience doing a gig for this cause?
Gerry: “I’m so happy to able to support [the battle against] something that took my mother’s life. I wish I knew more about this disease earlier. I wish it was talked about when we were in school. The aging process is not easy and the brain often gets hit the worst. On behalf of my mother and my family, we thank Baycrest for continuing to provide support and aid for people and families dealing with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.”
For more information about how you can help support Baycrest, visit: www.fearnoage.com