Bob & Doug McKenzie: How 'Strange Brew's Original Hosers Took Off, Eh?
Bob McKenzie, played by Rick Moranis, and his brother Doug, played by Dave Thomas, appear at Flip Side Records in Chicago, Illinois, January 14, 1982. (Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images)
Before Bob and Doug McKenzie, Strange Brew's beer-swilling brothers, nobody called each other "hoser" (not even Canadians, really). But these two rubes from the Great White North taught us all about the lovable stereotypical Canadian we never even knew. Played by Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas, the McKenzie brothers loved hockey and bacon, they wore big puffy coats and earmuffs and they had half-baked ideas -- what Cheech and Chong did for stoner humor, Bob and Doug McKenzie did for Canadian buffoonery and knucklehead-ism.
What started as an improvised time-filler on a sketch comedy show struck a chord with viewers all over North America, and at the height of their popularity the duo was seen on TV and in the movies, and had a Grammy-nominated album. And everyone was telling each other to "Take off, you hoser."
Grab your touques, a donut, and some beer, because we are going take off to the 1980’s Great White North for a look at everyone’s favorite dim-witted Canadians, Bob and Doug McKenzie! Here are some strange brewed facts you might not remember about Bob and Doug McKenzie and their hilarious satire of all things Canadian, eh?
The Actors, Like The Characters, Were Canadian, Eh?
Bob and Doug McKenzie were the sketch comedy characters created by two actual Canadian comedians. Rick Moranis played Bob while Dave Thomas played Doug. Moranis went on to appear in several films of the eighties, such as Ghostbusters, Little Shop of Horrors, Spaceballs, and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Thomas also went on to appear in movies, as well as TV. If his voice sounds familiar, it may be from his voice-over work on The Simpsons, Family Guy, and King of the Hill.
Bob And Doug Started As A Joke, Eh?
Bob and Doug McKenzie were introduced on SCTV (Second City Television), which was a comedy show based out of Toronto. The sketch comedy show ran from 1976 to 1984. SCTV was also aired on CBS in the United States, but there was a slight problem. Each country had different time allocations for commercials. That meant that the Canadian version of the show had two extra minutes to fill with content. The producers asked Thomas and Moranis to fill the time with “Canadian content.” Since the show was set in Canada, filmed in Canada, and had a Canadian cast and crew, Moranis and Thomas scoffed at the request. They thought, if the producers want more Canadian content, they would give it to them in the form of cultural stereotypes.
That Was Real Beer They Were Drinking, Eh?
Thomas and Moranis filmed their short segment, which was originally called “Kanadian Korner” but was switched to “Great White North”, at the end of a long day of filming, after everyone else had gone home. Typically, it was just Thomas, Moranis, and a lone cameraman. The actors drank real beer on the set and delivered their mostly-adlibbed material, always trying to keep their characters as Canadian as possible, down to the parkas, touques, and scarves they wore. An editor weeded out the less funny material and pieced together the skits. Soon, these segments were more popular than the rest of the show.
What’s A Hoser, Eh?
Bob and Doug McKenzie introduced their U.S. audience to the word "hoser," which they used to insult each other. Because of this, Americas assumed that hoser, and the alternative hose-head, was a common Canadian slang word. While the term probably did originate in Canada, it was primarily used by non-Canadians who were trying to emulate their favorite boneheaded Canadian brothers. Because of Bob and Doug McKenzie, it became trendy to use hoser and hose-head as a mild insult in the U.S.
Bob And Doug Used Every Canadian Stereotype In The Book, Eh?
Not only did Moranis and Thomas dress like caricatures of typical Canadians, with an abundance of plaid flannel and hats with ear flaps, they discussed topics that poked fun at Canadian life, including snow amounts, Mounties, deer hunting, donuts, and Canadian bacon. When a Canadian robotics company was hired to build the robotic arm for the U.S.’s Space Shuttle, it gave Moranis and Thomas even more fodder to work with.
The McKenzie Brothers Released An Album And A Hit Song, Eh?
As Bob and Doug McKenzie, Moranis and Thomas were so popular that they recorded a comedy album called The Great White North. Between their humorous banter, the two introduced some original music. One song, “Take Off,” featured Geddy Lee, a Canadian rocker from the band, Rush. Lee sang the chorus while Bob and Doug insulted each other. The song was a hit, as was the album, which went Platinum and earned a Grammy nomination. Also on the album was the comedians’ rendition of a Canadian “Twelve Days of Christmas” in which Bob and Doug talked about getting 4 pounds of back-bacon, 3 French toast, 2 turtlenecks, and a beer for Christmas. The track can still be heard during the holiday season (on playlists that include yuletide comedy gems like "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer").
A Movie Was Next, Eh?
In 1983, Moranis and Thomas took their Canadian characters to the big screen in the film Strange Brew. The movie, loosely based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, was only moderately successful, and the accompanying soundtrack album was a total flop. The public, it seemed, was losing enthusiasm for the dim-witted Canadian duo -- although diehard fans stuck with them, and the film continues to have a cult following.
The McKenzie Brothers stuck around and popped up in pop culture references in movies, commercials, video games, cartoons, and TV shows throughout the 1990s and early 2000s.
The Bob And Doug Reunion, Eh?
Moranis and Thomas performed as Bob and Doug McKenzie in a live reunion show at Second City in Toronto in June of 2017. This reunion show was a fundraiser for Thomas’ nephew who had suffered a traumatic spinal cord injury. Martin Short, and Eugene Levy, SCTV alums, and Dan Aykroyd, an alum of the Second City troupe (but not SCTV), joined the reunion show. The show raised more than $300,000.
Tags: Bob & Doug McKenzie | Dave Thomas | Rare Facts And Stories About History | Rick Moranis | SCTV | Canada
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