The group started in Montreal, Quebec in 1970 as an improvisational theatre revue called The Jest Society, a pun on then-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau's famous goal of making Canada a "Just Society". The original cast was John Morgan, Martin Bronstein, Patrick Conlon, Gay Claitman, and Roger Abbott.
After a number of personnel changes, the group became the "Royal Canadian Air Farce" as early as 1973, broadcasting through CBC Radio from the Curtain Club in Richmond Hill, Ontario (400 Newkirk Road at Elgin Mills Road East). The CBC gives the date of the first broadcast as December 9, 1973. By this time the lineup consisted of Roger Abbott, Don Ferguson, Luba Goy, John Morgan, Dave Broadfoot, and Martin Bronstein. They quickly became one of the network's most popular programs. Most of their later shows were based in Toronto and recorded in CBC's Cabbagetown Studios; however as the troupe became more popular, they frequently travelled throughout the country to record their weekly radio broadcasts, which featured a mixture of political and cultural satire heavily influenced by the style of Wayne and Shuster. The touring show also often included one or more sketches satirizing local culture or politics, which were not aired on the national radio broadcast.
Bronstein left the troupe in 1974 to pursue a full-time journalism career. In 1977, non-performing writers Gord Holtam and Rick Olsen joined the crew. In the late 1970s during a trip to Los Angeles, Abbott and Ferguson were offered jobs writing for the new television sitcom Taxi, but opted to remain with Air Farce instead.
Recurring characters included addle-brained hockey player Big Bobby Clobber (Broadfoot), Sgt. Renfrew of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (Broadfoot), and socialite Amy De La Pompa (Morgan), along with political figures such as Brian Mulroney, Joe Clark, and Pierre Trudeau. Additional characters included Prof. Hieronymus Wombat of the National Research Council and funeral director Hector Baggley.
Another recurring character, making vacant-minded political comments, was the Honourable David J. Broadfoot, Member of Parliament for Kicking Horse Pass and leader of the New Apathetic Party. Broadfoot had been performing as this character for years, and had appeared on Canadian and American television as "The Honourable Member" as early as the 1950s, long before his tenure with Air Farce.