Tegan and Sara, Murray McLauchlan, ‘SCTV’ producer to receive arts awards

OTTAWA — Twin pop duo Tegan and Sara, singer-songwriter Murray McLauchlan, and one of the creators of “SCTV” are among the recipients of Canada’s most prestigious performing arts awards.

The Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards Foundation is announcing this year’s class today in Ottawa.

Songwriters and activists Tegan and Sara are getting the National Arts Centre Award for their musical success as well as their advocacy work for equality, gender justice, and progressive social change.

Meanwhile, McLauchlan and “SCTV” producer Andrew Alexander, who is also CEO of The Second City theatre company, are in line for a lifetime artistic achievement award, along with veteran Quebec actress Genevieve Bujold, National Arts Centre president Peter Herrndorf, concert pianist Angela Hewitt, and dancer and choreographer Ginette Laurin.

A voluntarism award is going to arts champion Florence Junca Adenot.

The laureates will be honoured at three events in Ottawa, culminating in a gala at the National Arts Centre on June 2.

Alexander joins “SCTV” stars Eugene Levy and Martin Short as a recipient of the award, presented annually to Canadians “whose accomplishments have inspired and enriched the cultural life of our country.”

“I was a little dumbfounded when I got the call, thinking ‘Are you sure you got the right Andrew Alexander?’” Alexander says from Chicago, where he runs the storied comedy theatre.

“It’s a phenomenal acknowledgment for a kid from Brampton, which is just outside Toronto. It’s pretty cool.”

Alexander opened Second City’s northern chapter in 1974 after borrowing $7,000 to buy the Canadian rights.

He would stack it with performers pulled from Second City Chicago and elsewhere: Eugene Levy, Gilda Radner, John Candy, Joe Flaherty, Andrea Martin and Dan Aykroyd, among them.

A young Catherine O’Hara worked coat check, he notes.

A year later, Toronto’s Lorne Michaels debuted his seminal sketch comedy series “Saturday Night” on NBC (later named “Saturday Night Live”), and Alexander scrambled to pull together his own show, “SCTV.”

“I thought, ‘Oh my God,’ ABC or CBS is going to invent a show like ‘Saturday Night Live’ and steal my cast,” he recalls. “It was a defensive move.”

“SCTV” would launch even more comedy superstars, including Short, Dave Thomas, and Rick Moranis.

“There was definitely a golden age,” Alexander says of the time.

“You always get asked that question: ‘Why?’ I can’t give you a good scientific answer why, it just was a special time.”

But the influence of “SCTV” can still be felt.

“You talk to Judd Apatow, or any of the famous film directors, Jay Roach, Seth Rogen, Steve Carell — all these people were influenced by ‘SCTV’ and it’s pretty extraordinary.”

He laments that the series is not available on television today because he never secured rights to music on the show.

“We used a lot of music and just thought, ‘Oh, this is a nice song, it’s the Beatles, let’s just use it,’” he notes.

“At the time when we did it, music sync rights weren’t even an issue. And then 20 years later it became a very expensive proposition.”

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