by Corey Hall
Two Kids One Hall
The late ‘80s and early ‘90s were boom times for TV sketch comedy, producing such classic giggle ensembles as the Ben Stiller Show, The State, and Mr. Show; but few proved as enduring and beloved as The Kids in the Hall. A tight, five-man unit forged in the boiling comedy furnace of Toronto, they were discovered by SNL honco and fellow Canuck Lorne Michaels, who served as executive producer their groundbreaking series across a number of networks over their near decade long broadcast run. The Kids melded the inspired silliness of Monty Python, with the more direct approach of live improv theater, creating an edgy, heady stew of drag, crudeness, absurdist flourishes and sharply written pieces. Though truly a team effort, there were some standouts: including Scott Thompson, a proudly, openly gay comedian, at a time when the closet doors were just starting to creak open in Hollywood. Thompson’s outrageous, flamboyant nightclub owner character Buddy Cole become something of a cult icon, and blazed a trail that’s still being explored. The show ended in 1994, but the team never officially disbanded, producing the feature film Brain Candy and popping up here and there in eachother’s various projects. There was a live, full troupe reunion tour in 2008, and an original mini series “Death Comes to Town” aired on CBC and IFC in 2010.
The never ending Kids in the Hall after party continues this
week at the Magic Bag in Ferndale, when two members; Thompson and his equally talented cast mate Kevin McDonald bring their unique brand of comedic hijinx together in a stand up spectacular. We caught up with the delightful Thompson, the belle of Brampton Ontario, to talk all things funny.
MT: What’s so funny about Brampton Ontario? You Alan Thicke, Michael Cera
Scott Thompson: Russell Peters. It’s a little brother to Toronto, and that’s were comedy comes from. People make fun of Brampton all the time. That’s a great start to having a sense of humor.
MT: Well Toronto and Canada in general is a pretty funny place
ST: Well Canada is a joke, you’re right, worldwide.
MT: It’s a funny place to be
ST: It is true, nobody takes us seriously, but that’s a good place to be; we’re like the busboy of the world.
MT: Well Detroit is only four hours away
ST: Yeah, I know and you kind of live in a glass house. You’re kind of the Canada of the states aren’t you?
MT: We like Hockey. We all watched Mr. Dress Up growing up. Canada is right across the river.
ST: That’s true, and you do have that double cultural thing. You’re like us in that you can balance two cultures at the same time. Canadians all know American culture, and our own. When you live on the border you do develop a passing understanding of Canadian culture. It must be difficult for you.
MT: It is passing. Some things elude us: Celine Dion confuses everyone.
ST: Rita MacNeil? (Ed note: plus sized Canadian country music diva) Did you get Rita?
MT: Yeah, a little bit.
ST: Believe me that’s confusing to everybody.
MT: On the new tour you’re going first; did you flip a coin or thumb wrestle?
ST: It used to be Kevin first, I don’t know why we switched, there was a really good reason that I’ve forgotten. I guess because mine is more traditional stand up and Kevin’s is more anti stand up. So we kind of do it, then take it apart. I guess you should always show the thing you’re going to deconstruct before you deconstruct it.
MT: I was imagining more storytelling, monologues, which you excelled at on the TV show
ST: Not in this show, no. It’s stand up; there’s no characters, no wigs, none of that.
MT: How much stand up have you done?
ST: I’ve had a lot, a lot more than Kevin. I never really was a stand up, but I’ve always dabbled with it. When I moved to the States to do Larry Sanders I started working clubs around L.A, trying things out. I did a Buddy Cole tour I would memorize pieces and do them The audience guides you in a way A monologue for a character it’s not that it’s dead, but it gets to a point where it’s set. With stand up it’s never really set.
MT: Two shows two totally different sets of jokes.
ST: Oh yeah that does happen. I keep trying to nail it down, but it alludes me.
MT: Don’t worry, nobody does. Even the top guys struggle with that.
ST: I’ve fallen in love with it the last year. I dabbled and this last year I decided to concentrate on it. Something clicked; it’s easier now.
MT: It’s a totally different muscle group from sketch.
St: It took me over ten years, maybe really thirteen years to develop it. Before I had done solo shows, but it’s not the same thing. Not the same thing. When it’s just you and the microphone it’s very different.
MT: Of all the Kids you seem well suited to solo performance. You’re personality is very bright.
ST: Thank you. I think it’s that I have a lot of opinions. They (the other Kids) all have opinions, but they keep some of them to themselves. I keep none of mine to myself. That is a stand up quality. I think the reason I wasn’t one before is that the world would never have accepted it. The way I am, you know I would have to be honest and talk about my life. Twenty years ago you couldn’t really do that.
MT: It is a different world now.
ST: When I was meeting the Kids in the Hall, this is over twenty years ago, mid to late ‘80s; I did a couple of amateur nights but the experience was just awful. Then when I joined the Kids, that was it. I never looked back. I think if I was a young person today, I probably would do it. You can be an openly gay person and do comedy now.
MT: I think you were a big influence on changing that: With Buddy, and the Lesbian Softball team sketch, and the whole thing
St: I think Buddy for me was in so many ways my stand up voice. Every monologue is almost an op ed piece, and they’re filled with jokes. That’s who he was in the beginning; a way for me to do stand up without doing all that exhausting standing.
MT: In a way Buddy was like a prototype for the Kathy Griffin, Margaret Cho, kind of outrageous, bitchy persona, his campy tone.
ST: I’m honored if you say that. Yeah, I know those gals, I used to perform with them all the time. When I did start doing comedy in the states it was with Kathy, and Margaret Cho and those girls. It’s weird; Stand up is a beautiful thing, that’s all I can say. I love it I really do.
November 18th, Two shows 7 and 10Pm
The Magic Bag