"Every so often we go some place and they go, 'We thought you were young guys.' And I go, 'We were.'"
– Bruce McCulloch
Guy MacPherson: You're in L.A., right? Do you live there?
Bruce McCulloch: I do live here.
GM: Are most of the Kids back in Canada now??
BM: No, we're all here except Mark, who is a vagabond. I think he would be the only who would say he lives in Canada.
GM: He always has been a vagabond, hasn't he?
BM: Yeah, well, we've all been vagabonds, although I've put down roots here.
GM: Do you guys split up the interviews evenly?
BM: No. I get up early, and sometimes people ask for certain people. I'm sure you requested me.
GM: I did, actually! Because I've interviewed three of the others before.
BM: Oh, is that right? We haven't had the pleasure.
GM: No, we haven't. I've interviewed Kevin, Mark and Scott, so I'm getting to everyone eventually. Why do I fear you the most?
BM: Because I get up the earliest?
GM: Maybe. Because you're a go-getter.
BM: I am. My nickname in the troupe is Work Pig.
GM: Is it?!
BM: Yeah. It's pretty not very glamorous, huh?
GM: Who's the laziest?
BM: The laziest... Uh, probably Dave. But he's the most focused and instinctive. He just goes, "Yeah, that'll work. Hey, let's do this joke." With Scott, every line is therapy for him, and Dave just goes right for it.
GM: You're a big-time director, too. Maybe that's why I fear you.
BM: You think I'll yell "action!" and "cut!"?
GM: I don't know what you might do.
BM: I think that's what directors do. But I assure you, don't fear me. I'm very kind.
GM: Okay. I only interview comics, not directors. So put on your comic hat.
BM: I shall.
GM: You guys are all in your 40s now.
GM: As am I. Physically, you've held up remarkably well, all you guys. No fat bald guys or anything.
BM: We kind of look over at each other and go, "Hey, you could lose weight." "No, you could lose weight." But essentially I feel we're the same guys as we've always been. But maybe that's what everybody who gets old says. We don't feel old. Just because we haven't done this for a while, we're at the age of REM and other people we totally respect, and we're certainly not the age of people who have been at it for a long time, like George Carlin. We just played a hall that George Carlin had just been in and it's like, yeah, I get what we're doing.
GM: My aunt, who's a 70-odd-year-old nun, says she still feels like she's 22 inside.
BM: Absolutely. I know in a way things get harder and more complicated as you get older, but I think we've gone through a little phase and now it's kind of simpler for us. And I don't know why that is. Just because, oh, we don't have any ego about anybody else or our in-fighting of 20 years ago seems kind of superfluous now and it's pretty good to look across at each other, who we've known for so long, and to fucking make each other laugh. So it's kind of simple for us right now.
GM: It must be good to know that even in your 60s or 70s, you'll always be Kids.
BM: Yeah, essentially. I mean, the name was cruel upon its creation. It seemed sardonic or surreal. I don't know if it's just a joke now. We don't even know what the name is anymore. Maybe it doesn't mean anything anymore.
GM: But to your fans, you'll be the Kids.
BM: Yeah, every so often we go some place and they go, "We thought you were young guys." And I go, "We were."
"We're not an articulate group, in a sense. We don't sit down and discuss our strategy at bi-yearly meetings. We form and dissipate like the weather."
– Bruce McCulloch
GM: That's the power of television reruns. Back in 2003 you said the troupe had no plans of doing another tour.
BM: Well, we did have no plans. In 2000, we actually opened in Vancouver for our first show in many years. It was kind of like, we knew we were going to do it, and there was external and internal pressure to do it. Then in 2002 we just did it for fun, but as an echo of the 2000 tour. We're not an articulate group, in a sense. We don't sit down and discuss our strategy at bi-yearly meetings. We form and dissipate like the weather. And a lot of factors brought us together this time.
GM: What were some of the factors?
BM: I have to say, being a work pig, I think it was my impetus, which is always residing in people. Like Scott's always feverish to do Kids in the Hall stuff. But a couple years ago I had kind of started to become interested in sketch comedy again and sort of put out a little thing to the group saying, "Hey, let's try just writing some new material and do it in a really small way like we used to do many, many years ago. Write it fast and put it up fast and see what it feels like." And we did that. We did it in a little tiny secret theatre here, which we actually just performed a MySpace show in last night. And it was really good. We had fun writing together and the stuff was pretty good. Then we kind of looked at each other and went, "Well, now what do we do?" Then we sort of did it again and started to realize that, you know, we've always been cognizant that we don't want to be the Beach Boys, playing the same songs that have no meaning to people that don't really know us, or whatever. So I think the fact that we did essentially a new material tour made us feel re-energized. But at first it was just an impulse to perform and to try something. And then later on it was like, "Hey, we've got some new material! Let's follow this impulse."
GM: You performed at SketchFest San Francisco. Was it by yourself?
BM: No, I've got a group of people together I call the McCulloch Project, who are sketch people. So I essentially wrote and directed us. One of the pieces is in this tour. But I've also been working in TV and writing features and things like that. I'm certainly not a guy who's going to go and do small parts in movies where I play the weird office worker or whatever. But my sort of performance truth is doing this weird shit on stage. And I've done one-man shows and stuff. And obviously it's not just about me. The troupe's my gang. Also, we've all spent, and I've spent – I've just come through the TV cheese machine where you do a lot of actual stuff but, but prior to that I spend most of my time, I'm fucking Willie Loman. I explain to people why what I'm going to do is going to be funny and I write a script that may not get made, and usually doesn't get made, or you write a pilot and you get a bunch of dough and you're explaining everything to people. And I didn't get in this to explain myself. I got in this to do it, you know?
GM: Is Carpoolers on the air now?
BM: No, it's not on the air now. The pickups for next year are happening now. I doubt it will be back. They say, "We know you're a product of the strike and we kind of fumbled you" but I still think they kind of burned the dinner and they know it. But it's possible it'll be back next year. If not I think I have a couple other TV shows I'm going to do.
GM: As a writer or director or star?
BM: Well, no, not as a star. Like what I did for Carpoolers. I'm the creator. Whatever that means. The bossy guy. The guy who says, "How about this world?" and then I inhabit it with characters.
GM: Is the tour all new material?
BM: Yeah, that's kind of a lie, which we can tell the Georgia Straight. We would never tell the New York Times it was a lie. It's like 85 percent new. There were a couple of things we wanted to put in for various balance and tone and political reasons, but it's essentially all new material.
GM: How do you decide what to include of the older material? Does everyone have veto power?
BM: Everyone kind of has a veto power. We actually don't even know how we make decisions anymore. It was a long process. We did some shows last summer at Just For Laughs. The balance was driving me crazy. Getting it right is kind of an instinctive thing. It isn't math; it's something else. And then we did another show this year at SketchFest, which had a couple more chestnuts in it. And that didn't feel instinctively right to us. And then we wrote a couple other new pieces and then we go, "Okay, we finally have it right."
GM: And some of the new pieces would include some of the old characters?
BM: Yes, absolutely. In a couple instances we've taken, like, the Secretaries and written an entirely new scene for them. Or we have a Gavin and we've taken a premise we kind of liked and totally reworked it. So those are both kind of legally new, or arguably new. But mostly it's just brand new stuff.
GM: Do you have your favourites of the old sketches?
BM: Not really. I enjoy doing the Cathys, you know, which is the secretaries. Just because it's my sweet little woman. It seems like my sister or something. But you know I kind of like all of it, really. I think to walk around and be a fan of your stuff is [laughs] not too cool. So I don't know what my favourite stuff is.
GM: Was there anything you weren't particularly fond of?
BM: I've been asked to do Cabbage Head on the last couple tours and I go, "Ah, I don't wanna do that." You know, I don't feel like going out there with the bass and doing Daves I Know, you know what I mean? And the one thing I'd absolutely never do is, I had a young character who is like a teen guy, Bobby. I'd never do that again. Then I would just feel like Bob Hope somehow. But I can play Gavin. It's weird. I'm an old man but I can play a little kid. So it's a wiggly line.
GM: At what point did you realize how big you had gotten? Not just popular, but Beatles or Monty Python-type big with your fans.
BM: I think when you're doing a show you're sort of hermetically sealed in the tube that is your work space. I think when we started to go on the road, maybe after the first season. We'd always been these kind of loser geeks who just fucking toiled away. Then we start to go to Atlanta and there's like 1200 people there. So I think when we started to go on tour after the first season we started to realize that it wasn't just us.
GM: Any idea why you think you resonated with the public, other than being funny. There are lots of people that are funny that just don't hit it like you guys did.
BM: We're not the winners of society, the five of us. I think it's that. I always like to meet the people that come to the show. I used to sort of be scared of them. But they're all really kind of odd or weird or, you know, oddly normal. It's a large group of people who don't necessarily go to the biggest hit film that's in the theatres. So it's a large group of counter-culture. It's kind of a beautiful group in a sense. And never so big that it's frightening. I was watching some of my friend Will Ferrell's... he's doing a tour in fucking 20,000-seat arenas and I don't know how that could be fun for that long. We always can fill some size hall, which is really nice.
GM: You started directing on the show, right?
BM: I kind of looked down the barrel of the gun and I thought I'm going to need another skill.
GM: Is that what it was?
BM: A little bit.
GM: It wasn't always a dream to direct?
BM: No. I mean, I think being a director is one of the most mythical things that is just needs to be demystified. It's mostly dealing with politics. You don't sit around thinking about shots, you know, that often, or visuals or something like that. Also, I enjoy writing the line that gets the laugh more than getting the laugh myself. I enjoy getting the music right and the sound right and the poster should be right. And I've always been that guy in the troupe. I've always taken that space. I've always taken too much of a hand in the editing or who we should hire to do the opening. So it was just sort of natural to me that the best job was all of it. And certainly when I started with the show... I mean, doing short films is the most fun for any film maker. I've done four feature films but I've kind of run out of interest in it more than I'm obsessed with it. I have lots of friends who are directors who love every part of it. For me, by the time I'm moving the sound of a door slam down six frames, I've kind of lost interest in it.
GM: Are you getting more conservative as you get older?
BM: I think everybody does. I think I'm getting kinder, in a way. More conservative? I guard against it. You either stay open or you don't. When I crossed 40 – and I have two small children now – I think when I had children it actually opened me up because for some reason I really wanted to get work done again. And now it's pretty easy for me to get up at six in the morning and write, or, in the case when I was working on Carpoolers, to get up at 4:25 in the morning and work. A lot of people cross 40 and they kinda go, "Where do I stand? What's the money?" I don't know, for some reason I'm still as driven as ever. But that doesn't speak to your question about conservatism.
GM: It manifests itself differently in different people. Has your sense of humour modified at all?
BM: Not particularly. That's the thing. Everybody goes, "What kind of material are the Kids in the Hall doing now?" Well, it's what we find funny. And it's not that different. Of course it processes our lives. As I say, I have two small children so yes, our opening sketch is about a couple coming over to meet a baby and on instinct they hate it. And ten years ago it would be about me breaking up with my girlfriend. So that's different, but what makes us laugh in terms of darkness or deadpan or whatever it is we do, surrealism, it's exactly the same.
GM: How old are your kids?
BM: One-and-a-half and three-and-a-half.
GM: You write a lot. Is there a book in you?
BM: I've flirted with it and almost done one a couple of times and then I actually started writing one about a teenage alc-y at one point. I did a film called Comeback Season a couple years ago and that felt like a book to me. I kind of started writing it getting to know the characters in that sort of way. So I think in a sense there probably is a book in me some day. I've really enjoyed working in TV in the last couple of years so I think I'm really feeling a focus for that right now.
"I'm an unbelievable humanist and a dark little motherfucker, too."
– Bruce McCulloch
GM: Is there a misconception about you from people out there? You must read about yourself.
BM: I absolutely don't read about myself. And I don't think people think about me enough to think that there's a conception or a misconception. I would be crazy if I thought that people were sitting around thinking about me. I love when freaky weird guys come up and they go, "I love your record, man." Like, I do like that. I think people might think I'm dark. I've found that when I do one-man shows. But I think I can watch Oprah and cry. I'm an unbelievable humanist and a dark little motherfucker, too. So I think people don't know how much – with all the group, I think – how much humanism there is with us. We're not, like, trying to make it and flash and burn. We think about the world a lot. We're sort of tender as we are strong.
GM: I remember seeing you guys on CBC when you first started and I would tell friends about it. But they were like, "It's on CBC. How good could it be?" And then they'd eventually watch it and go, "You're right!"
BM: Yeah, it's weird. I remember the Toronto Star didn't want to write a feature on us because we weren't ready. Then Rolling Stone wrote a 15-page story on us! (laughs) And it's like that's the Canadian ethic, which is "I don't know if it can be any good if it's from here." But the States just goes, "Yeah. That's it. Next!"
GM: So the Star wouldn't write about you even though you were on HBO in the States?
BM: We were just ready to do our pilot. We were down in New York kind of knocking it out. And they were like, "Oh, no, soon. You're not ready for an article." And then it's like, "Oh, okay, well Rolling Stone is living with us in the Brill Building writing a 15-page article. What do you think?" Which, you know, kind of makes you sad a little bit.
GM: A little bit. Now I hope you boycott the Star.
BM: I don't. We want any press we can get! (laughs) We're not dumb. We're not young dumb guys anymore.
GM: Which Kid makes you laugh the most?
BM: To clearly just watch, Scott. Because he comes into a room and puts his wallet on the window ledge and starts eating food and spills everything. So just as a physical Jacques Tati kind of character, it's Scott. I probably hang and giggle the most with Kevin.