Rick Moranis may seem unfamiliar to some, but for many, he was a comedic genius who gave life to unforgettable characters in the ’80s and ’90s.
You may remember him as the nerdy accountant in Ghostbusters, the mad inventor in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids — or even as the scheming caveman in The Flintstones. Whichever role holds your favorite memory of this comedy legend, they all preceded a tragic event that put his life on a very different path.
This is the story of a rising Hollywood star who left his million-dollar career for something much more important: his family.
First sparks of talent
Frederick Allan ‘Rick’ Moranis, a born-and-raised Canadian, began his career as a somewhat goofy salesman at hockey games. Since selling programs to hockey fans was a slow business, he put his wit to use and occasionally yelled, “Souvenir hot dogs! Get your ice cold programs!”
At home, as a teen in the midst of Beatle-mania, Rick wanted to be a rockstar. He played his guitar and practiced composing his own songs — a talent that would serve him well later in his career.
During high-school, Rick worked as a DJ under the name “Rick Allen” for various radio stations in Toronto. In 1977, he began flashing his humor on CBC’s 90 Minutes Live, a series of irreverent sketches that Rick would write in his spare time.
Three years later, his close friend Dave Thomas convinced him to audition for an upcoming comedy TV show he was putting together. Rick’s hilarity was noticed, and he joined the cast of Second City Television (SCTV), where he quickly became known for his nerdy appearance, musical parodies, and hilarious impressions.
A budding career in comedy
In 1980, SCTV moved to CBC to entertain American audiences. Rick and Dave, the Emmy-winning “comedy geniuses” of SCTV, were tasked with creating “identifiable Canadian content” for the new network. So they devised The Great White North, a sketch featuring a brothers Bob and Doug McKenzie.
As a tongue-in-cheek response to the network’s request, the brothers depicted as many Canadian stereotypes as possible. They dressed in lumberjack shirts, chewed on Canadian bacon, and peppered their sentences with “eh.” Their unique comedic timing and goofball humor was a success in both Canada and the U.S. Ironically, they were later made members of the Order of Canada for their “contribution to Canadian culture.”
Over the next few years, a comedy album cut from the sketch was nominated for a Grammy. In 1983, the pair was asked to reprise their bumbling roles in their very own movie, Strange Brew. It was a box-office hit and reeled in more than double its original budget.
The ball of fame began to roll for Rick Moranis. The following year, he took on the memorable role of an awkward accountant in the original Ghostbusters, for which he also helped write the screenplay. The movie was a multi-million dollar success, earning Rick his golden status as a comedy icon in Hollywood.
At the peak of his fame
Rick’s persona as a ghost-catching nerd set his career on an unstoppable climb. The public loved his comedic talents on screen, and directors scrambled to get him to enliven their screenplays with his humor. Over the next few years, Rick Moranis starred in several iconic films like Spaceballs, Little Shop of Horrors, and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.
Around this time, Rick met a costume designer, Anne, who he singled out as the love of his life. In 1986, the private couple married and went on to have two children — a girl and a boy.
As the years went by, Rick’s career was at its peak. But his movie success was on par with his wife’s deteriorating health. After she was diagnosed with breast cancer, her condition worsened and the cancer spread to her liver. Rick could no longer bear to be away from home to make movies, so he dropped out of his current projects to be with his wife during her last moments.
In 1991, Anne died, leaving Rick behind with a broken heart and the responsibility of raising two young children.
Choosing family over fortune
For a while, Rick attempted to continue his career as a comedy actor. However, he soon found it too difficult to raise his kids and travel to make movies as a single parent. Keeping in touch with them from hotel rooms and airports simply wasn’t cutting it.
He recalled his joyous childhood back in the suburbs of Toronto, where his house was filled with music and welcoming arms. Rick then decided that he wanted to recreate that joy for his own children. So by 1997, he quietly disappeared from the public eye.
At first, he had meant it to be a short break, but years went by and he realized that he didn’t really miss Hollywood. On the other hand, Hollywood was shocked to learn the comedy icon had “thrown away his career” to become a stay-at-home-dad.
But Rick didn’t understand the fuss over his seemingly logical decision. People left their careers all the time for their children. His fame certainly made his particular case stand out, but Rick simply wanted to live in peace, at home, raising his children the right way.
Awaiting his return to the screen
Since his disappearance from Hollywood, Rick Moranis has made a living through writing and voice acting. In 2000, he voiced characters for two animated Disney films, along with various Canadian radio ads.
Between the daily routines of parenthood, Rick sits down with his guitar, as he did during his teenage years, and composes songs. In 2005, he released “The Agoraphobic Cowboy,” which almost earned him yet another Grammy award for Best Comedic Album. He released another well-received album in 2013, “My Mother’s Brisket & Other Love Songs.”
In the summer of 2017, Rick returned to acting for the first time since 1997. He and Dave Thomas reunited as their infamous Canadian brother characters for a benefit concert in Toronto. The proceeds from the concert went to the care of Dave’s nephew, who was left paralyzed from the waist down after a snowboarding accident. Since then, there has been speculation about Rick returning to acting. But for now, it appears he is quite content with fulfilling his role of a father.
Now living in Manhattan with his family, Rick Moranis still gets recognized in the streets of New York. He has no regrets about leaving Hollywood for a quiet life at home with his children.
As is the case with anyone who chooses family over their own personal aspirations, Rick displayed an immense act of selflessness, love, and dedication. In a world where fame and fortune is a priority, it’s important to remember that no matter what, family always comes first.