Michel Côté | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Michel Côté

Michel Côté, OC, actor, writer, comedian (born 25 June 1950 in Alma, QC; died 29 May 2023). One of Quebec’s best and most beloved actors, Michel Côté was perhaps best known for co-creating the acclaimed play Broue with Marc Messier and Marcel Gauthier. It ran from 1979 to 2007 and at one point held the Guinness World Record as the world’s longest-running stage play featuring the original cast. Côté was also known for such popular films as Cruising Bar (1989), C.R.A.Z.Y. (2005), De père en flic (2009) and Omertà (2012), and such TV series as Bye Bye (1979–2018), Du Tac au Tac (1976–82), La Petite Vie (1993–99) and the original Omertà series. He received the Prix Jutra-Hommage (now the Prix Iris-Hommage) for lifetime achievement in 2013 and was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2022.

Marc-André Grondin, Michel Côté and Jean-Marc Vallée

Early Life and Career

Born of a humble rural background, Michel Côté pursued classical studies and then continued on at the National Theatre School. He was immediately picked to play major roles in Montreal's most renowned theatres: Théâtre du Nouveau-Monde, Compagnie Jean-Duceppe, Nouvelle Compagnie Théâtrale, and Théâtre de Quat'Sous; and in a range of varied and classical plays including Equus, Le Médecin malgré lui and Soudain l'été dernier.

Career Highlights

Michel Côté's presence, his eyes (sometimes piercing, sometimes soft), and his subtle, almost burlesque acting made him attractive to television, where audiences enjoyed him in a range of humorous and dramatic programs. He enriched the celebrated annual New Year’s Eve show Bye Bye with excellent acting, for which he won a Prix Gémeaux (1989). He performed in Du Tac au Tac (1976–82); Montréal ville ouverte (1992); La Petite Vie (1993–99), Prix Gémeaux (1999); and the much-enjoyed Omertà series (Omerta, la loi du silence, 1996; Omertà II, la loi du silence, 1997; Omertà le dernier des hommes d'honneur, 1999).

At the same time, Côté carried on a very successful acting career in cinema, playing everything from affectionate rascals to thoughtful and remorseful fathers and degenerate loners. His more notable roles include Cruising Bar (1989), which he co-scripted and in which he played four different characters; T'es belle Jeanne (1989); La vie après l'amour (2000); Sur le seuil (2003); Le dernier tunnel (2004); the highly acclaimed C.R.A.Z.Y. (2005); Ma fille, mon ange (2007); Cruising Bar 2 (2008); De père en flic (2009); Omertà (2012); and De père en flic 2 (2017).

Broue (1979–2007)

However, it was in the play Broue that Côté, along with fellow actors Marc Messier and Marcel Gauthier, made his most indelible mark. On the evening of 21 March 1979, no one among the authors, actors or spectators at the Théâtre des Voyagements on Montreal's Boulevard Saint-Laurent would have thought they were attending an important premiere in the history of Québécois theatre. Hoping to run for a month, this group of playlets on the theme of "a day at the tavern" found itself 28 years later with the three actor-authors in the same roles and still consistently making three generations of Québécois audiences laugh.

Broue presents a collection of 18 characters, each one more colourful than the last. The actors come and go from a tavern (which barred women at the time), with only seconds to change and return on stage. The award-winning Broue (and its English version Brew) toured Quebec numerous times and was performed in Vancouver and Toronto. After more than 2,600 performances (until 2007) before more than 2.7 million spectators, it received the Guinness World Record for longest-running play with the original cast.

Honours and Legacy

In 2017, the office of the Governor General presented Michel Côté, Marc Messier and Marcel Gauthier with the Meritorious Service Cross for creating “a one-of-a-kind play reflecting Quebec popular culture” and for being “undisputed ambassadors of Quebec theatre.” Côté was also made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2022. That same year, Côté announced that he was retiring after being diagnosed with a bone marrow disease.

Following Côté’s death at the age of 72, tributes poured in from across the country. Quebec premier François Legault tweeted in French, “Michel Côté, one of our great actors passed away today…. I was to decorate him with the Ordre national du Quebéc in a few weeks. My thoughts are with his Véronique, his two sons whom he adored and all his loved ones.” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wrote on Twitter, “Without question, Michel Côté was one of Quebec’s most revered — and most talented — actors. His passing is an extraordinary loss for Quebecois culture and for our entire country.”


  • Best Leading Actor – Drama, Prix Gémeaux (1989)
  • Best Leading Actor – Drama, Prix Gémeaux (1999)
  • Best Supporting Actor – Drama, Prix Gémeaux (1999)
  • Best Supporting Actor (C.R.A.Z.Y.) Prix Jutra (2006)
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (C.R.A.Z.Y.), Genie Awards (2006)
  • Best Supporting Actor – Canadian Film (C.R.A.Z.Y.), Vancouver Film Critics Circle Awards (2006)
  • Prix hommage de la Bobine d'or, Association des propriétaires de cinémas et ciné-parcs du Québec (2006)
  • Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal (2012)
  • Prix Jutra-Hommage, Prix Jutra (2013)
  • Meritorious Service Cross, Governor General of Canada (2017)
  • Officer, Order of Canada (2022)