Second City gala features the legendary Bob and Doug McKenzie

The king hosers return to their homeland for rare stage appearance


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Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas last performed as Bob and Doug a decade ago

For those of you who’ve been saying you’d give up a body part to see Rick Moranis perform again, it’s time to call your surgeon. You’re going to get your wish, but it will cost you.

On July 18, both Moranis and Dave Thomas will reprise their roles as the famous McKenzie brothers in a star-studded gala at Second City (tickets $500 to $2,500). The evening will not just include the duo but also appearances by Martin Short, Eugene Levy, Dan Aykroyd, the Kids in the Hall, all to benefit Thomas’s nephew who recently suffered a spinal cord injury.

Even without the McKenzie brothers, it would be an amazing night of comedy. With them, it becomes an historic  evening.

Moranis almost never performs. He claims he’s not retired, just very picky about his projects. Quite awhile ago, tragedy befell Moranis as his wife died suddenly. He chose to focus on bringing up his kids in New York and put comedy on the back burner, an admirable choice but one that took him mostly out of the public eye, except for a country music album in 2005. 

I was close with Moranis back in 1976 when he was one of the first wave of standup comics at Yuk Yuk’s. That’s right. He did brilliant standup in those years, a fact few people know, mainly because he secretly hated it.

“Like begging for laughs, “ he used to tell me. 

He also implored me not to call my comedy club Yuk Yuk’s, but something more generic and audience-friendly like Comedy Factory or Laugh Shop. 

Thomas, meanwhile, has been visible with a variety of subjects, including writing and performing on series such as Bones and The Blacklist. But the last McKenzie brothers project that involved Moranis and Thomas was a CBC reunion special in 2007. 

Thinking back to the heady days of the McKenzie brothers explosion, I am reminded of the curious circumstances that created the legendary bit.

SCTV was in its infancy, and their sketch comedy series was being taped in Edmonton. But government financing included a clause that there must be some content that was “distinctly Canadian.” So Rick and Dave were approached by the producers to come up with something that would satisfy the mandate.

Sneering at the idea, the boys decided to give them a piece of Canadiana that cynically checked all the boxes: beer, toques, plaid and the repeated use of the word “eh.” 

To their surprise, the Mackenzie brothers sketch “The Great White North” became the most loved and most successful part of the show.

Without the McKenzie brothers, there is no Trailer Park Boys, no Letterkenny, no standups such as Ron James, Jimmy Flynn and Derek Edwards, not even any Wayne’s World. For who are Garth and Wayne but suburbanized versions of Bob and Doug?

The hoser tradition celebrates the rural, down-to-earth, good-hearted goofiness of sweet-natured Canuck maleness. 

As an international image, it may present us as unsophisticated rubes, but funny ones, nevertheless. Knowing that it’s all an act brings us all in on the joke.

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Post City Magazines’ humour columnist, Mark Breslin, is the founder of Yuk Yuk’s comedy clubs and the author of several books, including Control Freaked.

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