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Fan Expo Canada Interview: The Kids in the Hall Talk Returning to TV, Their All-Time Favorite Sketches, and Surviving Tough Times with Comedy

August 25, 2022Ben MK

No matter which way you slice it, Canadians and comedy go together like coffee and donuts at Tim Hortons. Whether it's familiar Hollywood faces like Jim Carrey and Mike Myers, or popular TV shows like Kim's Convenience and Schitt's Creek, the True North Strong and Free has displayed a profound proficiency at producing people with a talent for making audiences all over the world laugh. Still, when it comes to funny Canadian icons, there's one name that gets repeated time and time again — the Kids in the Hall. Formed in 1984, the quintet that consisted of Dave Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney and Scott Thompson first rose to fame in the late '80s, thanks to their quirky sketch comedy show of the same name. And with a new season of their namesake series having debuted earlier this year and an appearance at Fan Expo Canada coming up this weekend, there's no doubt that fans of Canuck humor will have plenty to look forward to.

I caught up with Bruce McCulloch and Scott Thompson of the Kids in the Hall ahead of their appearance at Fan Expo Canada to chat about the changing landscape of comedy, the group's long-overdue return to television, their favorite Kids in the Hall sketches, and more. The following is an edited version of that conversation.

This is the first time that all five of the Kids in the Hall will be on-stage together at Fan Expo. What made you decide to finally tick this celebration of all things fandom off your bucket list?

McCulloch: I've never done a fan [convention]. It was something that the troupe was like, "Oh, let's figure out ways to be together." And then it was like, "Oh, why don't you do this and do a little Q&A and a storytelling thing, and then you'll get to meet some people?" And it just felt like, "Yeah, that's a good idea."

Thompson: And we didn't know if we were going to get a second season or not or go on tour or whatever, so there was this long stretch of us not really being together. So this was a great way for us to fill in this space and keep it going until we find out what's going to happen next with us.

It's hard to believe, but the Kids in the Hall were formed nearly four decades ago. How has the comedy landscape changed over the course of all those years, and why was now the right time to reunite once again for a reboot of your cult classic show, this time on a streaming service like Amazon Prime?

Thompson: It was black and white before, and now it's in color! That's a big change. [laughs] Comedy's definitely going through a transition. It's definitely rocky in comedy right now. But we've always been that kind of group — it's always been rocky for us. So it's easier for us, in a way, because we've always known that the water might be rocky and wavy, and that we might get tossed over. But it's always difficult making comedy, because there will always be someone that's upset by it. And so that's always challenging.

McCulloch: But I actually like that it's such a complicated time that we instinctively decide to put a piece of culture back out there as people not from another time or right from now, but [as people with] a different set of rules. Our sensibilities have been grandfathered in. I've never said this about Kids in the Hall, but essentially we've been embraced, which is a bit creepy to us. But it just turned out that it was the right time for us to enter what we like to both seriously and laughingly call the conversation.

There have been so many memorable and iconic Kids in the Hall sketches over the years — from "The Daves I Know" to "The Head Crusher." What are some of your personal favorites?

McCulloch: I have always enjoyed performing our "Kathies" [sketch] with Scott, and our "Fran and Gordon." It's our soft space to land. So I think those [are my favorite] characters. Obviously, I think Buddy Cole's a really important cultural commodity or spokesman, or raconteur, or whatever, and it's always amazing to see him pop up.

Thompson: I love doing "Fran and Gordon.". That's one of my favorites from this show. And the other one is "Kevin and Dave," where Kevin gets his finger caught in the bird house. That might be my favorite scene; it makes me laugh like crazy. In the old days, my favorite character would have been Chicken Lady. I think that's one of the most remarkable characters I've ever seen, and I just couldn't believe Mark [McKinney] could pull that off. I remember when he did it, it was just extraordinary, like, "Oh my God, I'm seeing something incredible being born."

On a more serious note — Scott, you went through a not-so-funny experience a while back when you battled cancer, but thankfully you ended up coming out on the winning end. If you don't mind, can you talk a bit about how comedy helped you get through that tough time?

Thompson: Yeah, comedy helps me get through everything. And there's lots of funny about my cancer now that it's twelve years in the past. Obviously, comedy gets you through things. Everything is funny for us; there's never been a topic that we consider taboo. I guess the worst thing that can happen to a human being is death, which is what will happen to all of us. So when you decide that death is the biggest joke of all, there's really nothing else that you can't do. So watching a lot of comedy definitely helped me through that time.

But I want to talk about Dave Foley. When I had my very first chemotherapy appointment, Dave came with me. And that meant an awful lot to me, cuz it went on for almost two days. I remember we watched That Girl the first day — that meant a lot to me. And also, when we were making Death Comes to Town, the way that the group surrounded me with love was really beautiful. Death Comes to Town, in a strange way, helped me get through it because I knew that I had something to live for. And I was also struck by the cosmic coincidence of doing a show called Death Comes to Town, and playing a character that actually cheats death while actually trying to do the exact same thing to the real death. So I cosmically put it all together and went, "Oh, I'm going to survive this."

Of course, it goes without saying that the Kids in the Hall have been an inspiration to many an aspiring comedian. What advice would you give to those looking to make a career in comedy?

McCulloch: Do what only you can do. Have faith in your weird ideas or your weird point of view, and don't deviate from that. Don't go, "Oh, that guy does impersonations. Maybe I should do that." Just do what only you can do.

Thompson: If someone says, "I can't fit you in, I can't pinpoint you, I can't figure out what you do, I can't even compare you to somebody else," that is the greatest thing that you'll ever hear. Because that might make it a harder road, but your uniqueness is what's most important. Just stick to your guns and it will eventually pay off.

Last but not least, do you have a message for all the fans who are coming to Fan Expo to see you?

McCulloch: Let's rock. It's always nice to meet people. I used to be scared of our fans, and now when we meet someone and they go, "I couldn't communicate with my dad, but we watched your show," I truly enjoy [that]. Because they're the weird outsiders that we are, and we are there because of them and for them.

Thompson: I have to say there won't be any nudity, I don't think. We haven't planned it, but there's three Kids in the Hall that haven't shown their naked bodies. So I'm just saying, you never know. And Mark will be getting off a jet from London, and he's already told us that he's going to be very, very jet-lagged. He'll be vulnerable. He might just take his clothes off, just to feel more comfortable.

Fan Expo Canada runs August 25-28 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

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