Monty Python’s Flying Circus. SCTV. Mr. Show With Bob and David. Saturday Night Live. The Kids in the Hall. What’s your favourite sketch show of all time? Those five envelope-pushing series get most of the consideration from most comedy aficionados. But The Kids’ Bruce McCulloch had more mainstream tastes.
“I think if I had one, it would really be Carol Burnett, which formed me as a little kid,” he tells the Straight by phone from his home in Los Angeles. “I always say I wasn’t into comedy but I did watch that.”
Okay, then, how do the Kids match up with that ’70s network prime-time juggernaut? “I’m Lyle Waggoner with my boyish good looks,” he begins. “We all know Harvey Korman is Kevin McDonald. And I guess Scott Thompson is Carol Burnett. And I can’t go past that.”
But I press on. “Vicki Lawrence, I guess, is Mark McKinney.” Tim Conway? “I guess that’s Dave [Foley]. He has great comedy timing.”
Unlike all those other shows, though, The Kids in the Hall’s original TV cast is still going strong, albeit intermittently and not on TV, 27 years after first airing. Their last major tour was in 2008, although they did get together for a few U.S. dates last year with all-new material. Their new tour will feature the best of the new stuff along with some of their classic bits they haven’t performed in a while.
“As we’re getting older, we see the people beside us who’ve stopped doing it,” McCulloch says of those other troupes. “We’re like blues musicians. I saw Mavis Staples. She was 75 saying, ‘CDs are for sale in the lobby.’ That’s kind of us a little bit now. You just keep doing it.”
Now all in their 50s, the ironically named Kids are enjoying the ride a lot more. “Not that I ever as a young man thought about what I would be doing in 25 years, but the fact I can still do this with these guys who are my comedy family—and in a way, of course, my family—it’s pretty sweet,” says McCulloch. “I think we went from, ‘Oh, do we have to keep doing this?’ to ‘Wow, I can’t believe we get to do this.’ And obviously, we do it very occasionally. So I think it stays precious to us.”
Gone are the hard-headed salad days. The Kids are in a more appreciative phase of their careers. “I think in one’s 20s, you just go, ‘My way! I’m the funniest. Get outta my way!’ ” McCulloch says. “And certainly, as I’ve been in lots of other comedy situations with the other best people in the business, quote-unquote, these are still the guys who I find the funniest.”
Always known as the group’s Work Pig, McCulloch forever has something on the go. His one-man stage show Young Drunk Punk spawned a book, Let’s Start a Riot: How a Young Drunk Punk Became a Hollywood Dad, which led to a remount (which he brought to Vancouver last October), which in turn resulted in the CityTV/CBC–coproduced sitcom Young Drunk Punk. (It debuts on CBC in the fall, while the 13 episodes have already aired on City.)
But there’s more than just Young Drunk Punk. For example, McCulloch’s last album was called The Drunk Baby Project. There’s a piece on the record called “Daddy’s on the Drink Again”. And the Kids once did a sketch called “Too Many Drunk Dads”. Sense a theme? McCulloch says it’s part of his comedy lexicon. But it does raise the question: How many times has he been shit-faced in his life?
“Great question,” he says, thinking. “I would like to think I haven’t had 500 hangovers.”
But that Work Pig ethic hasn’t ebbed over the years. He’s still a guy who needs to get his ideas out of his body, he says. “And I’m pretty happy that I have a house that I bought that’s built on me and my ideas. I don’t take that for granted. I’m the one who likes to roll up my sleeves. I have the alarm set for 4:40 some mornings and maybe Dave is just coming in at 4:40 some mornings.”
His TV series was shot in his old neighbourhood in Calgary. Occasionally, he’d meet an old classmate while filming. “Sometimes I look across at a very old face that says they went to high school with me and I think, ‘You can’t. You look so old and I look so young.’ But apparently, they did.” Needless to say, McCulloch isn’t one for high-school reunions. “I try to avoid uncomfortable situations as much as possible. As much as I like good stories and seek them out in my life, I don’t know if that’s one I have the stomach for.”
Besides, each get-together with his fellow Kids in the Hall is like a reunion. So the internal judging comparisons are just on a micro level. Which of the five has aged the best? “Well, probably me,” he says. “I mean, after we talk, I’m going out on a run. It’s probably a quiet debate we have in our brains when we see each other. Like, ‘Oh, Kevin’s looking tired. Oh, Scott looks good.’ You know.”
But they’re getting along better than ever, and still drawing in their fans who grew up watching them, as well as young’uns. As McDonald jokes, the crowd is made up of 29-year-old girls who are dragged there by their 40-year-old boyfriends who got high watching them in college. “And of course with the beautiful interweb, it’s kept our weirdness alive for a bunch of other people,” McCulloch says.
“I think we’ve gone from being competitive with each other to competitive with the rest of the world. As you get your ass kicked in your 40s, we’ve become better friends. It’s richer to be together than it was when we were young. And also I don’t have to make career decisions with the other four guys all the time, just on the tour. So I don’t have to agree with them on everything, just on this. Like I say, we don’t do it that often or that many shows that we get so tired of it, so it’s still pretty sweet for us.”
The Kids in the Hall North American tour plays the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on Wednesday (May 20).