When you think of Dave Foley, the first thing that jumps to mind is his work with The Kids in the Hall, right? The seminal five-man Canadian ensemble is considered one of the greatest sketch troupes of all time, right up there with those of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, SCTV, Saturday Night Live, and Mr. Show.
But what about his work on the underappreciated NewsRadio, which was never a ratings giant? Still, Foley estimates it got about 10 times the viewers that Kids did, even if it wasn’t as revered.
“I think people have a more visceral connection to The Kids in the Hall,” he says on the phone from his home in Los Angeles, where he’s lived for the past 19 years. “But I hear about NewsRadio probably as much as I hear about The Kids in the Hall generally.”
He says he had fun on both shows, adding there was less fighting on the NBC sitcom. “We hung out together a lot after work. No one ever wanted to go home on NewsRadio; everyone wanted to stay and just hang out all the time,” he recalls. “I mean, we all liked each other but also everyone had shitty home lives.”
That shitty home life eventually led to a divorce for Foley, which, considering Phil Hartman’s fate—his NewsRadio co-star and fellow Canadian was shot and killed by his wife—wasn’t so bad. Except that when the series ended and the big bucks stopped coming in, Foley found it impossible to keep up the child-support payments.
“While I was making NewsRadio, I could afford to pay what I was supposed to pay,” he says. “After that, you can’t really pay as though you have a TV show when you don’t have one. But that’s something that seems to elude the logic of the courts.”
The legal obligations led to a self-imposed ban on performing in Canada for fear of arrest. But the silver lining to this personal dark cloud was that it spurred the notoriously lazy Kid into action. He put his thinking cap on, came up with an hour’s worth of standup material in four months, and hit the road. He plays New West’s Lafflines this weekend as part of the NorthWest Comedy Fest.
In a profession where it takes years to develop an hour on stage, Foley had a head start. Not only did he dabble in standup as a teenager (culminating in a trip to Los Angeles to perform at the famed Improv for CTV’s Thrill of a Lifetime when he was 19), but he had name recognition. He was generally supported by his fellow standups, and when he did meet with jealousy, he shrugged it off by explaining that he didn’t have to work hard because he was already famous.
“My recommendation to young standup comedians is get famous first,” he says. “It really opens up a lot of doors.…The whole learning-of-skills step is skipped entirely.”
Even though Foley says he’s enjoying his new career, it’s not like standup is in his blood. “I could easily give it up,” he says. “But I feel that way about almost everything. I’d happily be retired right now.”
He’s also co-starring with Vancouver comedian Darcy Michael in Spun Out, a new sitcom on CTV, and that’s helping to get him back into the country. For now.
“I made enough money to pay the price of admission to Canada,” he quips.
The new show’s 13 episodes start airing on March 6. Before you dismiss it because it’s homemade, give it a chance. “I think it’s really good,” says Foley. “I think I’ve been lucky again in having a great ensemble cast. The goal was to create a show that could stand in the schedule with any American sitcom and not apologize for being Canadian. And I think we succeeded at that.”
And if it sticks around for more seasons, Foley won’t have to be a fugitive and can come visit us more often. That is, if he doesn’t retire from standup first.