Rocking From 'Freaks and Geeks' to 'Family Guy': 8 Times Rush Impacted Pop Culture

Fin Costello/Redferns
Alex Lifeson, Neil Peart and Geddy Lee of Rush posed for a portrait in 1978. 

Rush isn’t for everyone -- but some of your favorite characters on screen, on the page and elsewhere disagree.

Led by the precision pummeling of drummer Neil Peart, who died on Tuesday (Jan. 7) at age 67, the Canadian prog-rock kingpins married brainy lyrics with virtuosic hard-rock musicianship that was too intense for pop radio. But people who dig Rush tend to be fanatics, and their fans include many creative types who’ve dropped references to the band in their movies, TV shows, novels, and more. (A Rush fan site has compiled a master list of all such references.)   

Here are eight times that Rush's high-concept fantasy songs -- and Peart's epic eight-minute drums solos -- left an impact on pop culture.  

 

Freaks and Geeks

The woefully short-lived teen comedy-drama Freaks and Geeks made numerous mentions of Rush over the course of its one and only season, which ran from 1999 to 2000. The character of Nick, played by Jason Segel, is one of the “freaks,” and his Rush fandom is such that he assembles a mammoth drum kit in his garage. In episode 1, Nick tries to impress classmate Lindsay Weir by bragging, “Six more pieces and I’ve got a bigger kit than Neil Peart of Rush.” In another episode, Lindsay’s dad has the audacity to diss Peart’s playing.

I Love You, Man

Jason Segel also appears in I Love You, Man, a 2009 comedy about two men who bond over their love of Rush. Segel is a real-life Rush head, as are co-star Paul Rudd and director John Hamburg, who wrote the band into the script. In one of the film’s funniest scenes, Segel and Rudd nerd-out at a Rush concert while Rudd’s fiancée, played by Rashida Jones, wonders what in the heck she’s gotten herself into. During the closing credits, Segel and Rudd join the wedding band onstage for a ripping performance of “Limelight.”

How I Met Your Mother

Amazingly, Jason Segel has yet another connection to Rush. (He’s practically the band’s fourth member.) In a 2013 episode of his sitcom How I Met Your Mother, Rush bassist and singer Geddy Lee is among the Canadian celebrities who turns up in a Behind the Music-style show called Underneath the Tunes. The HIMYM character Robin used to be a Canadian teen idol known as Robin Sparkles, and Geddy waxes nostalgic about her sudden transformation into a grunge singer. He even remembers what Tim Horton restaurant he was in, and what kind of donut he was eating, when he got the news: “Halifax, Nova Scotia. Walnut Crunch.”

Ready Player One

The 2011 sci-fi novel Ready Player One by Ernest Cline takes place largely inside a virtual reality game designed by one James Halliday, an eccentric computer genius who, naturally, loved Rush. In one passage, the book’s narrator, Wade Watts, elaborates on the late Halliday’s Rush fixation:

Rush had been Halliday's favorite band, from his teens onward. He'd once revealed in an interview that he'd coded every single one of his videogames (including the OASIS) while listening exclusively to Rush albums. He often referred to Rush's three members -- Neil Peart, Alex Lifeson, and Geddy Lee -- as 'the Holy Trinity' or 'the Gods of the North.' In my grail diary, I had every single Rush song, album, bootleg, and music video ever made. I had high-res scans of all their liner notes and album artwork. Every frame of Rush concert footage in existence. Every radio and television interview the band had ever done. Unabridged biographies on each band member, along with copies of their side projects and solo work.

Gilmore Girls

Rush isn’t just for dudes. In a 2002 episode of Gilmore Girls, Rory’s friend Lane comes across a beautiful red drum set and decides music is her destiny. “I have found my calling,” a breathless Lane tells Rory. “I’m talking about my future, my path, my destiny, my thing, my scene, my bag. I’m talking about the number-one item on my cosmic to-do list. I’m gonna be a drummer ... I am Keith Moon. I am Neil Peart. I am Rick Allen, with and without the arm, because I am rock ‘n’ roll, baby!"

Five years later, Geddy Lee and his daughter Kyla made a quick non-acting cameo in the final scene of the episode "Will You Be My Lorelai, Gilmore?"

That ‘70s Show

In the 2001 “Canadian Road Trip” episode of That ‘70s Show, our heroes get busted by Mounties for smuggling beer across the border. Asked what he and his friends are doing in Canada, Eric (Topher Grace) tries to save his hide by name-checking the nation’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll export: "We just came here to get the beer...and I love Rush. ‘Fly By Night’! Owww!"

School of Rock

Part of being a good educator is inspiring your students. In the 2003 comedy School of Rock, Jack Black plays a substitute teacher who gets his kids to form a rock band. In one scene, he hands out homework CDs to each member of the group. Black gives the keyboard player a Yes album, while the lead guitarist gets Jimi Hendrix’s Axis: Bold as Love. For the drummer, it’s Rush’s 1976 opus 2112, a masterclass in Peart-ian percussion.

Family Guy

Much of the humor on the Fox animated series Family Guy comes in the form of flashbacks. In the 2018 episode “Regarding Carter,” Brian the dog reminisces about the time Peter was “the only one not wearing black jeans at a Rush concert.” We then see Peter at said Rush show, sporting a pair of khakis, much to the chagrin of Geddy Lee. (Note: It’s not really Lee’s voice in the episode.) “Beat him! Beat him in 6/8 time!” Lee says. “And don't let him escape to the completely unoccupied ladies' room!”

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