SCTV FAQ v. 1.2


I have hosted this FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) for a very long time on my WWW site, since the 1990s. Only recently (2020) did I look at it with my phone, and it was a real mess, very "un-mobile friendly." So I have revamped it, with hopes that it looks better now. This has never been updated since the original was posted, so there are references, links, e-mail addresses and so forth which will no longer work. If you subscribe to certain Usenet providers, you can get messages from the newsgroup alt.tv.sctv which go back up to 17 years. Unfortunately, most of the postings for the last couple of years (2018-2020) are spam garbage.

Contents

1.0 General
1.1 What is a FAQ?
1.2 Where can I find this FAQ?
1.3 What does SCTV stand for and what is it?
1.4 How many shows were there?
1.5 Where can I find reruns of the series?
1.6 Where can I find scripts of the skits?
1.7 What awards has SCTV won to date?
2.0 Cast
2.1 Who was in the cast of SCTV?
2.2 What is the "Godspell"  connection?
2.3 What are the "Saturday Night Live" connections?
2.4 Who has guest-starred on the show?
2.5 Whatever happened to the cast members?
3.0 Skits
3.1 Which impersonations have been done on the show?
3.2 What was the original premise for the show?
3.3 What's the story behind ________ (skit)?
   (a) Ben Hur
   (b) Tex and Edna Boil's Emporium
   (c) Count Floyd
   (d) Floyd Robertson & Earl Camembert
   (e) The Great White North (aka Canadian Corner)
   (f) Libby Wolfson
   (g) Mort Finkel [on Sunrise Semester]
   (h) Shake & Bake
   (i) Lin Ye Tang (not the orange drink!)
   (j) The Happy Wanderers (Yosh & Stan Shmengie)
   (k) Sid Dithers
   (l) Johnny LaRue
   (m) Dr. Tongue
   (n) Ed Grimley
   (o) Farm Report
   (p) Days of the Week
   (q) Edith Prickley (station manager)
   (r) Pirini Scleroso
   (s) Sammy Maudlin
3.4 What are some other memorable characters and skits?
3.5 What are some of the memorable "plots"?
3.6 What spinoffs are there of SCTV skits?
4.0 Miscellanea
4.1 How'd the expression "hoser" come about?
4.2 Where is Melonville?
4.3 What does the Indian symbol represent?
4.4 What are some SCTV in-jokes?
4.5 What references have been made to SCTV in pop culture?
5.0 Internet Resources
5.1 What material on SCTV is available on the internet?
5.2 Which SCTV'ers have e-mail and what are their addresses?
6.0 Further Resources
6.1 Where else can I learn more about SCTV?

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1.0 General

1.1 What is a FAQ?

FAQ is an acronym for Frequently Asked Questions, which is a type of document found throughout cyberspace that gives a brief overview of a specific topic in a question-and-answer format.

1.2 Where can I find this FAQ?

If anyone volunteers to be the official SCTV FAQ Maintainer, he can decide where it can be found and how often it will be posted. Ideally, the FAQ would be posted on a regular basis to the usenet newsgroup alt.sctv, alt.answers and news.answers. It would also be great if they'd put the SCTV FAQ in the official depository of FAQs on the WWW at http://www.cis.ohio-state.edu/hypertext/faq/usenet/top.html. I can't arrange that myself, 'cause every time I try, they tell me I'm doing something wrong in my formatting.

1.3 What does SCTV stand for and what is it?

SCTV is an acronym (yes, another one) for Second City TeleVision - a program that lasted 7 years (combining Global, CBC, NBC and Cinemax incarnations) and was based on the Second City style of comedy.

Second City is the name of two improvisation comedy clubs - the original in Chicago, the second one in Toronto (on Lombard St. at the Old Firehall [it's called the old firehall because it was a firehall before the city sold it]).

The style was described this way by late SNL/SC alumnus John Belushi: "In L.A. or New York, people look into the camera and forget to relate to the other performers. Here, it's a family. Ensemble acting, that's what Second City teaches you." The troupes took their name from a negative article called "Chicago, the Second City" by A. J. Liebling (New Yorker, 1951).

1.4 How many shows were there?

Between 1976 and 1983, there were 72 30-minute episodes, 42 90-minute shows and 18 45-minute shows.

1.5 Where can I find reruns of the series?

I can only speak for Toronto (if you know of broadcast info elsewhere, send it to the FAQ maintainer). Showcase airs 30-minute episodes M-F at 7:30 PM. CITY-TV airs 30-minute shows M-F at 3:00 PM.

1.6 Where can I find scripts of the skits?

There are three scripts in Allan Gould's The Great Big Book of Canadian Humour (Macmillan: Toronto), 1992. "Canadian Play" (pg. 51-55), "Wheetabix" (pg. 94-97) and "Scraborough Bluffs" (pg. 231-234). Once in a while, there will be a TV special that has alumni redoing old skits. A Canadian special about a Godspell production had a few.

1.7 What awards has SCTV won to date?

SCTV has garnered 13 Emmy nominations, 2 Emmy awards for best writing for a variety, musical or comedy, 3 ACTRA nominations, 2 ACTRA awards and in 1995 won a special Gemini award (Lifetime Achievement?).

2.0 Cast

2.1 Who was in the cast of SCTV?

The original performing cast of SCTV was the late John Candy, Joe Flaherty, Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin, Catherine O'Hara, Harold Ramis and Dave Thomas (who did the roll call). Around the second season, Harold Ramis left and JC, CO'H, and AM became less available. Tony Rosato, Robin Duke and Rick Moranis were brought in. Around 1982, Martin Short also joined the cast.

2.2 What is the "Godspell" connection?

"Godspell" was a musical that played at Toronto's Bayview Playhouse in 1973. Among its cast were Paul Schaffer (David Letterman's band leader), Gilda Radner (who went on to SNL), Martin Short, Eugene Levy, Dave Thomas and Andrea Martin (who was called in as a replacement). Author Donna McCrohan sees an additional significance besides the "meeting of comedic minds": "Godspell would prove an excellent training ground for Second City hopefuls - improvisation and mimicry were encouraged during rehearsals."

2.3 What are the "Saturday Night Live" connections?

RD and MS were cast members of both shows. SNLer Bill Murray guest starred on SCTV. SCTVers have guested on SNL. Dan Ackroyd and JC joined SNLer Gilda Radner, EL, JF, CO'H, DT and AM in Toronto's SC. Oh, and like both shows were successful 'cause they had so many Canadians in them, eh? (Lorne Michaels produces SNL). For a look at a great SNL page, point your web browser to http://ccwf.cc.utexas.edu/~serpas/snl.html.

2.4 Who has guest-starred on the show? (not complete)

Hall & Oates, Bill Murray, Robin Williams, Carol Burnett, Kenny Loggins (?), Al Jereau (?)

2.5 Whatever happened to the cast members?

There is a list of credits to date at the Internet Movie Database. Its URL is: http://us.imdb.com. If someone wants a profile, but does not have WWW access, e-mail me and I'll e-mail the profile you want to you.

3.0 Skits

3.1 Which impersonations have been done on the show? (not complete)

JC - Orson Welles, Richard Burton, Divine, Julia Child, Jerry Mathers, Luciano Pavorotti, Michael Caine

JF - William F. Buckley, Carl Sagan, Peter O'Toole, Tony Bennett, Lloyd Robertson (as Floyd on the SCTV News; debatable)

EL - Lon Chaney, Alex Trebek, Perry Como

AM - Joyce Dewitt, Barbara Streisand, Bernadette Peters, Liza Minelli

RM - Merv Griffin, Woody Allen, David Brinkley, George Carlin, Joel Silver

CO'H - Katherine Hepburn, Brooke Shields, Meryl Streep

MS - Jerry Lewis, Brock (Brian) Linehan, Pierre Trudeau (that was our PM, for you Yankee know-nothings), Gore Vidal, Robin Williams, Martina Nuritalova, Mr. Rogers, Dustin Hoffman, Catherine Hepburn

DT - Colonel Sanders, Walter Cronkite, Bob Hope, Richard Harris, Steven Spielberg, Phil Donahue, Randy Newman, Liberace, Neil Simon

3.2 What was the original premise for the show?

Bernie Sahlins: "The format was a sort of impoverished TV station which did programs in slavish imitation of everybody else. In the end, the only modification from what we originally planned was that originally, we were thinking in terms of an ongoing story. But after we shot the first one, no matter how we tried to edit it, we could not make both the story and the bits form any kind of organic whole, so we threw out the story and the bits worked."

3.3 What's the story behind ________ (skit)?\

   (a) Ben Hur

Harold Ramis: "Once we decided to do the piece, we spent so much money on it, we couldn't afford to do any other pieces, basically. So we ended up stretching it to a full half hour, and the piece was so dull when we rehearsed it. JC was trying to do Charleton Heston as Ben Hur and he did a line as Curly from the Three Stooges, probably just to be funny, and we said, yeah do it that way. That was the turning point."

   (b) Tex and Edna Boil's Emporium

Donna McCrohan (DM): "Tex (DT) played the organ. Edna (AM) pitched sales in her best dime tore pants suit, with a sing-song voice stiff enough to split a biscuit. They were every bit as grating as the cheap local TV commercials they parodied."

   (c) Count Floyd

DM: "an actor (JF) in a cheap vampire costume, crooning in a bad Transylvanian accent, pitching horror movies on the local station's kiddie-fest Monster Chiller Horror Theater...the Count is reduced to hyping whatever is on the shelves. When the movie is over, he makes a few feeble attempts at post-hype...then apologizes for the choice of films, and says they'll do better next week, which of course, they never do." Floyd's also half of SCTV's news team [see 3(d) below].

   (d) Floyd Robertson & Earl Camembert

DM: "The news team had grown out of a stage piece, "Big News, Little News". Floyd (JF) got all the big items. Earl (EL) got all the little items. The two were generally infighting more than they were reporting current events." Some say Floyd was modelled after CFTO (Toronto) news anchor Lloyd Robertson and that Earl Camambert was modeled after Earl Cameron. Dave Thomas says this was not so.

   (e) The Great White North (aka Canadian Corner)

DT: "Andrew (Alexander) came into our offices on Richard Street one day. JF and I were the head writers at the time. And Andrew said the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) wanted Canadian content in the show. I said, 'What do you mean, Canadian content? We're going to Alberta to shoot it. It's going to be a complete Canadian production. There are only a couple of Americans in the cast. How much more Canadian can it get? Do you want us to put up a map of Canada and sit in front of it drinking beer, wearing toques and parkas?' He said that would be great and we compromised and put a Mountie beer mug on the set (if you've got Mountie in a sketch, that somehow resolves the content problem)."

DM: "Each McKenzie Brothers scene was totally improvised. When the rest of the cast had left for the day, they'd go down to minimal crew, with RM and DT sitting in front of the map, extemporizing.

DT: "Rick and I would do maybe twenty to thirty of these in a row, until we couldn't do any more. Each one was two minutes long...Either one of us would just go with what the other guy said and try to make it go somewhere. If it didn't go anywhere, it became one of the lost Bob and Dougs. Out of the twenty or thirty that we would tape maybe five or six of them would be usable and the rest thrown out." DT and RM are both real Canadians. Personally, I think RCAF's "A Canadian Moment" has some resemblance to "Great White North".

   (f) Libby Wolfson

AM: "RM and I became very friendly and he said one day, as we were improvising a scene and he was laughing hysterically, 'Why don't you just do a character that's close to you?' I said, 'Oh, Rick. I can't.' He took a pen and said, 'You just talk. Don't even think about it. I'll write it down.' That's how Libby Wolfson got started. Very concerned about her weight, her breath, her underarms, and we made her into a talk show hostess. I made her more neurotic than I am, but really, she came out of my own idiosyncracies."

   (g) Mort Finkel [on Sunrise Semester]

HR: "It occurred to me to do do-it-yourself dentistry with Mort Finkel... I had gone with the device of, since you won't be licenced to give yourself shots of Novocain, use shots of rum instead. Someone always got stuck with doing the last piece of the day...So I was the last one this time, and it was late. In the scene, I drank these shots of rum, then swigged from the bottle at the end. And the crew put real rum in the shot glasses. I actually got really drunk. When I see that piece now, I can see myself sort of gagging on the straight rum, and then sort of finishing the piece with really glassy eyes. I actually got through the piece. I did not make a mistake. Because I just wanted to get home."

   (h) Shake & Bake (William Shakespeare and Francis Bacon)

DM: "In it the pair (DT and RM) frantically dash off lines backstage and throw them to the actors. The actors return after saying the lines and being pelted with vegetables. It came from DT's perception of the personality of Shakespeare 'as a guy saying 'Yeah, I can write that play' and just be a sweating weasel trying to get the job done, and having Francis Bacon as a friend he could bounce ideas off of.'"

   (i) Lin Ye Tang (not the orange drink!)

DM: "Lin Ye Tang (DT) began as a series of improv sets on stage. Thomas would take questions from the audience, answering them as the prime minister of Vietnam and a string of other Oriental aliases. SCTV's Lin Ye Tang was a master of Oriental wisdom and martial arts [Schtick Fu?]. Thomas as Lin never appeared the same way twice. DT: "The joke in the cast was they never found a way to make me look Oriental. Each time I did it, I'd try another look. I never did get it. JF called it The Many faces of Lin Ye Tang. HR thought of it as an ongoing evolution that never evolved."

   (j) The Happy Wanderers (Yosh & Stan Shmengie)

EL: "Schmenge was a word we'd been using right along, as in the sentence, 'He is a real schmenge.'...Sometime later, John and I one Sunday afternoon were up in his hotel room, watching television, trying to come up with a scene. We were watching these two horrible guys and said 'Wow, there's a couple of schmenges.' The light bulbs kind of went on at the same time, and we looked at each other. 'The Schmenge Brothers? What do you think? Is there something there? A polka band?'"

   (k) Sid Dithers

DM: "Sid Dithers began with a parody of the Sunday morning religious program Lamp Unto My Feet (SCTV's "Match Unto My Feet")" EL: "The scene took four or five hours to do. When I watched the playback, I found myself more and more reclined in my seat, so by the end of the scene, I seemed to be lower than when I started. The look was kind of funny...he'd just get shorter and shorter as the shows went on." DM: "Dithers, in a constant state of perplexity so complete that he all but had (?) for eyeballs, went on to appear in such gripping roles as the drill sergeant in "An Officer and a Gentile".

   (l) Johnny LaRue (JC)

DM: "a dissipated, out-of shape fitness show host who smoked while doing the workouts. One exercise consisted of opening and closing the refrigerator. The exertion sent his heart into overdrive. The onstage Johnny LaRue expanded to include the backstage Johnny LaRue as obnoxious pawn in station politics who one minute figured to call the shots, and the next was whimpering to save his job.

   (m) Dr. Tongue (JC)

DM: "In "The Uncle Silvio Show" on the Chicago stage, Tino Insara was Silvio, the kid's show host. Dr. Tongue was the special guest, accompanied by his pantomimed snakes. 'Well, what have we here, Dr. Tongue?' Then Dr. Tongue would expand on the snake and skip rope with it. On SCTV, Dr. Tongue had the kid's show and hosted cheap-o 3-D movies - obtaining the effects by leaning towards the camera and back, vainly attempting to menace the lens with some totally inoccuous object."

   (n) Ed Grimley

MS: "Ed Grimley came from the revue that was in progress when I joined, called The Wizard of Ossington. There was a piece called "Sexist" and the premise was two people applying for one job. The guy I played...is a moron. I started to call this character Ed Grimley. I based him on a few people I knew. Things happen over the course of doing a piece in a run... I remember one time...I kind of bared my teeth by accident. The audience laughed...So that teeth-baring became part of the character. Then I used to grease my hair a little bit to give a bad look. I remember Peter (Ackroyd) laughing one night and saying, 'It keeps getting higher every time you do this.' So as a joke I came out with it completely up and I felt, well, that got a laugh. I'll keep it in. And Ed Grimley just kind of evolved."

   (o) Farm Report

RM: "In the beginning, it was simply an early morning show. 'Good morning farmers. It's six AM. I call you farmers because who the hell else is up at this hour?' The hot news was the price of pork bellies and hog lips. It progressed to a "Farm Film Report" in which the farmers review current films and liked them, or not, depending on whether anything got blowed up, blowed up real good."

   (p) Days of the Week

DM: "When SCTV went to NBC, there was talk that it might be nice to create something easy to shoot, with sets that could be reused, and the chance to log several scenes in one taping session. EL developed and wrote the soap opera "Days of the Week", in which he revealed his considerable and much appreciated talent for writing female parts as deftly as those for male cast members. Real guest stars wandered in from time to time."

   (q) Edith Prickley (station manager)

AM: "CO'H's mother had that leopard jacket and hat and CO'H, as we all did, brought costumes that we kept backstage in this makeshift cupboard, and we pulled things out from this assortment of costumes when characters indicated it. So I just happened to put on this leopard jacket, and this hat, which I'd never used before. Playing the parent of a delinquent boy, I knocked on the door, walked in and CO'H said, 'You must be --' and I said 'Edith' and she said 'Prickley'. I said 'Yes, Edith Prickley.' As soon as she said the name, the costume sort of worked with the name."

   (r) Pirini Scleroso

DM: "In a scene called "English Lesson", AM portrayed that most dedicated of language students, Pirini Scleroso. Pirini spoke no English. Her teacher was of the new school of linguistics instruction - say the same thing clearly, over and over again, and the student will mimic you until she gets it right...She came close to every inflection, with phrases as least as lurid as "Why risky bops?" ("Where is the bus") and "York McGee Reggae" (You're giving me a headache"). While teacher went slowly crazy, Pirini took pride in her progress."

   (s) Sammy Maudlin

DM: "The Sammy Maudlin concept and crew came from a stage piece developed when SC played Pasadena. Host Sammy Maudlin (JF) and lackey William B (JC) drooled over shallow guests, favorites being Mr. Comedy himself, Bobby Bitman (EL) and COH's Lola Heatherton (who conveys affection of the mildest sort with, 'I want to bear your children. WAhahahahaha'). The scene begins with a talk show of turgid, reciprocal fawning. Then Lola comes out and blasts veryone for being so phony. With this, she wins their applause for their forthrightness."

3.4 What are some other memorable characters and skits? (not complete)

Gerry Todd (RM), Guy Caballero (JF), Tommy Shanks (JC), Undercover Mountie (HR), Cheryl Kinsey (AM), Captain Combat (a spoof of Captain Kangaroo) (DT), critic Bill Needle (DT)

3.5 What are some of the memorable "plots"? (not complete)

SCTV on Strike - Canadian programming SCTV hijcked by CCCP1 - Russian programming TV Wars - The Godfather

3.6 What spinoffs are there of SCTV skits?

The Great White North Album (which won a Juno for Best Comedy Album) Strange Brew (film) (which won the Golden Reel Award in 1983); a sequel is in the works Strange Brew - a Methuen book (1983, 48 pgs.) "Power to the Punk People (Polka)" (video) HBO The Schmnge Brothers' The Last Polka (1985) The Completely Mental Misadventures of Ed Grimley (1988)

4.0 Miscellanea

4.1 How'd the expression "hoser" come about?

DT: "We found ourselves in a situation, being guided by standards and practices, and needing some sort of expletives to deal with each other the way these brothers (McKenzie) would in real life but couldn't on the air. This was sort of our alternate language. I had heard the verb to hose, which had various connotations, as all those obscure words do. Hoser we came up with specifically for the shows."

4.2 Where is Melonville?

The town is wholly fictitious, made up by JF. However, someone on a.t.s. wrote that he is working on a map based upon the show's skits and his own guesstimations of where things would be located in Melonville. I forget who and haven't heard if it was completed.

4.3 What does the Indian symbol represent?

John Finney aka Antman suggested that,

"Although Dave T. would probably be the final source on this, I would venture to say that the Indian head test pattern was used to demonstrate the amateur status of their "network", as if they didn't have enough $$ for a "real" logo. Instead, they just used the cheap test pattern laying around the studio, which is normally used for offline video calibration of the signal transmitters."

"SCTV's love for hokey, ham-handed sets and props are legendary, from "The Great White North set (and it's thick-headed hosts) to CCCP1's "Today is Moscow", with the new Soviet mini-cam. More importantly, Guy Cabellero's image as a penny-pinching tyrant helped illustrate the aura of "un-professional" television: the fiasco of Johnny LaRue's crane shot, the Fred Willard check-kiting scam, the rescue of the jammed US satellite by Dr. Tongue and Bruno. After the third season, they finally got their own intro!"

4.4 What are some SCTV injokes?

In the "Six-Gun Justice" serials, Eugene Levy played a character based on old-time Western hero Tom Mix. This in itself is simply trivia. But what you may NOT know is that Levy's character is named "Don Mills", which is the name of a street and community in Toronto.

In the sketch "Shakespeare's Greatest Jokes", Joe Flaherty identifies himself as Sheldon Patinkin (who was an SCTV producer) and Dave Thomas calls himself "Bernard Sahlins (an SCTV producer who goes back to Second City's earliest days).

Bill van Heerden bv374@freenet.toronto.on.ca

Nearly all SCTV promos for on-air satirical promos were tagged with "Thursday nite at 9". Obviously every show that appeared on SCTV couldn't air at the same time but they are promoted that way. Why? Because I was the voice over announcer for nearly everything in the first two seasons - for no extra pay - and I just felt like it. That's also why I tagged my own credit "and Dave Thomas as the Beaver" - because I was alone in an announce booth and I felt like it.

Once John Ritter asked me why we shot him in "Shoot the Stars" ( I played Ritter). He thought it was because we were mocking him. We weren't. He is a superb physical comic. We shot him because we felt like it.

Also:

Moe Green (Harold Ramis)- named after the Godfather Moe Green played by Alex Rocco.

Take off (Mckenzie Bros) = fuck off

Red Rooster (CCCP 1) = Alan Rucker, SCTV Producer

Libby Wolfson's husband( I forget his name but Rick played him) = Barry Sand - SCTV Producer later Letterman producer before Morty.

Dave Thomas

4.5 What references have been made to SCTV in pop culture?

In the credits of Canadian Bacon, Michael Moore thanks "Johnny Larue" for helping to get their crane shot.

In a 1984(?) issue of Captain America, the thugs refer to each other by their surnames, which are the same as the cast of SCTV (e.g. take him to chamber 13, Moranis!")

5.0 Internet Resources

5.1 What material on SCTV is available on the internet?

In addition to the Internet Movie databse (mentioned earlier),

I can't comment on this. I've never gotten it to work.

SCTV: Second City television Graphics, cast info.

SCTV Lives http://members.aol.com/benyl

SCTV (with season lists) http://members.aol.com/huspomike/deSC.html

There was once a post claiming that seevots mailto:seevots@aol.com is said to have a sketch list, but I think the e-mail address is no longer valid.

5.2 Which SCTV'ers have e-mail and what are their addresses?

To date, the only one known of is a guy calling himself Dave Thomas, who's e-mail address is mailto:SBZA48A@prodigy.com. It is the group's consensus (well, most of us) that this is indeed the real Mccoy (real McKenzie?)

5.3 Is there a real "SCTV"?

There are three.

There is a SCTV Building in Winslow, ME. Also, State Cable TeleVision. You can find them on the internet by doing a simple webcrawler search.

I also found SCTV Homepage http://www.sctv.co.id Someone wrote to tell me that this has nothing to do with the conedy SCTV; I forget what the acronym is for.

6.0 Further Resources

6.1 Where else can I learn more about SCTV?

Donna McCrohan has written an excellent book called The Second City: A Backstage History of Comedy's Hottest Troupe (Perigree: New York), 1987.

Dave Thomas has just written SCTV Behind the Scenes (McClelland and Stewart, 1996). During November (1996), he'll be promoting it.

This FAQ is Copyright (C) 1996 by Steven M. Bergson and Donna McCrohan. This work, in whole or in part, may not be sold in any medium, including but not limited to, electronic, CD-ROM, or in print, without the explicit written permission of Steven M. Bergson.

Permission is hereby granted to quote reasonable extracts from this work, provided that proper attribution is given. You may also distribute this work (subject to the conditions above) in its entirety via e-mail, ftp (file transfer protocol), and the worldwide web (WWW), provided that the work is distributed in its entirety (including header information) and remains unaltered. Please let me know if you are making the FAQ available through ftp or WWW.

Address any comments questions or suggestions to Steve at sbergson@julian.uwo.ca.


VIDEOS OF INTEREST:


The Second City 25 Years (from CBC, 1998). Starring Joe Flaherty, Robin Duke, Dave Foley, Jennifer Irwin, Eugene Levy, Patrick McKenna, Jenny Parsons, Dave Thomas and Martin Short


Schmenge Brothers Salute John Williams (with original John Williams music)