Editor's Note: Columnist Philip Potempa is reporting from Toronto while traveling in Canada.
While Chicago still ranks as the comedy capital with the Windy City's famed Second City comedy stage, "sister city" Toronto also has its own funny claim-to-fame stage.
In 2013, Second City Toronto celebrated a 50th anniversary since the first performance in 1963. Gathering some of the best improv talents still ranked today, Toronto's Second City gave rise to some of today's prized entertainment names including Catherine O'Hara, Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin, Rick Moranis, Martin Short and Chicago's own Harold Ramis, who just passed Feb. 24, as well as the late, great John Candy.
Less than a year after "Saturday Night Live" premiered Oct, 11, 1975 on NBC, the Canadian sketch comedy series "SCTV" launched on Sept. 21, 1976 as a programming staple for the CBC aka Canadian Broadcasting Company where it aired until 1984. By 1981, it was also being broadcast in the U.S. on NBC on Friday nights.
"SCTV" is also the program that launched many favorite comedy character personalities that still live on today as laughing moment memories. Andrea Martin, now 67, and her leopard-print fashion prone alter ego Mrs. Edith Prickley, sporting rhinestone cat-eye specs, remained with the series for the entire run. Other characters, like Martin Short's geeky Ed Grimley jumped from "SCTV" to "Saturday Night Live," once Short joined the New York-based "SNL" cast. And while Candy, Levy and O'Hara left the show to pursue successful Hollywood film careers, parody characters like O'Hara's Lola Heatherton, an obvious combo spoof of Las Vegas entertainment headliners Lola Falana and Joey Heatherton, remained credited among the show's signature sketches.
But of all the characters, the duo that seized the most success and continued to capture ongoing fans and audiences after "SCTV's" departure from the airwaves, came courtesy of Moranis paired with comedy pal Dave Thomas as brothers Bob and Doug McKenzie in skits.
Playing the dim-witted, beer-chugging brothers who host a TV discussion show called Great White North (originally Kanadian Korner), Moranis and Thomas said they originally developed the characters as a sardonic response to the CBC network's request that "SCTV" feature two minutes of "identifiably Canadian content" in every episode. First appearing in 1980 at the start of Season 3, the characters spent most of their time discussing "best snow routes" and "why there aren't enough parking spaces at take-out doughnut shops," with bantering peppered with their trademark "eh?" while addressing topics of "Canadian life and culture."