All through the weekend, tributes and memorials poured in for Rush drummer Neil Peart, who died last week of cancer at 67. The band’s progressive and distinctive yet ever-changing sound made a lasting impact on music fans during their 40-plus-year career, and it also affected pop culture, by tapping the minds of creative types who went on to reference the band in countless films, TV shows, novels, comics and more. The list of Rush name-drops runs the gamut from “SCTV” and “Gilmore Girls” to films like “High Fidelity,” “School of Rock” and Rob Zombie’s 2007 “Halloween” remake, which used “Tom Sawyer” in a climactic scene. There are plenty more — and true to their self-deprecating senses of humor — the members of Rush have never had any problem making fun of themselves — the band often played along. Below five of the best and funniest times Rush made an indelible mark on pop culture.
1. South Park
“South Park” co-creator Matt Stone is a huge fan of the power trio — he told the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, “Rush was the first band I ever loved” — so it’s no surprise that there are multiple Rush references across South Park’s 23 seasons. In the hilarious 2011 “Royal Pudding” episode, Rush is tapped to perform at a vigil after the princess of Canada was abducted before her wedding. The group is shown on stage playing a mock version of Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind,” sung as “Flower Breaking Wind,” which results in guitarist Alex Lifeson and some members of the audience committing suicide.
The band also featured South Park characters in a video they showed live before they played “Tom Sawyer” during their last few tours.
In 1999, Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson teamed up with Trey Parker and Matt Stone to record a rocking version of “O’ Canada” for the film “South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut.”
2. Family Guy
The writers at “Family Guy” tapped Rush and their rabid fanbase for quite a few jokes over the years. From a cheetah snorting Cheetos dust and exclaiming that “God, there is no better f—ing drummer in the world than Neil Peart” to multiple “Tom Sawyer” jokes, the show highlighted the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers many times. The funniest moment is when “Brian” the dog, is explaining a tough situation saying, “It’s a disaster, like the time Peter was the only person not wearing black jeans to a Rush concert.” The flashback scene cuts to “Peter” standing in a crowd at a Rush show. Peter says, “Play Tom Sawyer.” A voice portraying Geddy Lee exclaims, “We’ve already did, and what are you wearing?” “Peter” says, “What? These are my concert khakis.” Lee responds, “Beat him, beat him in 6/8 time and don’t let him escape to the completely unoccupied ladies room.”
In the 2009 film “Fanboys,” the Hutch character, played by Dan Fogler, leads a group of guys who take a road trip to George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch so their dying friend can see “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace” before its release. When they hop in “Hutch’s” van to begin their journey, the band’s 1981 track “Limelight” plays as one of the guys looks through a collection of cassette tapes, all of which are labeled Rush. When asked for some variety in his music, Hutch fires back “Rush is variety!” and defends his obsession, saying that “Rule number one in my van: It’s Rush all the time! No exceptions!”
4. Trailer Park Boys
In a 2003 episode of “Trailer Park Boys,” aptly titled “Closer to the Heart” after the band’s 1977 song, the Ricky character kidnaps guitarist Alex Lifeson after being ripped off when trying to buy Rush tickets. Robb Wells’ character acts as Lifeson’s guitar tech in an effort to get a key to his hotel room — the number of which is, of course, “2112” — and forces him to the trailer park to perform for his crew. After Lifeson is freed, he gives “Bubbles” a guitar lesson, and they play “Closer to the Heart” to end the episode.
5. I Love You, Man
Jason Segal has never hidden his fanaticism for Rush. Starting with “Freaks and Geeks,” where his character is obsessed with having a drum set larger than Neil Peart’s, he also drums along with “The Spirit of Radio,” and gets a life lesson from his step-father played by SCTV alum Joe Flaherty, who notably did a video intro for “The Weapon” on the 1984 “Grace Under Pressure” tour. However, it was his 2009 film “I Love You Man,” where the band became the central focus of the film and his character’s bromance with Paul Rudd.
The film made such an impact that Rudd and Segal reprised their characters and teamed up with Rush to shoot a “Funny or Die” skit a few years later.