Kids in the Hall Preview Tour, Plan a New Movie
Since their eponymous sketch comedy show ended in 1995, all five members of the Kids in the Hall have stayed visible, albeit TV personality-visible, not major-star visible. Mark McKinney spent a few years on “Saturday Night Live;” Scott Thompson became the host of “My Fabulous Gay Wedding;” Kevin McDonald guest starred in over a dozen sitcoms and Bruce McCulloch made the occasional on-camera appearance between writing and directing commitments. Dave Foley found the most celebrity, thanks to his sitcom “NewsRadio,” but after NBC unceremoniously canceled that program, the Kids reunited for 2000 and 2002 live tours, and then again for a 2007 performance at a Canadian comedy festival, for which they’d written a wealth of new material. On the eve of the troupe’s first major tour in six years, which stops in Milwaukee’s Riverside Theater on Saturday, April 5, McDonald talked about writing sketches with the gang again, and planning another Kids in the Hall movie after the mixed response to the troupe’s 1996 film debut, Brain Candy.
What can we expect from this upcoming tour?
Well, you can expect mostly 95%, 98% new material that we’ve been working on over the past two years, whenever we’re in Los Angeles. We’ve been writing new sketches because that’s what we’re excited about, and trying them out at sneak shows, and now we’re ready to show it to the world. Well, our part of the world, at least. North America.
And you’ve created new characters for the tour?
Some of them are new characters. We also did a new Chicken Lady sketch, she’s a character we did on the TV show but we’ve never done live before, and we’re doing Bruce’s little kid character, Gavin, another that we’ve done of the TV show before but we’ve never done live. But except from those, it’s all new material.
Do you think any of these characters might be permanent additions to the Kids in the Hall universe, ones you might be doing 10 years down the line if you’re still touring together?
Hopefully, yeah. I think there’s two or three where if they were on the TV show, they’d be favorites. Two or three. Hopefully, I’m being modest, and there will be more that’d be famous. Well, famous among our cult of 12 Kids in the Hall fans.
Is it bittersweet when you come up with a skit and you think, ‘Man, if that would have been on TV people would love this and be quoting it?’
Well, it started bittersweet, but now it’s motivating us to hopefully do a movie of sketches, a Kids in the Hall sketch-like movie. It’d be like Monty Python and the Holy Grail. We’d try to find some loose theme, and do the sketches so they make sense. New sketches. It’s sort of a loosey, plotty, sketchy movie. So instead of being bittersweet, we’re going to take our energy and do something with these sketches.
So the new movie wouldn’t have as much of a narrative as Brain Candy?
Right now, we’re thinking much looser than Brain Candy. Can I give you a Beatles analogy?
For our first movie, we jumped right into Rubber Soul, Revolver and Sgt. Pepper, and I think we should have done Meet The Beatles first. So this is going to be our Meet The Beatles.
Brain Candy went on to become a cult hit, but my understanding is that you guys were shaken by the experience.
It was a hard experience. It took us a year to write it. There was some falling out in the troupe, and there were some deaths in the family, and we always had trouble writing the ending. But we’re pretty proud of it. We’re disappointed in the last 10 minutes, but we think we got a pretty good movie out of it.
It was funny; that’s all that counts, right?
I think we were too ambitious with the plot. We were thinking, “This is a movie, we’re not just going to do another sketch thing like the TV show.” And now I think we could have been a little sketchier.
So all of you are dedicated to making another movie, then? You’re going to start pursuing financing and distribution and all that?
Right now, that’s the plan. We just hope that we’re still this motivated after the tour, and that we’re still all best friends after the tour, because we’re about to spend so much time on the tour bus. Oh, and hopefully, all of us will be unemployed afterwards. That’s what we need, all five of us to be unemployed so we have the time to work on it.
Until that first reunion tour in 2000, how often did you guys see each other after the show ended?
There were a good four or five years where the five of us were never in the same room together at the same time, so that was weird, although pairs of two or three of us would still perform whenever people were in Los Angeles or Toronto. I remember the very first meeting where the five of us were together again, we were at Dave’s house, and Dave’s father was sick, and he made a dark joke, then Mark broke Dave’s $500 television remote, totally by accident, so it was like the old days.
My favorite reoccurring sketch on the show was the one where you expressed anxiety about being the least popular Kid. Was that all fictional, or did that tap something real?
It tapped something real. After the show had been on for a few months, we started getting fan mail. And I’d get equal amounts of fan mail as everyone else, but Bruce’s fan mail would be, “Bruce, you’re cute. Do you have a girlfriend?” and Dave’s would be the same thing: “Dave, I would love to marry you.” And then my fan mail was, “Hey, Kevin, you seem like a nice person, could you tell Bruce that I want to marry him?” They thought I was the nice go between, that I could set them up.
After “Kids in the Hall” ended, Mark went on to “Saturday Night Live” for a few years. Was that something you would have considered?
Yes, and in fact, there was talk of me doing that. I forget why it didn’t come through, though, but I definitely would have. I would have said yes in a heartbeat.
Is that something you would have been happy doing, working on a show where you didn’t have much autonomy?
I would have been happily miserable. I would have been living in New York, doing a live show, and more people would have been recognizing me.
I would contend that you’re already one of the most recognizable of all the Kids, though.
Yeah, because of my curly hair and glasses.
But also because you make so many TV appearances. You’ve been in over a dozen sitcoms.
I would say that I’m the one Kid in the Hall who gets recognized by people who have never heard of Kids in the Hall. But it’s embarrassing when I’m like in a store getting milk, and someone will say, “Senior Trip! You’re the dude on the bus!” It’s embarrassing.
Had you ever been in talks for your own TV show?
Yeah! I pitch things all the time that I star in, and what usually happens is they say yes, then something falls apart before we get to shoot it. It’s happened like seven or eight times. But I have another idea, and after the tour ends, I’m going to try again. I swear to god.
Can you share the idea?
It’s called “Stories About People I Know.” It’ll be longer sketches. I have so many stories that are crazy… I’ll come out and introduce a story. It’ll be sort of like “Chappelle’s Show,” but longer. I’ll come out and play some of the parts in the story, and I’ll get sketch friends to also be in it, Kids in the Hall, Bob Odenkirk, people like that.
I hate to be that guy who brings up appearances you might not be proud of, but Epic Movie was not a well received film.
No it was not. [Laughs] There wasn’t even a premiere of it, so I had to go see it on opening night … it was a dismal experience. No one in the audience laughed, I felt embarrassed—well, this is horrible, I shouldn’t insult something in the press. [Laughs] I’m sure it’s very funny, but I’m just giving my own opinion, my own comedy judgment. But, it was the only number one movie I’ve ever been in. It was number one for one glorious weekend.
There are some very funny actors who will unapologetically appear in anything for a paycheck, like David Cross in Alvin and the Chipmunks, but you’ve been pretty good about not doing that.
Thank you. I try to be a little discerning, but you know, around tax time maybe I’ll say yes a little more. I did one movie for the money once in the late ’90s, against my better judgment. I did it for the money. My mother was supposed to visit me, but I canceled her trip so I could shoot this movie, and then my mother died. So that made me make a vow to not just do films for money. I mean, I allow myself freedom: If I do need the money, I’ll let myself, but if I don’t need the money, and I don’t like the script, just say no, Kevin. Say no for mom.