On Tuesday, at The Second City Theatre in Toronto, Canadian comic legends such Dave Thomas, Rick Moranis, Martin Short, Dan Aykroyd, Catherine O'Hara, Eugene Levy and Joe Flaherty, along with members of the Kids in the Hall and musicians Ian Thomas and Murray McLauchlan, will perform at Take Off, Eh!
The sold-out event is in benefit of Spinal Cord Injury Ontario and Jake Thomas, the son of Ian and nephew of Dave who was recently left paralyzed from the waist down after a snowmobiling accident.
Expected highlights include the reunion of Bob and Doug McKenzie, the beloved SCTV creations of Thomas and Moranis. The Globe spoke with Thomas from Los Angeles.
The need for this benefit show is unfortunate, but the talent assembled is incredible. How did it come together?
This all started with Martin Short. When I was telling him about my nephew Jake and his situation, he suggested we do a show, to generate money for him. I told him I didn't want to impose, and he said, "Nonsense, don't be ridiculous. If it was my kid, I would impose on you." I was very touched, and surprised at how quickly everyone agreed to do the show.
With all of the comedic giants scheduled to appear, are you surprised that the most attention has gone to your Bob and Doug McKenzie reunion with Rick Moranis?
Rick and I feel Canada has embraced Bob and Doug as Canadian icons. We feel kind of honoured. America has lots of icons. George Washington, Superman, Batman, Abe Lincoln, the eagle. Canada doesn't have as many. Once you get past a Mountie and a beaver, it slims out pretty quickly.
Is it iconic in a good way, the stereotypical hoser thing?
If you embrace it with a sense of humour, I'm sure it's fine. In their essence and at their heart, Bob and Doug are good-natured, loveable, gentle characters. They don't have any sharp edges. They're easy to embrace.
Given their diet of beer and back bacon, have Bob and Doug aged well?
We'll be dealing with that in the show [laughs]. Because they were always cartoon characters anyway, like the Canadian Muppets, with their toques and parkas, there is a timelessness to their image. They were fun to do back then, but a little harder to do now, because we're trying to recapture something. It's different. And we've never done it in front of a live audience.
With all these Canada 150 events on July 1, I'm wondering why Bob and Doug weren't a part of that party.
Nobody asked us. And, as far as I know, nobody asked Dan Aykroyd or Martin Short or Kids in the Hall or any of the Canadian comedians I know. Which is fine. They're under no obligation.
Which Canadian comedian just flat-out cracks you up?
Right now the guy who makes me laugh the most is Norm Macdonald. He's just so laid-back. His jokes sneak up on you. One of his bits goes [Thomas adopts Macdonald's slack, nasal tone], "People tell me about Iraq and Iran and worrying about North Korea and how they might attack us. I tell ya, one country I'm far more worried about, and that's Germany. I don't know if any of you folks are history buffs or not, but a couple of times in the last century, Germany went to war. And they picked as their enemy the world. And it was actually kind of close, both times!" It's just a very funny observation.
One of your memorable imitations is of Walter Cronkite. In light of Peter Mansbridge retiring, and the question of whether he'll be replaced by one person or by multiple people, do you think people want that lone anchor to tell you the news?
I like the trusted voice of one person out there. But right now, with the media under attack, the media needs to shore up its credibility. I think a lot of news anchors need to stop appearing in movies, where they play a news anchor in a monster robot film.
There was a time when news wasn't expected to be a profitable division for a network. Somebody like Walter Cronkite could sit behind the desk and be a trusted and believable voice that would tell you not just the truth, but what was important.
And with his "And that's the way it is" authority, right?
Yeah. I mean, you can tell the truth about Justin Bieber. But there's a tendency in modern media to give all items equal footing, whether it's talking about the prime minister of England or the president of the United States or Justin Bieber or Blac Chyna. I don't know, maybe I'm just old-fashioned.