In his latest Netflix special, Sticks and Stones, Dave Chappelle makes jokes about LGBTQ issues, the #MeToo movement, and Michael Jackson’s accusers, sparking outrage. Meanwhile, Buddy Cole, the opinionated gay barfly character created by Scott Thompson from the Kids in the Hall, has been performing scandalous monologues on similar topics for decades and gets away with it.
“You know what?” says Thompson on the phone from his home in Los Angeles, “I’d welcome some negative attention at this point! I keep waiting for people to be outraged by Buddy and they’re not, really. It’s kind of exciting. I’m like, ‘How am I doing this? How is Buddy not getting heat?’ I am being scooped by Dave Chappelle? And it’s not even as funny?! This will not stand.”
Since The Kids in the Hall went off the air in 1995, Buddy has lived on through various KITH tours and Thompson’s own standup. Thompson has continued writing new material for his provocateur and now is taking Buddy on tour with Après le Déluge: The Buddy Cole Monologues, which features 11 outrageous soliloquies going in chronological order from ’95 to the present. The last one is called “Woke Me When It’s Over”, so you get an idea of the hot topics he’s willing to risk joking about.
“It’s a trip through time, through the last 25 years of history,” he says. “Everything changes around him except him. The world is a river and Buddy’s a rock in the middle of it, so things have to go around him. So whenever the river hits him, it causes rapids, but he’s the rock; he doesn’t move.”
It’s a lesson Thompson learned years ago in a class he took at York University: comedic characters generally don’t change. “You would really love to see a character do the same stupid thing over and over and over again because that will generate comedy. But when a character learns, then it’s drama. That’s why Seinfeld is one of the greatest sitcoms of all time, because those characters never learned anything.”
Maybe one reason he gets a pass where others don’t is that Buddy is a character.
“Maybe it’s the voice,” he says. “The Buddy Cole voice just lulls people into thinking it’s not important.”
Audiences give Thompson the benefit of the doubt; it’s a satire of people like Buddy more than an artist’s id shining through—although Thompson as himself is shocking enough, as anyone who’s seen him on talk shows over the years will know.
“There are a lot of things that Buddy says that I agree with,” says Thompson, “but there are also things where I go, ‘Well, that’s his opinion.’ I have to let the character have autonomy, if that makes sense. I don’t have a lot of impulse control anyway, so my id is quite close to the surface. But with Buddy I do absolutely no policing. I let his freak flag fly. And if it makes people uncomfortable, I really don’t care, because he doesn’t care. I care more myself, but not Buddy. Buddy's impermeable. He's Teflon.”
It’s not that he’s completely heartless, but maybe that’s part of it.
“I find emotions really get in the way a lot of the time in comedy,” he says. “And with Buddy I can keep those emotions at bay. I really don’t think emotions and comedy are great partners. Emotion tends to override the brain and it overrides logic. And comedy is very much logic. It’s almost mathematical. So you have to make sure your passions don’t overwhelm your thinking, and that’s always been my problem. But not when I’m Buddy. He’s very passionate about the truth, but he does not let it interfere with his thinking.”
While he’d relish a bit of negative publicity for Buddy’s takes on the world, Thompson honestly doesn’t get the outrage over jokes.
“Just because a comedian has a point of view that you don’t like, who cares? Who gives a fuck?” he says. “No one cares if you disagree. Just live on. I don’t really understand why people get so up in arms over comedy today. I think it’s stupid.”
Après le Déluge: The Buddy Cole Monologues plays the Cultch Historic Theatre from Thursday to Saturday (September 19 to 21).