Bob and Doug McKenzie
|Bob and Doug McKenzie|
Promotional still from Strange Brew
with Bob (left) and Doug McKenzie (right)
|First appearance||SCTV (September 19, 1980)|
|Created by||Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas|
|Portrayed by||Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas|
|Nickname(s)||"Hoser", "Hosehead", "Knob"|
|Occupation||Television hosts, bottling line inspectors, garbage men|
Bob and Doug McKenzie are a pair of fictional Canadian brothers who hosted "Great White North", a sketch which was introduced on SCTV for the show's third season when it moved to CBC Television in 1980. Bob is played by Rick Moranis and Doug is played by Dave Thomas. Although created originally as filler to both satisfy and mock network Canadian content demands, the duo became a pop culture phenomenon in both Canada and the United States.
"Great White North" (originally known as "Kanadian Korner") was a panel show that played upon Canadian stereotypes. Bob and Doug, two dim-witted beer-swilling brothers wearing heavy winter clothing and touques, would comment on various elements of Canadian life and culture, frequently employing the interjection "Eh?" and derisively calling each other "hoser." Among the topics discussed were snow routes, the Canadian-built robot arm on the Space Shuttle, the inappropriateness of bedtime stories about dog fights, flat tires, and "why there aren't enough parking spaces at take-out donut shops."
The sketch was conceived when SCTV moved to the CBC television network. Due to the difference in the amount of time allocated for commercials, each episode to be broadcast on that network was two minutes longer than those syndicated to the United States. The CBC network heads asked the show's producers to add specifically identifiably Canadian content for those two minutes. Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas thought that this was a ridiculous request, given that the show had been taped in Canada, with a mostly Canadian cast and crew, for two years. The request inspired them to create a parody that would incorporate every aspect of the humorous stereotype of Canadians.
The segments were videotaped at the end of a day's shooting, with just Thomas and Moranis and a single camera operator. The sketches were for the most part improvised on the set, after which they would select the best ones for use on the program.
Moranis recalled, "We went on the stage with no preparation, and did 15 [sketches]. Two of them were lousy, in three we cracked up and fell apart... maybe six were keepers." Added Dave Thomas in a 2000 interview, "Rick and I used to sit in the studio, by ourselves – almost like happy hour – drink real beers, cook back bacon, literally make hot snack food for ourselves while we improvised and just talked. It was all very low key and stupid, and we thought, 'Well, they get what they deserve. This is their Canadian content. I hope they like it.'"
To their shock, the comedians found that this filler material had become the most popular part of the show. Though initially intended for Canadian TV only, some of the two-minute "Great White North" segments would find their way into U.S. versions of the 30-minute shows due to a shortage of content that week. When NBC ordered the 90-minute shows for the 1981 season, they specifically cited good affiliate feedback on the "two dumb Canadian characters" and requested that the characters be included in every program.
They rode the crest of a fad, peaking in 1982-83, that produced one comedy album, The Great White North, and a movie, Strange Brew. The album released by Anthem Records in Canada and Mercury Records in the US, went platinum in sales, won a Grammy nomination and broke the top ten on Billboard's Top LPs and Tapes list in March, 1982. It is noted for the song "Take Off" which featured fellow Canadian Geddy Lee of the rock group Rush chorusing between the McKenzies' banter. On this album, they also sing their own improvised version of "The Twelve Days of Christmas", which is frequently played on the radio around the holidays in both Canada and the United States. While hugely popular in the U.S., the album was also #1 in Canada for six weeks, suggesting that Canadians appreciated the duo as an affectionate self-parody.
The Strange Brew movie was released by MGM in 1983. While receiving only minimal praise from critics, it performed fairly well at the box office, earning $8.5 million in the U.S. alone to easily cover its skinny $5 million budget. Subsequent to its initial theatrical release in 1983, Strange Brew was released by MGM in both Beta and VHS formats and subsequently re-packaged and re-released on VHS and Laser disc by Turner which acquired the MGM library in 1986, then also several times on VHS and DVD by Warner Brothers which acquired the library when Time Warner merged with Turner in 1996. Strange Brew continued to perform for Warner Brothers as a DVD title most likely because of the strong college cult following for Bob and Doug.
A second album, a "soundtrack" to their movie Strange Brew, was released in 1983. The album featured dialogue and music from the film, as well as new skits made specifically for the album that centered around the movie. The lead off track was appropriately entitled "This Isn't Our Second Album". The album sold poorly and was out-of-print soon after.
The sketch's signature "Coo roo coo coo, coo coo coo cooo" theme, according to Dave Thomas in an interview on CBC News: The Hour, is an exaggeration of the flute music used in 60-second Canadian television nature vignettes, such as Hinterland Who's Who.
Appearances on SCTV
The duo had a total of 41 original segments on SCTV. Presumably filmed several at a time, most "Great White North" segments featured one two-minute sketch per SCTV episode. 25 segments were aired in the third season (1980–81).
Most of Season 4, Cycle 1 (1981) was made up of "Great White North" repeat segments. The only new appearances were in episodes 4/1-2 and 4/1-9, the final episode of the cycle. The final episode included a wraparound storyline which heavily featured the characters.
Growing in popularity, the characters returned for nine new segments in the second cycle of season 4. Cycle 2 (1981–82) featured a new "Great White North" segment in each episode.
Season 4, Cycle 3 (1982) was the last season to feature the characters. The first episode's plot revolves around the growing popularity of Bob and Doug, and they are given their own variety show on SCTV, which turns into a catastrophe. The characters returned in the next episode for a new segment in their traditional studio set, but it had been cut to one minute (the episode's storyline owing the reduced air time to their disastrous variety show). The two are then featured in three more new segments, each back to two minutes long, before Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas left SCTV to film Strange Brew.
The duo revived the act in two award-winning television commercials for Pizza Hut in 1984 and 1986 and a two-year campaign for the Molson Brewing Company in 1999 and 2000 consisting of more than a dozen television and radio commercials which aired nationally in the U.S. and also a series of commercials for Mr. Lube which aired in Canada in 2002. Featured as a sponsor of the "Two-Four Anniversary", a series of Red Cap Ale commercials featured the duo in 2007 along with collectible "stubbies" featuring the characters on the bottles.
In the 2000 video game Spyro: Year of the Dragon, two characters appear in the Icy Peak level whose names are Bob and Doug. The level is a land of ice and snow, and there are references in certain areas of the level to ice skating and ice hockey, as well as a use of the phrase "Take off, hoser!". The characters the player interacts with in the level seem to speak with Canadian accents.
In 2003, the fastest computer in Canada, which is used by the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Toronto, was named after Bob and Doug. The $900,000 computer is being used to simulate supermassive black holes and collisions of galaxies. The machine, nicknamed McKenzie, has 268 gigabytes of memory and 40 terabytes of disk space, and consists of two master nodes (Bob and Doug), 256 compute nodes, and eight development nodes.
They played a variant of the act for the Walt Disney Pictures animated feature film Brother Bear and its sequel, with their characters being the voices of a pair of goofy bull moose named Rutt and Tuke. They also recorded a commentary for the movie that is seen on the DVD.
A new special, Bob & Doug McKenzie's Two-Four Anniversary, aired on May 20, 2007, on CBC Television. It was a retrospective on the history of the characters and their popularity, featuring interviews with various celebrities, classic clips, and new material featuring the pair. It includes an introduction by former Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin and a cameo appearance by Rush lead singer Geddy Lee. On November 20, 2007, the special was released on DVD. The DVD, re-edited by Thomas himself, was twice as long as the broadcast and featured several classic McKenzie sketches from SCTV in their entirety, new footage filmed on the Great White North set and an hour's worth of bonus features. A Bob and Doug McKenzie bottle opener was included in every DVD.
Animax Entertainment, whose interactive division is currently headed by Dave Thomas, began producing a new animated series for the Global Television Network based on the characters debuting on April 19, 2009, simply entitled Bob & Doug. Thomas reprised the character of Doug in the new series. Moranis, who had retired from acting, chose not to voice the character of Bob. The part was instead voiced by Dave Coulier. Moranis was, however, involved in the series as an executive producer. The show aired 15 episodes.
In June 2017 it was announced that Moranis and Thomas would be performing a live reunion show at the Second City in Toronto to raise money for Thomas' nephew Jake who suffered a spinal cord injury earlier that year. The show will also feature other SCTV alumni including Dan Aykroyd, Eugene Levy, and Martin Short.
Opinions of the creators
In Dave Thomas's behind-the-scenes book on SCTV, he reports that he and Moranis disliked the characters because they felt the network forced the characters on them and that they, as actors, were overly identified with the dimwitted, beer-drinking duo. However, in an interview accompanying the Two-Four Anniversary premiere, Thomas credited the McKenzie Brothers as a successful comedic creation of which he was quite proud.
- Von Riedemann, Dominic. "Global Television Show Reunites SCTV's Dave Thomas, Rick Moranis." Article at Suite101.com on July 17, 2008.
- "With Beer, Back Bacon and Banter, 'SCTV's Bob & Doug Mine Comedy Gold in the 'Great White North'." Article in People magazine, February 1, 1982. 
- "Great White North: Beer Nog." Top 10 SCTV Skits at ca.askmen.com
- Second City Television (SCTV) at The Museum of Broadcast Communications website 
- Plume, Kenneth. "Interview with Dave Thomas (Part 1 of 5)" at movies.img.com, February 10, 2000.
- "RPM 50 Albums". RPM. 19 December 1981. Retrieved 2008-10-27.
- "RPM 50 Albums". RPM. 30 January 1982. Retrieved 2008-10-27.
- Hinterland Who's Who website Archived May 4, 2010, at the Wayback Machine..
- ">> Toys >> Movies >> The Mckenzie Brothers". Spawn.Com. Archived from the original on 2010-06-23. Retrieved 2010-06-04.
- Accessed July 14, 2008
- Accessed July 14, 2008
- "Take off, eh?" Review of Two-Four Anniversary special at www.macleans.ca "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-02-14. Retrieved 2008-11-01.
- "Rush out for latest Rush Concert DVD Snakes & Arrows." Review at www.epinions.com on December 5, 2008.
- Rob Salem, "Bob & Doug taking off again". Toronto Star, April 19, 2009.