Second City Television was a Canadian television show that ran from 1976 to 1984. It was a comedy sketch show that featured several comedians who later “graduated” to Saturday Night Live. The original cast of the show included John Candy, Joe Flaherty, Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin, Catherine O’Hara, Harold Ramis, and Dave Thomas. A Canadian network broadcast the show and also syndicated it in parts of the US.
In 1980 some changes took place. Dave became the head writer and John, Eugene and Catherine. left the show. New additions to the cast included Tony Rosato, Robin Duke, and Rick Moranis.
In 1981, the show moved to the CBC network in Canada and NBC also began to broadcast the show in the US. It was on late Friday nights beginning. The US broadcast had to make room for an extra two minutes of commercials, and the show also needed to include additional Canadian content to qualify for special tax treatment in Canada. The show filled two minutes with Dave and Rick appearing as Bob & Doug McKenzie and improvising a segment called the Great White North that had them (possibly) making fun of Canadian stereotypes.
It took very little time for their segments to gain immense popularity, and before long they were often taking up more than two minutes. In late 1981, the duo released The Great White North record album. It contained sketches similar to the ones on the show. It also contained “the hit single section” with the cut Take Off. Geddy Lee, the lead singer for Rush, sang some backup vocals on the cut while Bob & Doug did their normal attempts at comedy. The album version included some talking before and after the music and ran 4:45.
The cut-down single (only 2:42 in length) was more AM radio-friendly and peaked at #16 in March 1982. We’ll have a moment of silence for the tyranny of the Billboard Hot 100: the highest any Rush single got on that chart (with Geddy singing lead) came when New World Man reached #21 later that year. Fortunately, that single also hit #1 on the US Mainstream Rock chart.
After filming 43 Great White North segments for SCTV, the duo left the show and created a film, The Adventures of Bob & Doug McKenzie: Strange Brew in 1983. The plot vaguely resembled Hamlet. There was a soundtrack album for the film, but sales were dismal and it quickly vanished without a trace. A few commercials featured Bob & Doug as well.
Rick starred in a series of well-received films, including Ghostbusters and the Honey, I Shrunk The Kids series. Dave acted in television shows and movies and has done voice work for popular cartoons.
2017 featured the brief return of The Great White North at a charity event that raised money for spinal cord injuries.