Each delirious episode began in the same adroitly subversive way — with a torrent of TV sets hurtling out apartment windows.

And the bombastic voiceover that followed was a beacon to all diehard comedy nerds: “SCTV is on the air!”

For any TV junkie who grew up in the '70s, the wildly inventive sketch series defined Canadiana and our uniquely outsider perspective in a whole new hilarious way.

And its cast of kooks — among them a hyperactive man-child named Ed Grimley, a leopard print-clad station boss named Edith Prickley and a couple of dim-witted hosers named Bob and Doug — would become unlikely ambassadors for the brainy but funny artists, musicians, actors and writers raised in the Great White North.

Rick Moranis (L) and Dave Thomas (R), better known as the Hoser Brothers Bob and Doug McKenzie of SCTV fame, talk to reporters during a news conference in Toronto on Aug. 25, 1983. They were in town promoting their movie “Strange Brew,” which opened in theatres across North America the following day. THE CANADIAN PRESS/UPC/Hans Deryk

Today, its stars are legendary: the late John Candy, Catherine O'Hara, Eugene Levy, Dave Thomas, the U.S.-bred Andrea Martin, Joe Flaherty and the late Harold Ramis, as well as later Canadian cast members Martin Short and Rick Moranis.

Back then, they were just a group of pals who loved to make each other laugh, former head writer Ramis recounted in one interview that can be found online.

"We just pleased ourselves (with) what we thought was funny and I think that led us to a kind of comedy that was later acknowledged — even by people at Saturday Night — as being slightly more inspired or freer or smarter or something," Ramis said of a wildly talented crew that debuted in the shadow of NBC's slicker late night showcase, which would later come to be known as Saturday Night Live.

"Saturday Night people always paid lip service to 'SCTV' saying we were really the funny show but it was a little like being the comedians' comedians, or playing to the band in a certain way. The audience might not have gotten what we were doing but other comedy people seem to have really appreciated it and real hardcore comedy fans knew every scene that we did."


Film and TV are especially rife with Canadian touches and Canadians have had their fair share of hummable radio hits. Can you recognize these song lyrics? How about these big and small screen moments?:

1. "I've been to Hollywood, I've been to Redwood"

2. "Don't come hanging 'round my door, I don't want to see your face no more"

3. "If you're going my way, I wanna drive it all night long"

4. "I don't know where my soul is, I don't know where my home is"

5. "I drew a map of Canada, Oh Canada, With your face sketched on it twice"

6. Which movie director earned an Oscar for best director?

7. Which Degrassi incarnation featured Aubrey Graham, a.k.a. Drake?

8. Which sonorous performer began his career as an announcer for the CBC?

9. Which demented David Cronenberg film is best known for a grotesque scene in which a head explodes?

  • a Bruce Cockburn

    a The Guess Who

    a Loverboy

    a Nelly Furtado

    a Alanis Morissette

    a James Cameron, Titanic

    a The Kids of Degrassi Street

    a William Shatner

    a Dead Ringers

  • b Neil Young

    b Streetheart

    b Shania Twain

    b Avril Lavigne

    b Joni Mitchell

    b Paul Haggis, Crash

    b Degrassi: The Next Generation

    b Christopher Plummer

    b The Fly

  • c The Band

    c Rough Trade

    c Tom Cochrane

    c Chantal Kreviazuk

    c Anne Murray

    c Norman Jewison, Moonstruck

    c Degrassi High

    c Lorne Greene

    c Scanners

This lyric comes from Neil Young's No. 1 hit Heart of Gold, off his 1972 album, Harvest.
This line is from the Guess Who's 1970 smash American Woman, which revolves around one of the most famous guitar riffs in rock 'n'roll history. Randy Bachman famously said he and singer Burton Cummings wrote the song by improvising on stage one night.
Tom Cochrane belts out this line in his runaway hit Life Is a Highway. The hook-laden single burst onto radio in 1991 and helped carry the album Mad Mad World to more than one million in sales.
This is from Nelly Furtado's breakout earworm I'm Like a Bird. The song, released in 2000, turned her into one of the rare female acts to win a best pop vocal Grammy for a debut single.
This is from Joni Mitchell's emotion-laden ballad A Case of You. It was recorded for her 1971 masterpiece Blue, with her then-boyfriend James Taylor on acoustic guitar.
James Cameron also claimed the best director, best editing and best picture prize in 1998, when he famously declared in his acceptance speech: "I'm the king of the world!"
Drake played Jimmy Brooks on this popular incarnation. It ran from 2001 to 2014 following The Kids of Degrassi Street and Degrassi High
Lorne Greene was the burly-voiced star who started at the CBC before becoming famous as the kindly patriarch Ben Cartwright, who reliably guided his cowboy sons on the Ponderosa ranch in TV's Bonanza.
The scene was from Scanners. The sensational eruption of brain matter is now a well-used social media meme but back when "Scanners" debuted in 1981 it established David Cronenberg as a master of body horror.
You got ? out of 9!

The cast was drawn from the nascent Toronto branch of Chicago's famed Second City improvisational theatre.

And its modest beginnings mirrored the cheap and hapless TV station it parodied, set in the fictional town of Melonville where it seemed anything could, and did, happen.

When it launched on just a handful of Global stations in southern Ontario in September 1976, it had no stars, no sponsors, and barely enough funds to pull together a bare bones show. It would go on to a disjointed run that often teetered on cancellation until its demise in 1984.

But a genius premise gave the young cast licence to run wild with demented characters.

There was Candy's smooth-talking network star Johnny LaRue; Short's deluded albino lounge singer Jackie Rogers, Jr.; O'Hara's big-haired entertainer Lola Heatherton; Candy and Levy's inane polka duo Yosh and Stan Schmenge; and Thomas and Martin's marble-mouthed hucksters Tex and Edna Boil, the owners of various small businesses forever imploring viewers to "Come on down!"

The humour was undeniably silly, but deceptively smart as it took viewers — the first generation to be reared on TV — behind the scenes with sharp satire that riffed on celebrity, fame, the media and pop culture.

It was shameless and subversive, and thanks to the fact few skits were particularly topical, went on to stand the test of time in a way few comedies of the era would.

Levy says SCTV was just following in a grand tradition of biting Canadian satire.

"I don't know if that's because we were part of the Commonwealth back when and there's a bit more of a British edge to our sensibility, but there's always been — going back to when I was still a kid watching late night shows on CBC like 'Night Cap' — very kind of hot, hip shows that you always found really kind of smart and extremely funny," says Levy.

"In the early '70s a bunch of great people certainly came out of Toronto around the time I was hanging around here — the John Candys and Dan Aykroyds and Marty Shorts — it was really ripe comedically speaking and then shortly after our little burst you had Kids in the Hall which had their show on as well, which to me again really had that kind of British sensibility to it, almost Python-esque in a way."

The Kids in the Hall comedy troupe, left to right, Scott Thompson, Dave Foley, Kevin McDonald, Bruce McCulloch and Mark McKinney are shown in this undated handout photo. Mark McKinney is sitting near the stage of Toronto's Rivoli night club. It's a fitting venue for an interview about the new Kids in the Hall tour, as it's where the comedians' careers began. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO

Echoes of SCTV would reverberate decades later — it's hard not to see Levy's take on a mustachioed, frustrated game show host Alex Trebel in Will Ferrell's similarly themed version of Alex Trebek for SNL's Celebrity Jeopardy! or view the surreal antics of modern-day reality TV as unwitting re-enactments of scraps between SCTV's over-blown and over-exposed personalities.

Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons, is said to have drawn inspiration for the loony residents of Springfield from SCTV's Melonville and Conan O'Brien has said it was the biggest influence on his comedy career.

Without it, there arguably would have been no The Kids in the Hall, The Ben Stiller Show, nor Mr. Show With Bob and David.

Even legendary crooner Tony Bennett has touted it for launching a career comeback in the 1980s, when he appeared alongside Bob and Doug for their disastrous (natch) variety show.

Yuk Yuk's founder Mark Breslin says the series emerged during a magical time for Canada's burgeoning comedy scene.

"It's lightning in a bottle in a lot of ways, that era, isn't it? But that's also because people didn't really know what they had in a sense," says the standup patron, whose comedy clubs helped cultivate future Canuck stars Howie Mandel, Jim Carrey, Norm Macdonald and Tom Green.

"I think most artistic endeavours work best when it's approached from a point of innocence — and there was a great innocence about what the business was then. There almost wasn't a business. People were just doing things because they seemed funny and they were happy to be working."

At the same time, Canuck comics had the benefit of drawing inspiration and influence from two cultural powerhouses inextricably linked with so much of our history, suggests improv master Colin Mochrie.

"When I was growing up, I saw as many British comedy and shows as I did American shows and I think Canadians sort of have a hybrid of those two humours," muses the Whose Line Is It Anyway? star, adding that Canada's notorious inferiority complex might have played a role here, too.

Actor Colin Mochrie poses for a portrait as he promotes his new book Not Quite the Classics in Toronto, Monday October 7, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch

"We're also like a little brother — outsiders to America — and I think that made us want to hone our comedic skills so we could get noticed."

SCTV went a long way towards making that happen.

A late-night syndication deal put the quirky comedy on NBC after Saturday Night Live in most U.S. markets, allowing it to build a cult following on both sides of the border.

NBC would later pick it up as a 90-minute show from 1981 to 1983, when it arguably hit a creative and critical stride with the addition of Short's manic characters and the increasing popularity of Bob and Doug, who spun off a bestselling comedy album Great White North and movie "Strange Brew."

Fellow Canuck and musician Paul Shaffer recalls watching the show as he worked on Saturday Night Live with fellow Canadian castmember Aykroyd and Toronto-born show creator Lorne Michaels.

In this Oct. 14, 2014 file photo, bandleader Paul Shaffer attends the premiere of HBO's Foo Fighters Sonic Highway in New York. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)

Shaffer had bonded with Levy, Short, Thomas and Martin as fellow castmembers in the 1972 Toronto production of Godspell, which also included local boy Victor Garber and future SNL star and U.S. import, Gilda Radner.

"At the time, I thought, 'These people are great but, boy, if I ever got to New York, I'm going to see some talented people then,'" says Shaffer, who moved south after Godspell to work on Broadway and joined the Saturday Night Live house band in 1975.

"Well, of course, I was wrong. These people were the greatest, and acknowledged by the Americans as wow, legendary."

Funny People

Canada has an international reputation as a fertile breeding ground for funnymen and funnywomen. Here's a look at some of this country's funniest exports (in no particular order):

Martin Short
Considered by many to be one of the funniest — and most beloved — comics in Hollywood, this versatile actor, comic, writer, singer and producer is probably best known for his off-the-wall turns on SCTV and Saturday Night Live, and reliably quippy tales on the late-night talk show circuit. This five-foot-seven-inch goofball is undeniably a giant in show business, an entertainer through-and-through wont to break into song one moment and slip into a demented alter-ego's persona the next.
Martin Short attends the Broadway opening night of Bright Star at the Cort Theatre on Thursday, March 24, 2016, in New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)
John Candy
A big-hearted buffoon who holds a special place in the annals of Canadian comic history, no list is complete without a mention of this SCTV superstar. Candy took his lovable persona and big cheesy grin to Hollywood for scene-stealing roles that included Splash, Uncle Buck, Home Alone, Planes, Trains and Automobiles and JFK. Candy died of a heart attack in Mexico on March 4, 1994, at the age of 43.
John Candy appears at the Academy Awards in April, 1988. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP
Mike Myers
Proudly Canadian, and often outspokenly so, this baby-faced export has nevertheless managed to infiltrate U.S. pop culture in a way few comics have. After establishing a talent for concocting quirky but likeable misfits on Saturday Night Live, he proved equally adept at churning out boffo box office franchises, including those revolving around Austin Powers, Wayne Campbell and the ornery ogre Shrek.
Comedian Mike Myers, creator of the Austin Powers and Wayne's World franchise, leans on his new star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles, Wednesday, July 24, 2002. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
Jim Carrey
This rubber-faced clown took slapstick to a whole new level when he rocketed to fame as a cast member of the '90s sketch series In Living Color. He'd follow that up with a slew of deranged characters in films including Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Dumb and Dumber and The Mask, cementing his place as a master of physical comedy and a leading man draw.
Jim Carrey arrives at the MTV Movie Awards on Sunday, June 5, 2011, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
Michael J. Fox
Better known today as a champion for Parkinson's research, this low-key comic made his name in the '80s on TV in the beloved sitcom Family Ties and on the big screen with the Back To the Future franchise. Fox was diagnosed with the incurable, progressive brain disease back in 1991, but nevertheless eased back into television in 2004 with appearances on Boston Legal, Rescue Me, The Good Wife, Curb Your Enthusiasm and the short-lived The Michael J. Fox Show.
Michael J. Fox arrives at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)
Lorne Michaels
Some would call this man the king of late night, and he certainly seems more powerful than ever thanks to an avalanche of political gaffes fuelling the gags on his long-running comedy Saturday Night Live. Credit him with also launching some of the biggest names in the business, including Eddie Murphy, Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Bill Murray and John Belushi. But that's not all he does, he also oversees IFC's Portlandia, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Late Night with Seth Meyers.
Lorne Michaels arrives at the 43rd AFI Lifetime Achievement Award Tribute Gala at the Dolby Theatre on Thursday, June 4, 2015, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
Catherine O'Hara
This comedy legend ably earned screen time with her willingness to dive headlong into crazy-voiced kooks and dingbats alongside the nurturing mom roles. She easily jumped from early fame on SCTV to movie stardom in films including Beetlejuice, Home Alone, Best in Show, and The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Catherine O'Hara receives her Canadian Screen Award for Best Actress in a Television Comedy at the Canadian Screen Awards in Toronto on Sunday, March 13, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter Power
Samantha Bee
Leave it to a Canadian to lead the charge of barbs against one of the most divisive U.S. presidencies in history. Queen Bee's sharp critique of Donald Trump's administration has made TBS's satirical news show Full Frontal With Samantha Bee a ratings leader for the specialty network, while turning her into a de facto champion of the liberal cause.
In a Wednesday, May 18, 2016 file photo, Samantha Bee, host of Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, Samantha Bee, attends the Turner Network 2016 Upfronts at Nick & Stef's Steakhouse, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)
Russell Peters
This standup powerhouse routinely jokes that he's "almost famous," but few can claim the achievements of the Brampton, Ont.- raised jokester. He's handled mics around the world including sell-out crowds at Radio City Music Hall and the Sydney Opera House. In 2009, he broke the U.K. attendance record for a one-off comedy show when he performed in front of 16,000 fans in London's O2 Arena.
Comedian Russell Peters promotes his Notorious World tour in Toronto on Wednesday June 13, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
The Trailer Park Boys
This hugely popular mockumentary program ran amok on Canadian TV from 2001 to 2007. It's since been revived for Netflix. Part of Canada's great tradition of "rural humour", it's cut from the same cloth as SCTV's hosers Bob and Doug Mackenzie, not to mention the long-running homegrown favourite Red Green and the YouTube-spawned sitcom Letterkenny.
Trailer Park Boys Julian, played by John Paul Tremblay, Bubbles, played by Michael Smith, and Ricky, played by Robb Wells, left to right, prepare for the world premiere of their new movie, Trailer Park Boys 2: Countdown to Liquor Day, on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Honourable mentions: Dan Aykroyd, Phil Hartman, Norm Macdonald, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, William Shatner, Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Tom Green, Rick Mercer, David Steinberg, Leslie Nielsen, Rich Little, Mary Walsh, Brent Butt, Howie Mandel, Caroline Rhea, Scott Thompson, Dave Foley, Mark McKinney, Gerry Dee.

Of course, Canada has been quietly shaping U.S. pop culture for decades, going back to silent film producer Mack Sennett and his slapstick Keystone Cops, "America's Sweetheart" Mary Pickford and her star-making silver screen roles, and Montreal-born political satirist Mort Sahl, considered by many to be the father of modern day stand-up comedy.

Canadian-born American actress Mary Pickford is photographed on Aug. 29, 1922. (AP Photo)

You don't have to search far to find homegrown trailblazers in music, too, with Oscar Peterson, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and Leonard Cohen each evolving into legends in their own right.

Ultimately, SCTV's ratings failed to take off, and its stars began defecting to pursue individual careers. The show landed on the fledgling cable network Cinemax for a final run in 1983.

Andrew Alexander, show producer and head of The Second City in Toronto, says its spirit endures in the work of countless comics working today.

"If you talk to even Seth Rogen or Judd Apatow or Jimmy Kimmel or any major (comic) — Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey — they all talk about SCTV as being their influence. It's pretty cool that they still look at that as kind of a seminal inspiration," he says.

Seth Rogen attends the world premiere of the series Preacher at the Paramount Theatre during the South by Southwest Film Festival on Monday, March 14, 2016, in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Jack Plunkett/Invision/AP)

These days Canadian successes are everywhere, and arguably at a new apex of popularity and influence.

Just turn to late night's newest Canuck sensation, sneaker-clad Samantha Bee, a pioneer herself as the genre's only female comedy host. Michaels, meanwhile, is the veritable king of late night as the boss of SNL, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Late Night with Seth Myers.

Meanwhile, the film world has caught on to Quebec wunderkind and Cannes darling Xavier Dolan, while the stealth ascendancy of Denis Villeneuve as sci-fi's newest visionary is whipping cinephiles into a frenzy over his upcoming takes on Blade Runner and Dune.

Director Xavier Dolan speaks during a news conference in Montreal, Friday, September 23, 2016, where his film It's Only the End of the World was selected to represent Canada as a possible nominee in the Best Foreign Film category at the 89th Academy Awards. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

Hollywood's biggest stars include nice guys Ryan Reynolds, Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, and Christopher Plummer; and television just wouldn't be the same without Michael J. Fox, William Shatner, Jason Priestley, and Kiefer Sutherland.

Drake, The Weeknd, Alessia Cara, Shawn Mendes and Justin Bieber are dominating music charts and streaming services, while Toronto-bred YouTube star Lilly Singh is leading a revolution of video creators storming a whole new industry driven by social media.

Canadian singer, Aubrey Drake Graham who is better known by the name Drake, performs on the main stage at Wireless festival in Finsbury Park, London, Friday, July 3, 2015. (Photo by Joel Ryan/Invision/AP)

If Canadians have a knack for breaking through in Hollywood, Breslin suggests it's due to a well-earned reputation for hard work and an easy-going demeanour, as well as a distinctive point of view.

"We're among them but we're not of them. And I think that's an important distinction to make. And that is something that really works to Canadians' advantage."

After years of absorbing U.S. pop culture and melding it with our British roots, we seem to have perfected the art of revealing the very essence of America right back at it, says former SNL star Mike Myers, whose myriad oddball characters and catchphrases have wormed their way into so many aspects of U.S. entertainment.

This photo provided by courtesy of Candy Factory Films shows, Mike Myers, in a scene from the 2015 documentary film, Being Canadian, directed by Robert Cohen and produced by The Sibs. (Candy Factory Films via AP)

"While we may not, as a culture, have a distinct cultural cuisine, if you will, we're made up of fantastic ingredients," says the Austin Powers, Wayne's World and Shrek star.

"So we didn't invent folk music, but Joni Mitchell may have perfected it. And we didn't invent rock music but (we had) Neil Young and The Band. It just goes on and on. It's a great place to be an artist."