SOC: John Candy

Starting immediately, the weblog will feature a new weekly post, the Spotlight on Canada, or “SOC.” Why a Spotlight on Canada? Because, as almost everyone I know knows, Canada is funny. It’s funny just because. Anyway, this week’s honor goes to the late John Candy, comedian extraordinaire. I will focus on just one entry in the vast repetiore of Candy’s work, Uncle Buck.

Uncle Buck is a fantastic illustration of John Candy’s talent. While clearly a comedy, and a hysterical comedy at that, it’s also got a rich emotional drama beneath it. While this is mostly a credit to the writers, Mr. Candy’s is masterful. Candy portrays the eternally irresponsible black sheep Buck, an estranged gambling, blue-collar low-life. When asked to watch his nieces and nephew (all masterfully played by Jean Louisa Kelly, Gaby Hoffmann and Macaulay Culkin), Buck must learn not only to forge a relationship with them, but to become a responsible adult in the process. All this is done over the backdrop of Buck’s fizzling relationship with his 8 year girlfriend Chanice. Candy is a believable scumbag – there are major laughs at times, like when he packs up the kids in their winter coats for a field trip to the dog track or when Buck shows niece Tia’s boyfriend Bug his hatchet. His emotional journey, though not in your face, is convincing.

Candy starred in a number of films now considered stape comedy classics, such as Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Who’s Harry Crumb?, Stripes, and Vacation. He got around in Hollywood, appearing in Splash with Tom Hanks, Home Alone as the Polka King, and even a cameo in the Ghostbusters video.

Few people know that John Candy refused a number of offers to join the cast of Saturday Night Live. A true Canadian, Candy felt as though refusing the offers showed his loyalty to SCTV, the Second City comedy troupe of Canada. Candy was a co-owner of the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League, and was part of the group Northern Lights who sang the song “Tears Are Not Enough” which was on the USA for Africa “We Are The World” album. Though Candy’s work is primarily comedy, but his brief appearance in the movie JFK as Dean Andrews proves his range.

Had he not succumbed to a heart attack in March of 1994 while filming Wagons East, who knows what sort of transformations we might have seen? Perhaps he would have followed in the footsteps of men like Robin Williams and pursued more meaningful drama, perhaps he would’ve matured into an immortal comedian in his lifetime. It’s truly a shame we lost a man like Candy.

Big ups to Canada for John Candy.