( Part of a series on Xmas-pop songs) By Alan l. Chrisman
“The 12 Days of Xmas” by fictional Canadians Bob and Doug McKenzie (played by comedians Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas) became a North American hit in the early 80’s.
Actually, it all started as a joke on the government requirement for Canadian content. Moranis and Thomas had been part of the satirical group spoofing the running of a low budget TV station, SCTV. When they moved to the bigger CBC network, they were told they had to fill the remaining 2 minutes with Canadian content, which they thought was ridiculous. So they just improvised with all the Canadian stereotypes they could come up with; dressing in lumberjack shirts, wearing toques, talking about hockey, beer, and Tin Horton’s coffee. They called each other “hosers” and say, “Eh”, a lot.
But to their and everyone’s surprise, suddenly, it became the most popular part of the show. Soon Moranis and Thomas parlayed the two dim-witted characters into a bestselling album, The Great White North, and even a movie, Strange Brew in ’83. On their album they did a take-off on the traditional “12 Days of Xmas”, adding in their own juvenile list of items, and the fractured song also became a Christmas hit. Another song, “Take-off”, on the album also featured Canadian band, Rush, member Geddy Lee.
Thomas along with later, Saturday Night Live’s Martin Short, Gilda Radner, and David Letterman’s band leader, Paul Shaffer, had all been a part earlier of the Toronto production of Godspell. And Thomas (who did a great impression of Bob Hope) was, along with Moranis, in the SCTV show with John Candy, Andrea Martin, and Eugene Levy (American Pie films). SCTV was probably the closest to a Canadian version of Monty Python. Both Thomas and Moranis had also been members of the improvisational group, Second City. Moranis did an accurate impression of Woody Allen and would appear in several Hollywood movies, Ghostbusters, Flintstones and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Both would also play their characters on The Simpsons.
So for something which had originally started out as complaining about a government requirement and was full of somewhat-demeaning Canadian stereotyping, it became, ironically, popular with Canadians and in the U.S. too. They even got a satire of a traditional Xmas classic out of it, with their “12 Days of Xmas” take-off.
Bob and Doug McKenzie doing their Canadian version of “12 Days of Xmas”: