"I made the decision years ago that I'd be honest about pretty much everything. Which I regret."
– Scott Thompson
Guy MacPherson: Good morning!
Scott Thompson: Good morning. Did I wake you?
ST: Okay, good.
GM: But I woke up in order to talk to you.
ST: This is our date, then.
GM: Yes, it is, really. Thanks for taking time away from church.
ST: Exactly. Church, that's right. It's all right. I don't mind missing church. I can go to a later service.
GM: You are my favourite talk show guest.
ST: Oh! Wow. Thank you. I'm honoured.
GM: Well, I assume you're lots of people's favourite talk show guest because of the way you approach it.
ST: I do. I approach it like performance.
GM: You're like the Robert Blake of the new millennium.
ST: Oh, my God! I don't know how to take that one. (laughs) I guess every millennium needs one.
GM: I don't know if you used to watch him, but he used to be a great talk show guest.
ST: Was he?
GM: On Johnny Carson. Whenever he was on, I'd always make sure to watch.
ST: I used to love Burt Reynolds. He used to be a great guest when I was a kid.
GM: That's true, too. Yeah.
ST: Totie Fields when I was very little. And Sandra Bernhard was always one of the models for me.
ST: She was really good.
GM: She was no Totie Fields, but...
ST: Well, Totie was the best. I mean, that was when I was I was little. I was like, 'Ah, there's this lady with one leg!'
GM: You're always dishing the dirt on celebrities on these talk shows.
ST: Not always!
GM: You are on Conan a lot.
ST: Yeah, I do. Maybe that's why I don't get hired anywhere.
GM: Has that gotten you into trouble with any of them?
ST: Hmm... A few times. I know a few things I got in trouble with. Actually, a guy walked out on me on the show.
ST: Lou Gossett once. But that was different.
ST: Oh, I don't know. (laughs) Because he was actually there.
GM: So he was on first or second?
ST: No, he was second. But he fled. He wouldn't come on with me.
GM: So what did they do?
ST: I replaced him. (laughs) I had to do two segments! They came running on and said, 'Scott, Lou Gossett walked off!' 'Oh.'
GM: And it was really because of you.
ST: Oh, yes, it was totally because of me.
GM: You weren't talking about him?
ST: Not at all. No, no, no.
GM: Because there's nothing to say about Lou Gossett.
ST: No, no. I said 'nigger' in context, in a joke.
GM: Was this on Conan?
ST: Yes, on Conan, yes. They cut it. You won't see it. You'll never see that segment. So I went further. I made a joke about Corky from As Life Goes On. The retarded kid. How he had a face-lift and he didn't look very good anymore... Awful. People would go, 'Oh, please stop.' Time seemed to stop, really. The producer came running off, Jeff Rothstein, going, 'What have you done?! Lou Gossett's freaking out! Now you're going on about retarded people? What's wrong with you?' Of course, the other part of his brain is going, 'This is great TV.'
GM: Yeah. And you say that never made it on?
ST: They cut me saying that. Yeah, they couldn't handle the word. I mean, I was just doing this joke. I called Canadians 'ice-niggers'. But I was just making a joke. I just thought, you know, it's not just me but other members of the group, it's like a form of Tourette's. If you can't say something, I just go, 'It has to come out.'
GM: So there's nothing you would say, 'Oh, I shouldn't joke about this'?
ST: No. I mean, personally, sure there's certain things. Yeah, like if someone's had a tragedy, I'm not going to go on and push their buttons right in front of them or that. But no, there's nothing beyond humour. No. And that doesn't mean that you're heartless at all. It's just a different way of looking at the world.
GM: You were also on when Sarah Silverman got in trouble.
ST: Yeah, yeah, that's right. She got in trouble for similar things, but that was a racial thing too, wasn't it?
GM: Yeah. She said 'chink.'
ST: Yeah, because, I mean, I did the whole thing. I did a whole list. I was basically parodying... This is when Brando went off on that rant on Larry King. So I parodied him. I tried to use every slur in the world. And my whole joke was about how Canadians don't have a slur. I was trying to make 'Canuck' a slur... No one else got upset. Of course, Lou Gossett wasn't Chinese. Maybe if there had been a Chinese person, they would have run off, too. But I don't think so. Because there's nothing as volatile as that word in our culture. American culture, that's for sure. Because that's what I said. The other joke I went with was in Canada, it's not the n-word, it's the s-word. Squaw. I thought that would be more of a button in Canada.
GM: Yeah, it would.
ST: It would. And that doesn't have resonance in America.
GM: It doesn't?
ST: No, not the same way, no. But you know, I'm fascinated by societal buttons, basically, and what makes taboo, taboo. Because if it's not taboo everywhere, then how can it be...? So therefore I've come to conclude nothing's taboo.
GM: It's the old saying, sticks and stones can break my bones but names can never hurt me.
ST: Yeah, absolutely. It's just words. And Richard Pryor did it years ago. Lenny Bruce did it years ago. This isn't new.
GM: You're also unapologetically Canadian on these shows.
ST: I've always been very open about that, yes.
GM: You're openly Canadian.
ST: Yeah. A lot of people aren't.
GM: That's true. They come on and Canada will be mentioned and I think, 'Okay, they'll probably mention here that they're from Canada.' Nothing.
ST: No, they don't. So, you know, that's part of my whole thing. I made the decision years ago that I'd be honest about pretty much everything. Which I regret.
ST: But not that part of it.
GM: You regret parts of it, though?
GM: And you can't change now?
ST: No. They're not really regrets. I look and I go, 'Oh, I didn't really quite realize it would play out this way.'
GM: So you're on Conan and Bullard and Politically Incorrect a lot.
ST: Well, I'm just trying to keep working and keep my face out there. I just treat it as comedy. I never repeat myself. I'm not even selling anything, really.
GM: You don't have anything to plug.
ST: No, hardly ever.
GM: You're a personality.
ST: That's what I regret, maybe. I think people lose sight of the fact that I can act.
GM: But you're not on Leno or Letterman a lot.
ST: No, because Leno and Letterman are different. They're a different generation and I don't think they're comfortable with me.
GM: But you have been on them.
ST: I have been on. But it's not the same thing. You know, I don't think Jay Leno... (imitating Leno) 'Y-y-you're gay!' Okay, Jay. Shut up. It's a different generation. I'm not comfortable with them. I'm very comfortable with Mike and Conan.
GM: And Bill Maher?
ST: And Bill, too. Yeah.
GM: Those are some great discussions when you're on.
ST: Yeah. They're smart men. They're funny men. And they treat me like an equal. And I wouldn't say that about Jay Leno.
GM: (pause) What would you say about Jay Leno?
ST: I wouldn't say anything. (laughs)
GM: Go on! I'd love it for you to trash some celebrities for me. Because you do it on these other shows.
ST: No. I mean, I don't know him well enough. I don't know him. He seems like a very nice guy.
GM: That's what everyone says.
ST: He is a very nice guy. I just don't think he's very hip.
GM: This just in!
ST: Yeah. So that's it. That's all I'm going to say. Letterman, it would take me a lot to be comfortable with him.
GM: So you're trying to keep your face out there. What are you doing these days besides the tour, work-wise?
ST: Oh, you know, I did a one-man show, and I did the tour, and I've written two screenplays. And one of them looks like it's going to be made. So that's hopefully the next phase, when this is done, is get this movie of mine made.
GM: And that will be starring you?
ST: No. I'll hardly be in it. I'll take a small role in it. It's not a vehicle. It's an autobiographical coming-of-age comedy – very dark comedy – set in 1975 in Brampton. And the main character is loosely based on me at 15.
GM: So it's set in Brampton. Will it be made in Canada?
ST: Oh, certainly, yeah.
GM: By a Canadian production company?
ST: I don't care where the money comes from. Because money could come from Osama bin Laden, I don't give a shit. But as long as it's set in Canada, that's all I care about. You know, I'm sick of it. I'm sick of seeing Canada disguised.
GM: Actually, you should film it in Texas and call it Brampton.
ST: Oh, that's a good idea. All American money, film it in Texas and call it Canada. That would be great! Sweet revenge. And make every American actor lessons on Canadian diction: 'Out, out!'
GM: What is your dream job? What would you really love to be doing?
ST: I mean, I'm pretty happy right now. How could I want more than being a Kid in the Hall?
GM: But I mean like a regular job.
ST: Oh, I'd like a regular job. I mean, sure I would. I'd love to be on a great television series or I'd love to have my own series. That's what I'd like.
GM: You should have a talk show.
ST: There's people who are trying to get me to do that. I don't know, though. I think that would be the death-knell for my career as an actor.
GM: Because there's not a lot of crossover?
ST: Yeah, I think my personality would overwhelm it. And I just think that people would never hire me as an actor. And I think I'd be in hot water all the time. And I just don't know if I have the stomach for that. I just don't know if I really want to be in hot water all the time for my opinions. You know? (pause) Yeah, I don't know if I do. I mean, a limited kind of a talk show, like a Dame Edna kind of experience where you do, like, ten of them, yeah, that I could handle. Very much. If you combine it with sketch. I mean, I love the way Barry Humphreys did his series.
GM: It was brilliant.
ST: Yeah, he's my hero. And if I could do that, yeah, I would do that. Or host a show, different ones, in character? Yeah, that would be interesting. But I don't know. I was approached a couple years ago to create a Politically Incorrect kind of a deal for Canada, and I thought, 'I don't know.' I don't know if I want that.
GM: And Bill Maher's always getting into trouble over the silliest things.
ST: And for, for really, for nothing. I mean, I just feel like I have more volatile opinions, and I don't know. I just think I'd be in shit all the time.
GM: Yeah, you probably would be. Although, in Canada...
ST: Honestly, I don't know if... I wanna have both. I don't want to let go of that American market. I like to talk to both countries.
GM: And you can offer something to both, a different perspective that they don't get.
ST: Yeah. And you can get in trouble in Canada, too.
GM Oh yeah, and you did, too, recently, didn't you?
ST: Oh, sure.
GM: You like to be thought of as an actor. You're a sketch comic but really that's an actor. Right?
ST: A sketch comic's an actor/writer, that's all.
GM: Have you ever done standup?
ST: Oh, yeah. I've done lots of stand-up. I've toured. That's how I made my living after the Kids in the Hall broke up. I was hardly making a lot of movies. Well, I did Larry Sanders for three years. But I did standup a lot. Afterwards, mostly. I did a few tours as a stand-up. I never was a stand-up, but I kind of made myself one. My manager forced me into it. And I wasn't really prepared or ready for it. But it's very good for developing you. Once you've done standup and you've done tours, you feel like, wow, not much can hurt me now.
GM: Do you have any comedy influences or favourites?
ST: Sure. As I said, Dame Edna's a big influence. Monty Python. That kid, Carol Burnett. Sandra Bernhart. I have lots of people. Alec Guinness. He's great. It's kind of a career I'd love.
GM: And he was in that movie where he played, like, nine different people.
ST: Kind Hearts and Coronets, I think it was.
GM: That's right.
ST: Yeah, I'd love that career. I mean, I'd love a Peter Sellers kind of career. And you can't have that if you have a talk show.
GM: Is there a lot of competition amongst the Kids?
ST: Yup, there is.
GM: And is it healthy competition?
ST: Mm-hmm. I think so. I'm all for it. I mean, it means things like none of them will have read my book and none of us has seen Dave's movie, but you know. (laughs) Yeah, no, their copies of Buddy Babylon are as crisp as the day I gave it to them. But that's brothers. That's what it's like.
GM: It's not petty?
ST: Is that petty?
GM: I don't know. I'm asking.
ST: Maybe it is. But I don't think we take it that seriously any longer. Yeah, we're always looking at what the other person's up to. I think that if there's jealousy, it's pretty contained.
GM: And you still, obviously, really get along with each other.
ST: Yeah, we get along better than we have in years.
GM: It's that time away, and maturing, too, is part of it.
ST: Yes. Absolutely.
GM: Do you feel like you're in a rock band sometimes?
ST: Yeah. Yeah, I do. That's the only real analogy because there aren't really troupes like us, basically, out there.
GM: That's right. There's no Charles In Charge road show.
ST: No, there's nothing. I mean, there's barely comedy teams any longer. There's barely duos anymore. You know what I mean? They're always broken up. They never last. It's all about the individual now. Particularly in American comedy, it's all about the one person. The standup, the gunslinger. It's not about the group. That's more of a Canadian form, actually. It's about the group mind. And Canadians are better at submerging their individual personalities for the group.
GM: Also, on the tours you have to go out and play your greatest hits like a rock band would.
ST: Yeah, that's a part of it that can sometimes be a drag.
GM: No pun intended.
ST: When U2 travels around, I'm sure people demand that they do certain songs. But with us, if we do a character that people demand, then there will be something new for you, at least. I mean, this show is very... It's quite new.
GM: What would you say the percentage is?
ST: 75 percent.
GM: This is using some of the older characters while using new material?
GM: So people get both.
ST: Both, yeah.
GM: Are you surprised that this show remains so popular after all these years?
ST: Kind of. We're doing a piece in the show called Dr. Seuss's Bible and it's one of our oldest pieces, but because of the way the world is today, it plays completely new. It plays in a way that it never played before. It's got such resonance now. It's interesting. It's like all of a sudden the piece has finally found its time. It really has found its time and it feels like it was just written yesterday. Every line feels brand new. And we're finding new things in it.
GM: It's like going back and reading a great book.
ST: Kind of. And then slightly rewriting it in a way. Because we're not rewriting it, but there's like pieces in that piece where we never really had dialogue with the characters and now they kind of have little exchanges which never happened before because we never had time to develop it. Because when you're in television, it's just a machine. You're just shovelling the coal and it just keeps burning up. But when you're touring and you're doing stuff all the time, they get better and better and richer and richer.
GM: Do you add things to the performance that maybe you spring on somebody, or is everything...
ST: No, it's completely new, always. I mean, we always follow the skeleton of the script, and we're very much about writing, but there's always something different. Maybe because we're just bad. Maybe we're just not very disciplined. We always fuck around.
GM: And doing your Carol Burnett moments to make each other laugh?
ST: Yeah, we do, we do break each other up, or try to. Our concerts are like playtime. It's two hours where people can really just play, do whatever the hell they want. And it's a party. And I think people really enjoy themselves and they know from the word go this is a party and anything goes. Like last night, Kevin and Mark were doing their headcrusher bit. And Kevin's in the audience dressed as this insane girl that's trying to pick up the headcrusher and this woman comes up and pulls her top off and starts rubbing her tits up and down Kevin's legs. He got embarrassed and covered himself up and she was rubbing her breasts all over him.
GM: Her bare breasts?
ST: Bare! Oh, no, she was naked.
GM: What city were you in?
ST: Austin. And she was unbelievable. Like, nude. I mean, not nude, but totally topless. It was hilarious! I mean, that stuff's great.
GM: I'll say.
ST: So that stuff happens all the time.
GM: Lorne Michaels produced your TV show, right?
GM: Was he a presence?
ST: No. He was a signature. He made it all happen. And at the very beginning of our career he did guide us. But once we were on television and we were doing our show, Lorne very smartly let us be on our own. I mean, let's face it, he didn't have the time to. He was putting Saturday Night Live together. We were like his little hobby. Like his model train set in the garage. He let us basically do what we wanted. He knew that was the way that we would be best. It was sort of like he knew Saturday Night Live was a more corporate monster and we were much smaller, therefore we were allowed a lot more freedom. I don't think there's ever been a troupe that's had as much freedom as we had. No one has the freedom we had those years on CBC. We came in at a very interesting time and we exploited it ruthlessly.
GM: Maybe more people should be given that freedom because you were so successful.
GM: And you look at Saturday Night Live and you go, 'Oh, my God. How did that get on the air?'
ST: They should definitely let artists be artists. A great producer should really shut up.
GM: So what will you do if and when you're faced with this with your script and they're going, 'Okay, we want to do this'?
ST: Well, I'd love to come to that stage where I have to make those decisions. But honestly, where the script is now, the person that looks like he's going to make it, he looks like he's going to leave me alone. I mean, he's going to direct it, but from our initial discussions, it looks like he's not going to ask for a lot of changes and we're not going to a big studio. We'll see once the money comes in. Then we'll see. My script has, I guess, a very dicey central premise, but right now I'm very happy with the way it's going. I feel very secure. I trust this man very much.
GM: I hope it works out for you.
ST: So do I. So do I. He's on a roll. He's very hot and he wants to make my script, so... I don't want to direct it, so I really trust him.
GM: Every city that you go to becomes one of your favourites for the purposes of the audience.
ST: Of course.
GM: So which one really sucks?
ST: Vancouver... Jesus Christ! I'm sorry. Um... No. Sucks? What does that mean? Like the town itself?
GM: Either the audience just doesn't get it or...
ST: There hasn't really been a bad audience yet. There's a city I'm not... Like Kansas City. It's sad.
GM: Why's that?
ST: It's grim. It's grim. You know, I wasn't too impressed with St. Louis, either. Those two cities in the middle are very kind of rough. Not much going on and really pretty bad ghettos. No one from Kansas City's going to read this, but Kansas was painful.
GM: Do you get a chance to get out in the city?
ST: Yeah, I spent three hours walking all over the place and I wandered all through the 'hood and people were looking at me like, 'What's this crazy white boy in a big red sweater doing wandering through the 'hood?' I mean, I didn't realize I was in it. And then I couldn't get out.
GM: Were you a little nervous?
ST: Yes, sure I was.
GM: 'He's that guy that said the n-word!'
ST: I just felt like... I felt more sad. It's sad. Like there's these eight kids, eight young guys at a bus stop in an area where everything's boarded up and there's a high school, a beautiful high school, closed down. And I'm going, 'What kind of a city lets a high school go to rot?' You know? It was sad.
GM: Not enough work.
ST: Yeah, no work. There were no businesses. There was nothing. Nothing. Just a McDonald's that was contributing to the fattening of America. Which is, to me, obviously the looming crisis. That's the real crisis right now, is the fucking obesity epidemic. It's just tragic. It's like, 'People, get back on heavy drugs.' You know what I mean? It would be way better if there was a crystal meth epidemic. This is insane.
GM: Everything is super-sized.
ST: Super-sized. That's going to be the death of the American empire. Not homosexuality. It's weight.
GM: Maybe fat homosexuals.
ST: Bears! (laughs) Bears are going to bring 'em down. I don't know. I'm kind of obsessed with it. I do have weight issues, but I'm really... I can't get over it.
GM: What are the weight issues?
ST: I don't want to be fat. No. It's just a thing for me. It's probably my doom, but I don't know. I just think this isn't right. There's people that are meant to be large, but most of these people aren't meant to be large. It's just a symbol to me of a lost, lazy society.
GM: No one's meant to have rolls of fat.
ST: No one's meant to be 300 pounds, 400 pounds. It's not right. And no one's meant to eat a burger that's a pound. That's retarded. No one's meant to have a pop that's 40 ounces. That's just sad. It's retarded.
GM: And when you have really poor people, they have to go to the cheapest place for food and get the most for their money.
ST: I know. Only the rich are thin here.
GM: Are you living down there?
ST: I go back and forth between Toronto and L.A.
GM: Comedy is known for its neurotic performers. I'm wondering who the most neurotic kid is.
GM: Yeah. Who has the most issues?
ST: No, I can't say that. The only way I can get out of that one is to say me.
GM: But I thought comedy embraced its neuroticism.
GM: You know, a Woody Allen always going to the shrink, a hypochondriac, afraid of flying, things like that.
ST: (pause) Kevin's pretty neurotic. (laughs)
GM: I got it out of him! Who's the smartest?
ST: Oh, that one I would never touch with a ten foot pole. No.
GM: Really? Not the dumbest, now. It's the smartest. A positive.
ST: I mean, there are so many different kinds of intelligence. Book learning? Well, me. But IQ? Mark. Maybe. I don't know. Everyone's smart in the group. Everyone's smart. One has to be smart. I mean, you can't be dumb and be a comedian, really. I don't think so.
GM: I mean, you can, but then you're Carrot Top.
ST: Yeah, I'm sure there's dumb ones. There are dumb ones. But honestly, I think comedians are the smartest of all the performers. And the most fascinating. I mean, I do love comedians. I think they're the most troubled, for sure, of all performers. Definitely the most fucked up. But the most interesting.
GM: How many cities are you playing?
ST: 40, I think. It's a big tour.
GM: Over what period of time?
ST: Two months. One-nighter after another. But we're adding some cities now. We might even add another week to it because we're having a great time and we all don't mind that extra change, either. You never know. You don't know what the future's going to bring. I might not work the rest of the year.
GM: Well, there's always the talk shows.
ST: Yeah, that pays $542.38.
GM: In US, though.
ST: Yes, US. Unless it's Bullard. I mean, no matter what, the biggest star in the world gets $542. Those things don't pay anything.
GM: Would it be like a business card, a calling card? You're on a talk show and people see your face and go, 'Hey, how about this guy?'
ST: That's right. They remember. That's why everytime I do one, I go to Conan, 'I gotta stop being a personality.' And Conan goes, 'Yeah, but don't you want to say this?' And I go, 'Okay.' Then I get trapped up in it. And I go to Conan, 'Oh, Conan, I shouldn't have done that.' And he goes, 'Oh, you were hilarious.' 'Yeah, but Conan, now no one's going to hire me.' And they don't.
GM: That should be your next time on. Talk about this inner angst.
ST: Oh, he knows about my angst.
GM: Go public so the producers hear it.
ST: He doesn't care because it's not funny. He just cares if it's funny. He doesn't give a shit. He doesn't care about my inner angst. They exploit it. And I know they are, but they just want me to go off.
GM: Well, go off on them saying, 'You're exploiting me! And I'm losing work because of you!'
ST: They won't let me. I just want to be funny. I just want people to forget... I think I should take a couple years off and people will forget that I'm, like, a loud-mouthed fag.
GM: It's probably, too, that you get out there and you feel the audience and the lights are shining on you and you just want to...
ST: That's basically it. I rip. I can't help it. It's the Tourette's in me.