Rick Moranis: From Ghostbuster to World’s Greatest Dad

By Life Stories

Of course you recognize him, but where did one of the biggest movie stars of the 1980s disappear to? Find out why Rick Moranis went from busting ghosts to being one when he gave up a career in Hollywood and walked away from millions.

Rick Moranis

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Rick Moranis
Moranis in March 1990
BornFrederick Allan Moranis
April 18, 1953 (age 65)
TorontoOntario, Canada
OccupationActor, comedian, musician, songwriter, screenwriter, producer
Years active1976–present
Spouse(s)Ann Belsky
(m. 1986; her death 1991)[1]
Children2

Frederick Allan Moranis (/məˈrænɪs/; born April 18, 1953), known professionally as Rick Moranis, is a Canadian actor, comedian, musician, songwriter, screenwriter and producer. He came to prominence in the sketch comedy series Second City Television (SCTV) in the 1980s and later appeared in several Hollywood films, including Strange Brew (1983), Ghostbusters (1984), Little Shop of Horrors(1986), Spaceballs (1987), Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989, and its 1992 and 1997 sequels), Parenthood (1989), My Blue Heaven(1990), and The Flintstones (1994).

In 1997, Moranis began a long hiatus from acting to dedicate his time to his two children as a widower.[2] He has not appeared in a live-action film since, although he has provided voice-over work for a few animated films, notably Disney’s Brother Bear (2003). He has also released comedy albums and made appearances at fan conventions.

Contents

Early life[edit]

Moranis was born in TorontoOntario, to a Jewish family.[3] He went to elementary school with Geddy Lee, frontman of the rock band Rush.[4]

His Jewish ancestors are of Hungarian extraction, as well as them coming from KolozsvárKingdom of Hungary (present-day Cluj-Napoca, Romania).

Career[edit]

His career as an entertainer began as a radio disc jockey in the mid-1970s, using the on-air name “Rick Allan” at three Toronto radio stations.[4]

In 1977 he teamed up with Winnipeg-born writer/director and performer Ken Finkleman on a series of live performances on CBC‘s 90 Minutes Live; comedy radio specials; and television comedy pilots, including one called Midweek and another called 1980 (produced at CBC Toronto in 1979). Both pilots starred Finkleman and Moranis in a series of irreverent sketches including an early mockumentary sketch featuring Moranis as a Canadian movie producer, and another featuring the dubbed-in voiceovers of Nazi war criminals as they appear to be discussing their Hollywood agents and the money one can earn being interviewed on major documentary series like The World At War.

In 1980, Moranis was persuaded to join the third-season cast of Second City Television (SCTV) by friend and SCTV writer/performer Dave Thomas.[5] At the time, Moranis was the only cast member not to have come from a Second City stage troupe. He is known for such impressions as Woody AllenMerv Griffin and David Brinkley.

With SCTV moving to CBC in 1980 (and syndicated to the United States), Moranis and Thomas were challenged to fill two additional minutes with “identifiable Canadian content,” and created a sketch called The Great White North featuring the characters Bob and Doug McKenzie, a couple of Canadian buffoons. By the time NBC ordered 90-minute programs for the U.S. in 1981 (the fourth season of SCTV overall), there had been such favourable feedback from affiliates on the McKenzies that the network requested the duo have a sketch in every show.[6]

Bob and Doug became a pop-culture phenomenon, which led to a top-selling and Grammy nominated album, Great White North,[7] and the 1983 movie Strange Brew, Moranis’ first major film role.

Another notable Moranis character on SCTV was Gerry Todd, a disc jockey who presented music clips on television. The sketch aired before the debut of MTV in the United States, leading both Sound & Vision and Martin Short to dub Moranis as the creator of the video jockey. “There had been no such thing” up until that point, recalled Short, so “the joke was that there would be such a thing.”[8][9]

Feature films[edit]

The handprints of Rick Moranis in front of The Great Movie Ride at Walt Disney World‘s theme park, Disney’s Hollywood Studios

After his SCTV work and the Strange Brew movie, Moranis had a busy career in feature films that lasted over a decade, most notably GhostbustersSpaceballsLittle Shop of Horrors; and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and its sequels. He also did the voice-over for a short-lived cartoon series on NBC called Gravedale High (1990).

In a 2004 interview, Moranis talked about his favourite kinds of films:

On the last couple of movies I made—big-budget Hollywood movies—I really missed being able to create my own material. In the early movies I did, I was brought in to basically rewrite my stuff, whether it was Ghostbusters or Spaceballs. By the time I got to the point where I was “starring” in movies, and I had executives telling me what lines to say, that wasn’t for me. I’m really not an actor. I’m a guy who comes out of comedy, and my impetus was always to rewrite the line to make it funnier, not to try to make somebody’s precious words work.[10]

Moranis’ last film roles were Barney Rubble in The Flintstones (1994) and the box-office flop Big Bully (1996). Other than the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids sequels, by the mid-1990s his only appearance in that genre was a 1993 music video, “Tomorrow’s Girls” by Donald Fagen, in which he played a man married to an extraterrestrial woman. Disney’s final film in the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids franchise is 1997’s direct-to-video film Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves, in which Moranis is the final remaining original cast member. The series Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: The TV Show also launched in 1997 but without Moranis, then concluding in 2000. He worked for Disney twice more (with his fellow SCTV alumnus Dave Thomas), voicing Rutt the moose in the 2003 animated film Brother Bear and its direct-to-video sequel.

Moranis was also slated to appear in The Breakfast Club, but was released by John Hughes because his interpretation of the role was not what Hughes was looking for.[11]

In 2000, Moranis received his first film credit since 1997 when he provided voice work in the animated film Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the Island of Misfit Toys. In 2003, he provided his voice to the animated film Brother Bear.

As of 2004, Moranis was on the Advisory Committee for the comedy program at Humber College.[12]

In 2005, Moranis released an album titled The Agoraphobic Cowboy, featuring country songs with lyrics which Moranis says follow in the comic tradition of songwriters/singers such as Roger MillerKinky Friedman, and Jim Stafford. The album was produced by Tony Scherr and is distributed through ArtistShare, as well as Moranis’s official web site. Commenting on the origins of the songs, he said that in 2003, “Out of the blue, I just wrote a bunch of songs. For lack of a better explanation, they’re more country than anything. And I actually demoed four or five of them, and I’m not sure at this point what I’m going to do with them—whether I’m going to fold them into a full-length video or a movie. But, boy, I had a good time doing that.”[10]

On December 8, 2005, The Agoraphobic Cowboy was nominated for the 2006 Grammy for Best Comedy Album. On February 3, 2006, Moranis performed “Press Pound” on Late Night with Conan O’Brien and discussed the development of his music career.

In 2006, Moranis reprised his role in the animated film Brother Bear 2.

In November 2007, Moranis reunited with Dave Thomas for a 24th anniversary special of Bob and Doug McKenzie, titled Bob and Doug McKenzie’s 2–4 Anniversary. The duo shot new footage for this special. Thomas subsequently created a new animated Bob and Doug McKenzie series, Bob & Doug, for his company Animax Entertainment. Moranis declined to voice the role of Bob, which was taken over by Dave Coulier, but remained involved in the series as an executive producer.[13]

On June 18, 2013, Moranis released the comedy album titled My Mother’s Brisket & Other Love Songs, his first album in eight years.[14] Moranis said of the release “When I first began writing jokes and sketches with various Jewish partners one of us would inevitably stop at some point and announce, “Too Jewish!” Too Jewish for the star, the show, the network, or the audience. The songs on this album are all in that category. I grew up hearing the Allan Sherman and the You Don’t Have To Be Jewish albums in the ’60s. Now I am in my 60s.”[15]

In an June 2013 interview, Moranis talked about reprising his role as Louis Tully in a third Ghostbusters film and his disappointment with the sequel. Moranis said “I haven’t talked to Dan Aykroyd about it. Somebody he’s associated with called me and I said, ‘I wouldn’t not do it, but it’s got to be good.’ You know, I’m not interested in doing anything I’ve already done, and I thought the second one was a disappointment. But I guess I’m interested in where that guy is now. I sort of see him as being Bernie Madoff‘s cellmate in jail. Both of them being so orderly that they race to get up and make their beds.”[16] In 2015, regarding an offer for a brief appearance in the film, he concluded: “[Ghostbusters] didn’t appeal to me. … I wish them well. … I hope it’s terrific. But it just makes no sense to me. Why would I do just one day of shooting on something I did 30 years ago?”[2]

Acting hiatus[edit]

In 1997, Moranis took a hiatus from working in the film industry. He later explained: “I’m a single parent and I just found that it was too difficult to manage to raise my kids and to do the traveling involved in making movies. So I took a little bit of a break. And the little bit of a break turned into a longer break, and then I found that I really didn’t miss it.”[17] After having declined an invitation to make a cameo appearance in 2016’s Ghostbusters reboot, Moranis clarified in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter that he had not, in fact, retired from film acting due to his hiatus, but instead had become selective about future roles.[18]

In July 2017, Moranis and Dave Thomas reprised their Bob & Doug characters at a benefit concert in Toronto. Proceeds from the benefit will go toward caring for Jake Thomas, Dave Thomas’ nephew, who suffered a spinal cord injury that has left him paralyzed from the waist down.[19]

On May 9, 2018, Moranis returned as the character Dark Helmet in an episode of The Goldbergs, albeit as a voice.[20]

Moranis will also join the Martin Scorsese directed Second City TV (SCTV) reunion documentary, titled An Afternoon with SCTV, premiering on Netflix in 2019.[21]

Personal life[edit]

Moranis married costume designer Ann Belsky in 1986; together they had two children, Rachel and Mitchell (born 7 February 1988). Belsky died of cancer in February 1991. Moranis then slowly left public life to become a full-time single father.[1][18]

Filmography[edit]

Film[edit]

YearTitleRoleNotes
1983Strange BrewBob McKenzieAlso co-writer and co-director
1984Streets of FireBilly Fish
GhostbustersLouis Tully
The Wild LifeHarry
1985Brewster’s MillionsMorty King
Head OfficeHoward Gross
1986Club ParadiseBarry Nye
Little Shop of HorrorsSeymour Krelborn
1987SpaceballsLord Dark Helmet
1989Ghostbusters IILouis Tully
Honey, I Shrunk the KidsWayne Szalinski
ParenthoodNathan Huffner
1990My Blue HeavenBarney Coopersmith
1991L.A. StoryGravediggerUncredited cameo[22]
1992Honey, I Blew Up the KidWayne Szalinski
1993Splitting HeirsHenry Bullock
1994The FlintstonesBarney Rubble
Honey, I Shrunk the Audience!Wayne Szalanski
Little GiantsDanny O’Shea
1996Big BullyDavid Leary
1997Honey, We Shrunk OurselvesWayne SzalinskiDirect-to-video
2001Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the Island of Misfit ToysThe Toy Taker / Mr. CuddlesVoices
Direct-to-DVD
2003Brother BearRuttVoice
2006Brother Bear 2RuttVoice
Direct-to-DVD

Television[edit]

YearTitleRoleNotes
1980–1981SCTVVarious roles25 episodes; also writer
1981–1982SCTV NetworkVarious roles26 episodes; also writer
1982Twilight TheaterTelevision film
1983, 1989Saturday Night LiveHimself (host)2 episodes
1984Hockey NightCoachTelevision film
1985The Last PolkaLinsk MinykTelevision film
1989The Rocket BoyAutomatic Safety SystemTelevision film
1990Gravedale HighMax SchneiderVoice
13 episodes
1990The Earth Day SpecialVic’s BuddyTelevision special
2003Miss Spider’s Sunny Patch KidsHolleyVoice
Television special
2007Bob & Doug McKenzie’s Two-Four AnniversaryBob McKenzieTelevision special
2009Bob & DougCo-creator and executive producer
2018The GoldbergsLord Dark Helmet (voice)Episode: “Spaceballs”
2019An Afternoon with SCTVHimselfTelevision special[21]

Discography[edit]

Albums[edit]

  • 1989: You, Me, the Music and Me
  • 2005: The Agoraphobic Cowboy
  • 2013: My Mother’s Brisket & Other Love Songs

Bob and Doug McKenzie

Other soundtrack appearances

YearFilmSongsArtist(s)/Writer(s)Role
1986Little Shop of Horrors“Skid Row Downtown”; “Da-Doo”; “Grow For Me”; “Feed Me (Git It!)”; “Suddenly, Seymour”; “The Meek Shall Inherit”Howard AshmanAlan MenkenSeymour Krelborn
1997Muppets Tonight“High Hopes”
“Salute to the late fifties crooners, obscure British bands and Bill Withers”
Various artistsHimself

Audio/video[edit]

  • 1973: “Rock Radio Scrapbook” (as Rick Allen)[23]

Awards and nominations[edit]

YearAssociationCategoryWorkResult
1982Primetime Emmy AwardsOutstanding Writing in a Variety or Music ProgramSCTV (shared with other writers)Won
1990American Comedy AwardsFunniest Supporting Actor in a Motion PictureParenthoodWon
1995Gemini AwardsEarle Grey Award for Best CastSCTVWon
2006Grammy AwardsBest Comedy Album[24]The Agoraphobic CowboyNominated

References[edit]

  1. Jump up to:a b “Whatever happened to… Rick Moranis?”. entertainment.ie. Retrieved 24 May 2017.
  2. Jump up to:a b Parker, Ryan (October 6, 2015). “Rick Moranis Is Not Retired”The Hollywood Reporter.
  3. ^ “Rick Moranis, going from ‘Ghostbusters’ to mom’s brisket, draws on Jewish roots in new album”JNS.org. Archived from the original on December 9, 2015. Retrieved October 8,2015.
  4. Jump up to:a b “Rick Moranis”Yuddy.com. Archived from the original on April 2, 2009.
  5. ^ “SCTV Guide – People – Cast”sctvguide.ca. Retrieved October 8, 2015.
  6. ^ Plume, Kenneth. “Interview with Dave Thomas (Part 1 of 5)” at movies.img.com, February 10, 2000.
  7. ^ Hanna, Erin (2009). “Second City or Second Country?”cineaction.ca. Archived from the original on July 6, 2011. Retrieved July 18, 2012.
  8. ^ Mettler, Mike (August 2, 2004). “An Hour with /SCTV/’s Rick Moranis”Sound & Vision.
  9. ^ Ryan, Mike (June 7, 2012). “Martin Short On The Differences Between ‘SNL’ & ‘SCTV'”Huffington Post.
  10. Jump up to:a b Mettler, Mike. “An Hour with SCTV’s Rick Moranis – Web Exclusive, eh: The popular Canadian comedian welcomes SCTV to DVD” Archived November 22, 2007, at the Wayback MachineSound & Vision, August 2004
  11. ^ “The Lost Roles of Rick Moranis”Splitsider. Retrieved 30 December 2018.
  12. ^ Peterson, Dean. “HEY, WHATEVER HAPPENED TO RICK MORANIS?”mydamnchannel.com. Archived from the original on January 31, 2013. Retrieved July 22,2013.
  13. ^ Rob Salem, “Bob & Doug taking off again”Toronto Star, April 19, 2009.
  14. ^ Dionne, Zach. “Rick Moranis Is Ready to Return to the World”Vulture. Retrieved October 8, 2015.
  15. ^ “Rick Moranis – My Mother’s Brisket & Other Love Songs – Amazon.com Music”amazon.com. Retrieved October 8, 2015.
  16. ^ Plumb, Ali (June 25, 2013). “Exclusive: Rick Moranis On Ghostbusters 3”Empire. Retrieved March 30, 2015.
  17. ^ “Rick Moranis: From ‘Spaceballs’ to country ‘Cowboy'”USA Today. October 13, 2005.
  18. Jump up to:a b Parker, Ryan. “Rick Moranis Reveals Why He Turned Down ‘Ghostbusters’ Reboot: “It Makes No Sense to Me””The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 24 April 2016.
  19. ^ “Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas to Reunite as McKenzie Brothers”The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved June 12, 2017.
  20. ^ Keveney, Bill (May 7, 2018). “Exclusive: ‘The Goldbergs’ snags Rick Moranis to reprise the Dark Helmet of ‘Spaceballs'”USA Today. Retrieved May 7, 2018.
  21. Jump up to:a b “Rick Moranis Joins ‘SCTV’ Reunion Documentary for Netflix”The Hollywood Reporter.
  22. ^ “L.A. Story (1991) Acting Credits”The New York Times.
  23. ^ “Rock Radio Scrapbook: 1973 airchecks”rockradioscrapbook.ca.
  24. ^ Gerstein, Ted; Berman, John (February 5, 2006). “Rick Moranis on His Transformation Into a Grammy-Nominated Country Western Singer”ABC News.

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Rick Moranis.
showvteBob and Doug McKenzie
showvtePrimetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series (1980–89)
Authority control BNEXX1169447BNFcb140259224 (data)GND17389917XISNI0000 0001 1745 5907LCCNn92033067MusicBrainz2e6e6258-1ecf-444e-8eba-9c334eee2f1eNKCxx0050870SNACw6vd81djSUDOC110302303VIAF14971730WorldCat Identities (via VIAF): 14971730

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