Yes, Rush is an influential band. That’s obvious. But what’s special is just how far their influence spread, sprawling beyond music and into the realms of film, TV, comics, books, and video games. Creators like Jack Black, Jason Segel, Trey Parker, Matt Stone, and Kevin J. Anderson referenced—and often collaborated with—the band repeatedly in their work, yet, thanks to the clear reverence they hold for Rush, it’s rare that anybody makes the same joke. The references feel like paeans, a signal to other fans that, no, they get it. They know what makes Rush special, and it lies not only in the band as a unit, but also in the individual members. Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neil Peart are named, celebrated, and lampooned (lovingly) as much as the band itself. And Peart, who died today at the age of 67, was perhaps name-dropped the most.
This isn’t a comprehensive list of every time Neil Peart surfaced in pop culture; if it were, this piece would collapse beneath its own weight. Instead, as a means of celebrating one of the best drummers of all time, we decided to share a few of our favorites.
First, though, it’s worth it to revisit Peart’s reaction to the band’s first branch into the broader world of pop culture. In 1977, Marvel’s Defenders #45 both drew upon the themes of 2112 while also being dedicated to the band.
“I read that issue and I enjoyed it,” Peart told Circus later that year. “The Defenders was a pretty cerebral kind of comic. We were knocked out, and it really meant a lot to us. It was like real credibility. That tiny little line in the comic book meant more to us than a whole issue of Rolling Stone or anything else. It really means something to us because that’s a real measure of respect. It’s from another artist, and it’s like the praise of the praiseworthy.”
Segel’s dropped Rush references throughout his entire career, but it all began with his early turn as Freaks And Geeks’ Nick Andopolis, a budding drummer himself. Of course, his own drumming left much to be desired, but his kit was essentially a tribute to Peart, who was known for having a massive array of percussive instruments at his disposal. “Six more pieces and I got a bigger kit than Neil Peart from Rush,” Nick gushes in the show’s pilot.
Later in the season, Nick gets into it with the father of his crush, who declares that “Peart couldn’t drum his way out of a paper bag.” Harsh.
The surprisingly great 2009 comedy I Love You, Man—another Segel vehicle—directly worked the band into the plot, with the central bromance between Paul Rudd and Segel’s characters crystallizing over their shared love of the Rush.
Sure, it’s the “slappah-the-bass” bit that perseveres, but Peart gets plenty of love, too. He even appeared in a Funny Or Die sketch alongside the band with Segel and Rudd. “Seven females at a Rush concert,” he muses. “That must be some kind of record.”
“I remember buying their cassettes, tearing home on my BMX, running inside and throwing them into my Walkman, and sitting down to my drum set and just destroying my mom’s afternoon,” South Park co-creator Matt Stone, an avowed Peart fan, told the Ottawa Citizen in 2012. “Rush was definitely the first band I ever loved.”
Stone’s love was evident on the animated series, and the band’s feelings were mutual. They were game to lampoon themselves, too, farting through a rendition of “Candle In The Wind” in the season 15 episode “Royal Pudding.”
Stone and Parker also created a short animation, “Lil’ Rush,” that played before the band’s performances on their 2007 Snakes & Arrows Tour.
Rush was all over MST3K, and Peart specifically gets shouted out in multiple episodes. Tom Servo, specifically, loved to call out “Neil Peart on drums” when appropriate.
“I think it should be mentioned that one of the high points of Geddy’s career, and Neil’s career,” Lifeson said in a 1994 interview, “was the fact that they’ve both have been mentioned on Mystery Science Theater and I haven’t because I’m a bum.”
Adult Swim’s earliest creators, due in no small part to their penchant for trippy drugs, all seemed to be massive Rush fans, so it’s no surprise that the band was frequently mentioned on shows like Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Squidbillies. The love culminated when Peart played a very tiny version of himself in 2007's Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters.
We’d be remiss not to mention this particularly good Frisky Dingo nod.
And, at the risk of exhausting ourselves, here’s a quick cut of all the Rush drops in FX’s excellent Archer. “Neil Peart stands alone,” indeed.
Again, we are well aware that this is merely scratching the surface of Peart’s pop culture cameos. What are your favorites?