TORONTO – Former “SCTV” star Dave Thomas says it wasn’t hard to convince his old pal Rick Moranis to come out of quasi-retirement to help him reprise their alter-egos Bob and Doug McKenzie for an upcoming charity performance.
The tricky part will be figuring out what exactly they’re going to do with their hoser characters that haven’t really been seen for more than 30 years.
The fictional brothers and their low-budget TV show “The Great White North” were among the breakout hits of “SCTV,” the seminal Canadian comedy sketch series that also kicked off the careers of Martin Short, Andrea Martin, Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara and the late John Candy.
Thomas and Moranis return to the spotlight next month as part of a star-studded benefit in Toronto to raise funds for Thomas’s nephew Jake Thomas, who severed his spinal cord in a snowmobiling accident and is now paralyzed from the waist down.
Thomas says that writing new banter for the dim-witted, beer-swilling duo is harder that it seems.
“The big challenge for us doing the McKenzies now is we’re a lot older. And the McKenzie brothers haven’t really been on stage together since we did the show and the movie,” says Thomas, noting “SCTV” ended in 1984, about a year after the Bob and Doug movie “Strange Brew.”
“The question we’re coming up with is: well, what would Bob and Doug be doing now? The environment has totally changed since we did our television show. At the time that we did ‘SCTV,’ television was at the centre of pop culture. Well, it isn’t any more. The Internet, social media is at the centre of pop culture, it’s a totally different world.”
The intervening years have transformed Thomas’s own career, which shifted from his stint on the ’90s comedy “Grace Under Fire” to the odd guest role on shows including “How I Met Your Mother” and “Arrested Development.” He’s now a writer/producer for network dramas including “Bones” and “The Blacklist.”
Moranis, meanwhile, has been little-seen since 1992’s “Honey, I Blew Up the Kid,” and famously turned down a cameo in the recent “Ghostbusters” reboot.
Thomas says Moranis is just particular about the gigs he chooses, noting he immediately offered to don the toque and parka when asked to join the benefit performance.
Thomas says his other showbiz pals were equally eager to help, including Short, Levy, O’Hara, Dan Aykroyd and several members of the Kids in the Hall.
Music will be provided by Paul Shaffer, Murray McLauchlan, and Thomas’s brother Ian Thomas, who is Jake’s father. A portion of the proceeds will also go to Spinal Cord Injury Ontario.
“There’s a lot of love here and I’m very grateful and kind of humbled by the response of people,” Thomas says from his home in Los Angeles.
“It’s going to be some odd stuff, you know, people doing things they don’t normally do. Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy are going to do something together and the Kids in the Hall is going to do something.”
Short will host the event, as well as perform a celebrity interview as clueless Hollywood reporter Jiminy Glick. The rest is still a mystery, says Thomas.
“He may do his Ed Grimley that he did (on ‘SCTV’) but I don’t know what people are going to do. Everybody has said, ‘Yes,’ now I’m putting together some kind of running order and then I’m going to start calling people saying, ‘How much time are you going to do? What are you going to do?'”
As for Bob and Doug, Thomas says he and Moranis are working on ways to bring the characters into the new millennium.
“Would they be online? Yes, probably. But keep in mind, they’re older. They’re in their 60s now. So they’re people in their 60s who are online (laughs). That’s a different audience, that’s a different online presence, you know.”
And although Bob and Doug were not especially political, today’s highly fractious climate may add a new dimension, too, Thomas allows.
“They would certainly be dealing with political correctness. I mean, we live at a time now where it’s been described in the media as an ‘apology epidemic’ — where entertainers are always crossing the lines and then having to do public apologies. Congressman have to do public apologies, politicians have to do public apologies…. I’ve never seen people so firmly entrenched in their beliefs that they get rabid and angry if they hear something they don’t agree with,” says Thomas.
“The boundaries have changed for what’s acceptable and what isn’t in the 35 years that we’ve been away. So that’s certainly something that is worth addressing. But also, Canada’s changed, too. Canada’s gone through some big changes and certainly the media’s changed, Twitter and Instagram, and all these other things that are out there that are more kind of on the leading edge of culture than television was in the mid-70s, late-70s, when we were doing Bob and Doug.
“Having your own little cable TV show was cutting edge back then. It isn’t now.”
The one-night only benefit “Take Off, Eh” takes place at The Second City in Toronto on July 18.