At first glance you would swear that the Grammy-nominated musician with a quirky country music album is none other than the Minion of Gozer.
Most anyone alive in the 1980s remembers Rick Moranis from that strange yet iconic role in "Ghostbusters" -- or perhaps from his turn as the phallic, yet fun Dark Helmut from "Spaceballs." Or, if you are the type who likes Molson and hockey, you know him best as one half of the Bob and Doug McKenzie duo made famous on SCTV.
However anyone envisions Rick Moranis, chances are they do not envision him singing country music. Until now. Moranis is the singer-songwriter on a new Grammy-nominated album titled "The Agoraphobic Cowboy."
"The music is pretty simple: It's, you know, it's country music," Moranis says, seated comfortably in a ramshackle recording studio in a friend's apartment in Brooklyn. "There's a couple of melodies that are OK, I guess."
But how did this happen? How did Moranis come to country. Has he always longed to be a cowboy?
"No, I'm not a cowboy," swears Moranis before relenting a bit. "Actually no. You know something? You should ask some of my friends whether I'm a cowboy. That's not a question for me. That's a question for, I think, some of the women I've dated."
There actually is a more serious answer. Moranis explains he more or less retired from filmmaking a decade ago.
I had pulled out of filmmaking and television years ago, just to take a break from it. I had little kids, and I was a single parent, and I got tired of hotels and airports," he says, "so it was time to go home and spend some time at home. and then I discovered that I didn't miss what I had been doing. So I stopped."
Moranis's wife had passed away. But even while he raised his two kids, he kept writing -- mostly columns and op-eds for The New York Times and other papers. But when his kids, now teens, started listening to country music, his writing turned country. All of a sudden, he had a handful of songs on paper.
Friends suggested that Rick seek professional help. He turned to Tony Scherr, a professional musician and producer who has worked with Willie Nelson and Norah Jones.
Did this semi-bohemian musician think it was weird when the "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" guy said, "I want to come play country music with you?"
"Not at all," says the very earnest Scherr. "I thought if he's into it, that it would be fun to watch somebody do something they've never done before. Because he's always been in character, you know. This is a new thing: He's being himself, singing songs that he wrote and that's a very vulnerable thing."
So in Tony's non-digital recording studio, which is his living room in his "lived-in" Brooklyn apartment, Moranis and Scherr went to work. Somehow, they managed to bang out "The Agoraphobic Cowboy" -- which, to misquote Donny and Marie Osmond, is "a little bit country" and a "little bit comedy."
One of the catchiest songs is titled, "Nine More Gallons." It has smooth, twangy music, and lyrics that, well … leave you chuckling:
I work all day
To pay the rent.
Before the money's earned,
It's all been allocated.
I got nothing on my plate,
But I wish that I were fat.
Nine more gallons,
And I'll have me a hat.
Another song is a kind of love ballad/stalking anthem titled, "Press # if you Love Me."
Despite the clearly comic themes, Moranis swears he is not making fun of country music.