It was the year 2000. We had survived Y2K, the Spice Girls released the Ginger-free album Forever, and a man named “Joe” was just becoming a national treasure. Joe (played by Jeff Douglas), you’ll remember, was the man in Molson Canadian’s “The Rant” TV commercial. And 15 years later, we caught up with the man who’s not a lumberjack or a fur trader, who doesn’t live in an igloo and who doesn’t know Jimmy or Suzie from Canada.
Here’s what he looks like now:
And here’s what he’s been up to, how he feels about being Joe and why you will never forget him:
So, the Joe Canadian commercial was such a big deal for so many people. It spoke to the stereotypes about Canada so perfectly, and everyone knew it even if they didn’t drink Canadian. Did you get the impression that this was going to be as big as it actually got?
“When we were filming the shoot, I had no inkling. I thought it was a good spot… Glen Hunt had written a fun script and I liked the Patton-esque feeling, but I didn’t know how it would be received. Although, about five hours into the shoot day, the then VP of marketing, Brett Marchand, did say to me rather gleefully, ‘We’re gonna ruin your life.’ But I think, when it went totally apeshit, we all were surprised.”
How much Canadian do you drink/did you drink? Did they give you a lifetime supply as part of your payment? Are you sick of it now?
“I drank an awful lot of Canadian at that time. An awful lot. If it’s an option when I’m out, I’ll still go to a Molson product. There’s a lot of water under the bridge, and I still have a lot of friends at Molson… As a company, they were really good to my wife and I back in those days.”
Outside of Kokanee (“the beer out here!”) and Budweiser (*ribbit*), beer commercials rarely have any staying power outside the realm of formulaic “babes and brews” storyboards. And yet, you basically became the poster
child man for Canada for quite a while. So, my question is, did being Joe Canada pay well?
“As I said, they were really good to my wife and I. It also opened doors and gave me some unforgettable experiences.”
Why were you selected? What do you think made you quintessentially Canadian?
“In the audition, I added the ‘Thank you’ at the end of the speech. I think that was one thing that worked in my favour. The executive producer for the spot, Lori Estabrooks, also said they liked my wicked hockey hair.”
After the whole Joe Canada thing, what happened next? Were you working steadily in film and television, or did you have to navigate other ways of making a living? Was Canada kind to Joe Canada?
“Canada has been very kind to Joe. At the time I shot the spot, I was in the middle of shooting The Famous Jett Jackson series for Disney. I’ve gone on to have regular roles in three other dramatic series (Strange Days at Blake Holsey High, Mudpit, Open Heart) and a fair amount of guest work. I’ve hosted three programs for History Television and a couple for NatGeo in the UK. That was great; it gave me a chance to see a lot of the world. Currently I’m co-hosting As It Happens on CBC Radio1.”
Is there a Mrs. Joe Canadian? And Joe Canadian Jr.?
“There is a Mrs. Joe. No Joe Jr.”
Do you still get recognized for it? Are you over the jokes?
“At the time, I didn’t get recognized for it. People would recognize the shirt, but not me. Oddly, it’s happened more in the past year than it ever did before. No one jokes about Joe.”
Can you still recite the entire speech? Do you get asked to do that at parties?
“I can do it in my sleep.”
What are some of the highlights of your life post-Canadian?
“Working at the public broadcaster has been a real honour for me. I grew up listening to CBC radio. It’s is the most quintessentially Canadian thing I know. To be on those airwaves now—regardless of whatever bullshit may be happening—I’m very proud of that. Location-shooting for History Television and National Geographic was also pretty damn terrific. Got to see some awesome places and meet fantastic people.”
Has there ever been any talk of bringing him back?
“Bringing him back? Dude, he never left.”