There’s a story that use to circulate around the Toronto acting community about the birth of one of the more famous routines on Canadian television. (Although it maybe just one of those myths that circulate in the world of Canadian entertainment) When SCTV were still being broadcast by the Canadian Broadcast Corporation (C.B.C.) they were told that their sketch show needed more direct Canadian content. This being such a ridiculous demand, in light of the cast being predominantly Canadian, Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas created the now infamous Mackenzie brothers.
It was those moments of brilliant satire that continue to set SCTV apart from the rest of the sketch comedy shows that have come down the pipe in the interim. Focused around the lives of the various characters that ran and appeared in the programming of a low rent television station, the show provided scathing bite the hand that feeds me indictments of their own industry.
Since Second City went off the air individual cast member have gone on to do a variety of projects with mixed success. Some like Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara have carved out successful movie careers; Dave Thomas has had roles on a variety of television shows and directed the occasional movie, and Andrea Martin has been doing stage work in Canada.
Rick Moranis was one of the ones who carved out a successful movie career for himself in the mid eighties on through to the mid nineties, starting with Ghostbusters, the Honey I Shrunk The Kids franchise, and finishing with his last feature movie The Bully in 1996. Since then he has virtually dropped off the map, limiting himself to voiceovers for animated films rather than committing to features.
Like Mark Twain, contrary to rumours of his death he’s been very much alive (There was a nasty Internet rumour that made the rounds last year that Mr. Moranis had died in a car crash.) He was happily at home raising his kids and doing some small projects that enabled him to spend time with his family.
His most recent project, a country and western CD called The Agoraphobic Cowboy may not sound like something one would associate with the very urban persona presented by Rick in the characters he’s created. In a recent interview with the “Globe and Mail” he described the disc’s evolution.
“It’s not like I said, ‘I’m going to write myself a country and western album…I’m not trying to jump-start anything — I’m not trying to become something I’m not. I had an idea, one that could have been done in another form, but it seemed to fit best as a song…(his daughter) had been listening to a lot of non-commercial music, bands like Widespread Panic, The String Cheese Incident and Yonder Mountain String Band…I’d rediscovered country and bluegrass through my kids. I wrote a couple of songs and sang them to friends over the phone. I ended up with about a dozen. It wasn’t planned.” Rick Moranis, “Globe and Mail” Tuesday October 18th /2005
This is obviously not a project he’s done with fame in mind, he’s selling Agoraphobic Cowboy through a web site on the Artist Share Network, but as a means of continuing to express himself. He’s always considered himself a writer and anything else simply a means for getting his writing out there.
“Performance for me was always just a vehicle to get the writing out. That’s how I ended up acting — I never enjoyed it, that’s why I stopped — it was creatively unfulfilling.” Rick Moranis, “Globe and Mail” Tuesday October 18th/2005
It’s not as if he’s a novice when it comes to singing. In the movie version of Little Shop of Horrors he did all his own singing and he did plenty of musical numbers back in his T. V. days. Don’t look for him to be making fun of the genre he’s playing either. He seems to have a genuine affection for country music, from its more traditional roots all the way up to some of the newer country.
Over at his web site, Rick Moranis.com, you can find out much more about Agoraphobic Cowboy. There’s a letter from Rich talking about the album and its evolution in detail, a player so you can listen to a song or two, lyrics from a few of the songs, and a link to purchase it.
Looking at the lyrics for “I Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere”, done in the mode of Hank Snow’s “I’ve Been Everywhere”(or for the more modern amongst us, MacLean and MacLean’s “I’ve Seen Pubic Hair”) one can see that Moranis hasn’t lost his talent for writing satire. It’s a peon to the delights of never leaving your house and the joys of agoraphobia. Who needs to live in the world with all its dangers when you have it at the tips of your fingers in the privacy of your own home?
The site also has a nice little contact form so you can leave comments for Rick, which I did, along with an offer to review the disc in this space. I’ve since heard back from Mr. Moranis and he’s sending me out a copy of Agoraphobic Cowboy so I’ll be posting a review in the very near future. In the meantime head on over to Rick’s site and give it a listen.
Good satire is hard to come by these days, so it will be interesting to see if Rick Moranis still knows which balloons need popping and where to stick the pins for best effect. Here’s hoping he still has the same eye and ear that were so discerning back in the seventies and the eighties. It would go a long way to proving that he’s still alive.