Looking back at one's early childhood, you can readily point to a nucleus of events or moments in pop culture which left a permanent mental imprint. So strong that, in your formative years, these become a frame of reference for everything that comes after.
Personally, I have a pretty short list of things that shaped how I viewed the world, almost all of which are movies that I had memorized or worn the VHS out from abusive over-viewing.
Even before starting school, I could quote every line of The Empire Strikes Back, Short Circuit, and, for some reason, 120 Days of Sodom. But one of the most powerful and lasting impressions on my yong, malleable brain was an audio casette in our house with some unassuming black and white text printed on the insert: This Cassette is Extremely Unfriendly.
Most Canadians know exactly what you're talking about when you mention the beloved CBC kid's show, The Friendly Giant. They think of Bob Homme, the white haired, kindly giant who encouraged you to look up, waaaay up, as he stood proudly astride the cardboard village.
After letting the draw bridge down to the old tune Early One Morning, we'd hang out with Jerome the Giraffe and Rusty the Chicken, the Giant's faithful friends who would sing and dance and talk about all sorts of Mr. Rogers-esque kinda stuff.
Chillin' with Rusty the homeless chicken and the world's ugliest giraffe puppet.
The show ran from 1958 to 1985 so odds are if you know a Canadian, ask them to sing the theme and they'll be all like "oh for sure, eh" in a thick, Fubaraccent.
I myself have virtually no recollection of ever seeing the show since it went off the air just before I popped out. I was stuck with all the crappy substitutes that came after like Mr. Dressup, and goddamn Fred Penner's Place.
Crawl back into that fuckin' log you came out of and die, Fred.
What I do have as a cherished and important childhood memory is The UNfriendly Giant, a radio bit from Toronto in the late 80's and early 90's produced by a man who was a giant in his own right, Tom Rivers.
Tom worked at CHUM radio on Toronto's CFTR AM station for many years and is regarded as one of the forerunners of contemporary shock jocks like Opie & Anthony and Howard Stern. Tom was the kinda a guy who lived to mess with people and one of the staples of his morning show was an acerbic satire of Bob Homme's beloved children's show.
In Tom's version however, the Giant was a cynical, abusive jerk who constantly found ways to brow beat the hapless Jerome (usually punching him out the window), and cook, broil or otherwise fry Rusty the nails-on-a-chalk-board voiced Chicken. In a world before South Park and Family Guy, this was the stuff of radio comedy gold.
Because the show usually ran live as part of the morning AM drive, not many recordings exist. A copy of the show found its way into our home in the early 90's when our local radio station was selling all sorts of cassettes as part of some charity fund-raiser.
Somebody somewhere has 'em too, and animated this to go with it, amazing!
We must have listened to it a thousand-million times, so much so that my Dad and I would drive the rest of the family nuts reciting entire episodes back and forth, in what was, for me, an introduction to using voices and comedic timing to get laughs. It was no exaggeration that for years, if you would have cracked open my skull, every episode of the The Unfriendly Giant would have spilled out - at least until I got a little older and discovered George Carlin.
After, what our family dubbed the Great House Fire of 2005, the only cassette copy we had, or knew anybody had, was lost and it seemed that The Unfriendly Giant was just a memory.
That was until, after six years of scouring every dark and sketchy back alley of the internet, I came across both sides of the tape uploaded on youtube. So like a Hutu swinging a machete, I chopped the recordings up into the various episodes and whipped up an album. It made a lovely x-mas gift for the family (and a cheap one too during this recession, grumble grumble, price of gas, grumble).
So here I offer the only known recordings of The Unfriendly Giant, pure unadulterated Canadian (but not in a make-you-cringe, Corner Gas kinda way) comedy as only a post Mulroney-Reagan hangover could deliver:
Click to Download THE UNFRIENDLY GIANT
Now, since I'm offering this entirely for free, neither soliciting funds, nor profiting from someone else's work, I think I should be safe. And it's not the guy with the radio show I'm worried about, it's the family of the late Bob Homme, who was the original Friendly Giant. Apparently his family got reeeaaaallly pissed over a harmless sketch from the 2007 Gemini Awards (like the Emmy's/Golden Globes only Canadian, so you've never heard of the shows nor recognize the "celebrities").
Honestly, this pissed you off enough to take your puppets and go home?
So in case I get run down in the street by spiteful heirs of CBC children's entertainers, or worse, end up like Megaupload (ironically, I first posted the album on there and the next day shit went down) and have to hide in my own fortress of solitude, I encourage you to download the zip of all 26 tracks and just giv'r by re-posting and copying and burning em.
Especially since in recent years Canadian comedy, that is, comedy made in Canada with Canadian money for small Canadian audiences, has consisted of toothless, mind-numbingly diluted tripe.
Enjoy responsibly all you rugrats and ankle-biters...