‘I couldn’t find a toe­hold’

For­mer ‘SCTV’ star Dave Thomas on how ‘com­edy’s changed’

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - ENTERTAINMENT - BY CAS­SAN­DRA SZKLARSKI

It’s not hard to track down many of the for­mer stars of “SCTV’’ — Martin Short is a peren­nial favourite on the theatre and talk show cir­cuits, An­drea Martin is a Broadway and net­work star, and Eu­gene Levy and Cather­ine O’Hara have found cross-bor­der suc­cess with CBCTV’s com­edy “Schitt’s Creek.’’

Dave Thomas, how­ever, has been harder to find.

The wise-crack­ing hoser is still in show busi­ness, but pri­mar­ily be­hind the scenes, most re­cently pen­ning scripts for net­work dra­mas in­clud­ing “Bones’’ and “The Black­list.’’

It’s not such a left turn, he in­sists, af­ter roles on “Grace Un­der Fire,’’ “Ar­rested Devel­op­ment’’ and “How I Met Your Mother.’’

“The idea of mov­ing onto drama was not like, ‘Oh man, that’s like such a shocker,’’’ says Thomas, who says he’s writ­ten both drama and com­edy through­out his en­ter­tain­ment ca­reer.

“For me, the writ­ing was al­ways some­thing that I en­joyed more than the per­form­ing. I get more sat­is­fac­tion out of it.’’

Still, Thomas re­mains best known as one half of “SCTV’’’s hoser brothers Bob and Doug McKen­zie, whose uniquely Canuck in­sults and beer-fu­elled pas­sions in­spired a gen­er­a­tion of couch pota­toes through their break­out fake talk show, “The Great White North.’’

He’s re­viv­ing the char­ac­ter with co-star Rick Mo­ra­nis — also less seen in re­cent years — for a ben­e­fit at Toronto’s Sec­ond City to­day.

Hosted by Short, “Take Off, Eh’’ also fea­tures for­mer “SCTV’’ers Levy and O’Hara, past Sec­ond City star 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. Pro­ceeds will help sup­port Ian Thomas’s son Jake, who was left par­a­lyzed from the waist down by a snow­mo­bil­ing ac­ci­dent in Jan­uary. A por­tion of the funds will also go to Spinal Cord In­jury On­tario.

Although the gang has kept in touch, Thomas says he ex­pects an emo­tional re­union when they all gather at Sec­ond City. The sto­ried im­prov stage, which also launched the ca­reers of late “SCTV’’ers John Candy and Harold Ramis, still holds a spe­cial place in his heart.

“We were all very loyal to that lit­tle theatre,’’ Thomas re­calls.

So loyal that Thomas, Fla­herty and O’Hara con­tin­ued to moon­light for Sec­ond City when they started “SCTV’’ in 1976, un­cer­tain where the TV se­ries would take them.

“We would shoot (‘SCTV’) all day and then get in a car and race down to the theatre and do the stage show,’’ he says from his home in Los An­ge­les.

“I re­mem­ber go­ing into the makeup room one morn­ing just dead tired, to­tally ex­hausted and Cather­ine was al­ready sit­ting in the chair and she was just sob­bing qui­etly. Just tears run­ning down her cheeks be­cause she was so tired .... And fi­nally (‘SCTV’ pro­ducer and Sec­ond City head) An­drew Alexan­der said, ‘OK, we’ve got to get your un­der­stud­ies up and ready to go and take over be­cause you guys can’t keep do­ing this.’’’

The suc­cess of “SCTV’’ would ul­ti­mately spoil Thomas as he pur­sued fol­lowup ven­tures.

While some cast mem­bers in­clud­ing Ramis, Short, Candy, Mo­ra­nis and O’Hara found bigscreen suc­cesses, oth­ers floun­dered a bit, he ad­mits.

“Some peo­ple like my­self just con­tin­ued to do what I did on ‘SCTV,’ which is to try and pro­duce my own thing. It’s re­ally hard to do. To get peo­ple to finance things that you want to do, the way you want to do them, is dif­fi­cult and so for me, I started writ­ing drama five years ago,’’ he says.

“I couldn’t find a toe­hold for my­self in com­edy that I re­ally re­lated to. Com­edy’s changed and in some ways it’s dif­fer­ent and I think some­times you have to just kind of yield to the younger gen­er­a­tion and go, ‘OK. Well, you guys do it now.’’’

On­go­ing projects in­clude a “weird dark com­edy’’ pi­lot at TBS and an adap­ta­tion of a hor­ror book for net­work tele­vi­sion.

As for what to ex­pect to­day, Thomas prom­ises a show fea­tur­ing fa­mil­iar favourites and new ma­te­rial.

Af­ter all, he’s a fan of do­ing the un­ex­pected.

“I wouldn’t be sur­prised if some peo­ple turn up to per­form that aren’t on the bill. It’s the kind of thing where it’s go­ing to be kind of an im­promptu night.’’

THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Rick Mo­ra­nis, left, and Dave Thomas are shown in this un­dated hand­out photo as the char­ac­ters Bob and Doug McKen­zie in this scene from the “SCTV” com­edy se­ries. Thomas will be re­viv­ing the char­ac­ters with co-star Rick Mo­ra­nis — also less seen in re­cent years — for a ben­e­fit show to­day at Toronto’s Sec­ond City.

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