Rick Moranis did the Nerdist last week. That’s right, Gozer the Traveler’s Key Master, up close and personal. He’s been MIA for some time now. And I’ve missed him, as have countless other children of the ’80s it seems.
Moranis made an indelable impression on millions of young comedy enthusiasts. His turn as Vince Clortho, Sigourney Weaver’s nosy neighbor in Ghostbusters, stands as one of the funniest comedic performances of that decade. Then there were his roles in Strange Brew, Parenthood, Little Shop of Horrors, Spaceballs and let’s not shortchange Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. All classics in their own right.
Sadly, Moranis’s wife died of liver cancer in 1991, and he stopped doing movies several years later. “Well, I took a sabbatical,” he said in an interview with Sound and Vision. “I walked away from shooting movies because I couldn’t handle the travel. I’m a single parent. I had young kids, and I found that keeping in touch with them from hotel rooms and airports wasn’t working for me. So I stopped. And I discovered after a couple years that I really didn’t miss making movies.”
His name has come up on various podcasts through the years, and I wasn’t surprised to hear he’d decided to reemerge on the Nerdist. They can book anybody over there. And it probably couldn’t get more perfect in terms of content alignment. Besides, I don’t see him jiving with Joe Rogan or Adam Carolla.
On episode 368, Jonah and Chris (Matt was in Orlando at Disney) interviewed him as part of a promotional tour for his new bluegrass/folk/country album My Mother’s Brisket. They respectfully avoided discussing Moranis’s wife’s passing, and opted for an in-depth look at his comedy background with SCTV. They talked about some of his parts in the movies I mentioned, but Mr. Moranis is a very even-keeled individual.
Obviously, I wanted him to recount his work with Bill Murray, Steve Martin, and Mel Brooks with childlike giddiness, but he was very matter-of-fact about those days. “I haven’t talked to anybody in years,” he said at one point. And then very objectively explained it was just a fact of life. There are foundational elements in any relationship, a shared experience. And when that element is removed from the relationship, a friendship, though still genuine, loses its urgency.
Despite Chris and Jonah’s palpable excitement, one can’t help but detect an air of sadness surrounding this episode. Moranis is not the characters he made famous. He’s articulate, earnest, kind, and understandably disillusioned with certain aspects of his life. I wouldn’t call him a cynic, but he’s certainly a man of modest means, intimately aware of falling prey to pride, as it typically comes before the proverbial fall.
There was one part of the interview that really stayed with me: There were some microphone issues in the studio they were recording, so the intro and the outro were done on a handheld device without a directional mic. So you hear the audio quality transition. The formal interview ends, and Chris drops his burrito line, then the low fi mic takes over. Moranis seemingly unaware he is still being recorded, reveals he is just as thoughtful and kind on mic as his is off. Made me want to go out an buy his album.
A little classic Moranis to get your day going: