Here are some SCTV clips, courtesy YouTube.

Especially in the later period of the show’s history, SCTV‘s parody was often so richly layered and skillfully sustained it bordered on surreal, like an alternate reality that unknowingly but perfectly constitutes a mocking reflection of our world. But from the earliest shows, it perfectly nailed its target: TV itself, in all its insufferable inanity.

And this was in the days before the ubiquitous presence of high-grade hydroponic cannabis strains (the silver lining of prohibition), requiring late night TV comedy to be extra hilarious. SCTV rose to the occasion with unparalleled consistency.

In fact, when it comes to television sketch comedy, only Monty Python’s Flying Circus can rival SCTV. Saturday Night Live never really came close, even in their classic early years, and despite the many Canadians on both sides of the camera at SNL during its prime.

SCTV was produced in Toronto & Edmonton, as Canadian as maple syrup, inscrutably arcane liquor laws, and child-molesting cultural genocide. The only other remote contenders in the realm of sketch comedy TV since SCTV have also been Canadian, namely Kids in the Hall (2nd thru 4th season) and Codco, the latter actually outdoing SCTV in taking comedy to truly surreal and bizarre places, and though not quite so funnily, still pretty damn amusing.

SCTV was the leading light of an epoch of televisual sketch comedy brilliance that stands as the one unquestionable triumph of late 20th-century Anglo Canadian culture, almost making up for the decades of unwatchable feature films produced by every province other than Quebec.

The videos below barely scratch the surface and are not meant to be a best-of collection, but are a more or less random sampling drawn from the bounty of SCTV gold that digital samaritans have provided for the betterment of humanity on YouTube and other video websites, a rich abundance that we can savor as never before, and perhaps as never again should the hungry ghosts of corporate greed succeed in killing net neutrality and accomplish such other steps necessary to prevent the unthinkable horror of people enjoying something for free that they could instead be made to pay for.

So fill those gargantuan hard drives and write to DVD these treasures while ye may, and flood the government with letters and petitions to maintain the open and free flow of information and our cultural heritage online.

But first, behold comic genius and be merry.

Babe Ruth

The depth of talent in the show was staggering. John Candy alone could have sustained a thoroughly worthwhile weekly comedy half-hour. Then add (in no particular order) Eugene Levy, Martin Short, Dave Thomas, Rick Moranis, Andrea Martin, Joe Flaherty, Catherine O’Hara, and Harold Ramis, and you’ve got an assemblage of comic acting and writing power that again can only be rivalled by Monty Python, and perhaps the Firesign Theatre audio comedy quartet.

Thursday Night Live

Almost painfully accurate skewering of Saturday Night Live. Like shooting fish in a barrel – except I’ve heard that’s actually pretty difficult.

Battle of the PBS Stars

Perry Comatose

Benny Hill Street Blues

For those fortunate enough to have never seen The Benny Hill Show, let me assure you — it really was that retarded, and this parody is if anything too kind. The other reference is to the then-popular police TV series Hill Street Blues.

Dusty Townes Sexy Holiday Special

Like I said, surreal. And if you don’t know who Divine was, get thee to Wikipedia.

A True Canadian Christmas

Note the stubby beer bottles, for decades the universal vessel of Canadian brewcraft at its peak of perfection, when every brand not only came in identical bottles, but also tasted exactly the same, namely almost but not quite as bad as American beer, and with more alcohol. But then this state of Edenic purity was sullied by such newfangled flim-flammery as beer in cans, in long-necked bottles, beer from other provinces, and then even from other countries, and the final insult — beer in different styles, colours, and most shocking, flavours. Today’s sophisticated tippler of micro- and imported brew may sneer, but consider the one saving grace of those days of Wonderbread blandness in a bottle — even after adjusting for inflation, it was unimaginably cheap.

The Gerry Todd Show

This pre-MTV parody of primeval music videos and the concept of the “VJ” conveys a sober historical truth: music videos never had a golden age — they’ve always been crap, with rare exceptions. And then as now, the rare exceptions are almost never shown, while crud is played endlessly. See comments on net neutrality and corporate media control above, and consider — if they have their way, the whole internet will suck as badly as commercial TV and radio has for decades.

Night School Hi-Q

Catherine O’Hara as buzzer-happy Margaret is incredible in this venerated classic sketch, displaying here as elsewhere so natural and profound a comedic intelligence that, as with the seemingly effortless perfection of Fred Astaire’s dancing or Louis Armstrong’s singing, it can escape casual notice. By the way, the mysterious fellow playing Gijs, I have just learned is one John McAndrew, a writer for the show who appeared in some skits occasionally. This knowledge was provided by mawsterx, the YouTube member who kindly posted this particular video clip. All hail mawsterx!

Stairways to Heaven

Dead-on musical parody and spoof of K-Tel ads, and so deeply referential and historically specific that anyone not at least out of Kindergarten by 1979 may find it similar to appreciating the subtler points of humour in a Shakespearian comedy, with many long hours of arduous study required to finally reap the harvest of wry chuckles held within.