"Sometimes I look across at a very old face that say they went to high school with me and I think, 'You can't. You look so old and I look so young.' But apparently they did."
– Bruce McCulloch
Bruce McCulloch: I'm the worst. I changed everything.
Guy MacPherson: You are. And normally I couldn't talk now but my son is home sick from school today so we can make it happen.
BM: You've never been up this early, have you?
GM: Normally I'm taking him to school at this time. But I was making him breakfast when you called.
BM: Wow, what a good dad you are. I'm making a kid toast right now.
GM: There you go. I toasted a bagel.
BM: Wow. Wow.
GM: I think our kids are around the same age. Mine's 10 and a half.
BM: Wow, exactly. Mine are 10 and 8.
GM: October 4th.
BM: Close! Both my kids were born in October: 7th and
GM: Oh wow.
BM: Okay, thanks for the interview! Bye!
GM: See ya!
BM: See ya.
GM: I saw you not too long ago in Vancouver. When was that? A few months ago.
BM: Yes, that was, I'll say, October or November.
GM: Okay, I'll go with that. That was a great show.
BM: Oh, thank you so much.
GM: It struck me that there were different ways you could have gone. Except for the music, some of it sounded like standup.
GM: I know Dave has gone the standup route.
GM: And Scott. Did you ever consider doing standup for that show? Or do you like the more theatrical elements?
BM: Well, I actually started doing standup. I did standup that pre-dates the Kids in the Hall. I don't think I ever did it in Vancouver but when the Yuk Yuk's circuit started, I started making $500 on a weekend to go to Ottawa. I did that for my living for a little bit at the beginning of the Kids in the Hall. And it sort of segued because I'm a real writer, right? But I do love standup. I love the man against the audience kind of thing about it. And certainly my stuff is... What is a joke? A joke is standup. And so is storytelling, in a way.
GM: How many years did you do standup?
BM: I did it for, like, two or three. And once the Kids in the Hall show started to kind of take off, it was weird to do it. And I've done it the odd time even here, just to go somewhere and do standup. I don't really want to go to a standup club because I've worked my whole life to perform in front of an audience who knows who I am. I don't really want to perform in front of people who are, you know, celebrating their birthday and I just happen to be there, if you know what I mean.
GM: You've got "drunk" in a lot of things.
BM: Yeah, and we actually had a Kids in the Hall show once called Too Many Drunk Dads. I had a piece on my record called Daddy's on the Drink Again. And my last record was called The Drunk Baby Project. So this is part of my lexicon. My comedy lexicon.
GM: How many times in your life do you think you've been drunk?
BM: Great question. I would like to think I haven't had 500 hangovers.
GM: So the over/under is 500.
BM: But it's a long life so that's not too bad.
GM: And there's still time.
BM: Yeah, there's still time.
GM: I had Craig Northey on my show and we talked about how you met here in Vancouver.
BM: Yeah, Craig is one of my great friends. I'm doing a show, as you may or may not know, called Young Drunk Punk, that's on TV right now, with Vancouver's own Tim Carlson, and Craig does the music for it.
GM: Yes. Prior coming over to do my podcast, he was working on it.
BM: That's why the music was late! Damn you!
GM: How's the show going?
BM: I think it's going very well. In this life, why would anyone ever expect or hope, but it got really good reviews, the numbers are fairly strong and going up, so I'm hopeful we'll get a second season. But we're in a holding pattern right now. It premieres on CBC in the fall. It's on City and then CBC in the fall. Sort of a co-production.
GM: How many episodes in the first season?
GM: I know you film it in your old neighbourhood. Do you ever run into old schoolmates who never left?
BM: Yeah. Sometimes I look across at a very old face that say they went to high school with me and I think, 'You can't. You look so old and I look so young.' But apparently they did. I've been back to Calgary many times over the years but this was the first time I was back to my old townhouse community. So that was a bit odd for me because Calgary's changed dramatically over the last 15, 20 years. But there is a Braeside and Brae Glen, or Brae Vista as it's called in the series. It's pretty freaky.
GM: So you've never been to one of your high school reunions, I take it?
BM: No. I try to avoid uncomfortable situations as much as possible. As much as I like good stories and seek them out in my life, I don't know if that's one I have the stomach for.
GM: I've been to mine and remember looking at a guy thinking, 'Was that one of our teachers?' And it was a guy from our class.
BM: Yeah, exactly. Because you and I have aged very well.
GM: The longer you look at them, though, you can see their young face in there.
BM: Yes, of course.
GM: So it seems like you're still a work pig.
BM: It seems like it, you know? I like to work. I was talking to my friend the other day and it's like, 'Oh, I want to retire and then I can work on what I want to work on.'
GM: It's still working, though.
BM: Yeah. I like to work, I guess.
GM: What are you doing now that you don't want to work on?
BM: Nothing really. I'm getting ready, obviously, to do the Kids in the Hall tour. I guess waiting to hear if your show's coming back is not the kind of thing you want to be doing. No, I'm not actually doing anything I don't want to do. I'm pretty lucky; I don't do much I don't want to do. And lately I wrote a book that was out in Canada and is out in the States now, so I'm doing some stuff around that – or it's out shortly. So it's all stuff I want to do. But I think when I did the series, I went about four months without a day off. So I think that's still in my bones. And then now I have to enter what is the gauntlet of the Kids in the Hall so I'm cramming myself into my girdle and getting ready for that. But that's exciting, you know?
GM: You have to work out for that?
BM: Oh, it's a workout. It's in the land of the living and you're on stage and you're with the guys and you're deciding what's funnier, and that's the fun of it. But it's a workout.
GM: Are you the busiest Kid?
BM: I don't know. We're all pretty busy right now.
GM: Everyone takes turns being the busiest at different times, maybe.
BM: I think so. I know Mark did a pilot, Dave did a pilot, Kevin's doing workshops almost every weekend. I'm the one who likes to roll up my sleeves. I have the alarm set for 4:40 some mornings and maybe Dave is just coming in at 4:40 some mornings. But I think we're all in a phase where we're working pretty hard.
GM: I spoke to you once before, in 2008. Was that the last tour you did?
BM: Yeah. And that just pre-dated us doing Death Comes to Town. So out of that, came that.
GM: It's amazing that you did this thing in your youth that resonated with people and you always – providing everybody's willing and able – can get back together and there's an audience for it.
BM: I can't believe it, in a way. Not that I ever as a young man thought about what I would be doing in 25 years, but the fact that I can still do this with these guys who are kind of my comedy family, and in a way, of course, my family, it's pretty sweet. I think we went from, 'Oh, do we have to keep doing this? Do we have to do more shows? People want a movie,' to 'Wow, I can't believe we get to do this.' And obviously we do it very occasionally. We're not the Beach Boys who crisscross North America every summer. Or used to. We do it every few years. So I think it stays precious to us.
GM: How long before the tour do you guys get together and hash it out and figure out what you're going to do?
BM: We've been hashing it out, sending scripts back and forth and scene orders. And then we rehearse hard for a week. We're sprinters – we go hard and then collapse. We did an all-new material show last year that we took to the States for a few little dates. We're going to take the best of that and some of our favourite other things that we haven't done in a while and that becomes the show.
GM: It's easier to let things go and be friends in your fifties, isn't it?
BM: Without question. I think we've gone from being competitive with each other to competitive with the rest of the world. As you get your ass kicked in your 40s, we've become better friends. It's richer to be together than it was when we were young. And also I don't have to make career decisions with the other four guys all the time; just on the tour. So I don't have to agree with them on everything; just on this. Which is how everybody feels, I'm sure.
GM: It becomes richer. So you appreciate it more?
BM: Oh, without question. It's like, 'Oh, these are really good guys. Oh my God, they're so funny.' I think in one's 20s, you just go, 'My way! I'm the funniest. Get outta my way.' And certainly as I've been in lots of other comedy situations with the other best people in the business, quote-unquote, these are still the guys who I find the funniest.
GM: Do you still get young fans that weren't around when the show originally aired? Or is it largely people who grew up with it?
BM: It's actually a mix of both. I would say it's one-third kids and two-thirds people in their 40s or whatever. Or as Kevin jokes in the beginning of the show, 29-year-old girls who are dragged there by their 40-year-old boyfriends who got high watching us in college. So it's a mix of all that. And of course with the beautiful interweb, it's kept our weirdness alive for a bunch of other people.
GM: Are the sketches on YouTube?
BM: They're out there. I think they're on YouTube. And I think people have gotten our DVDs in different places and things like that, as well.
GM: I guess each one of you probably thought you were the funniest in your own heads when you were younger.
BM: Yeah. And maybe it isn't even 'I'm the funniest'; It's maybe 'I'm just right. The way I want to do this thing is correct.' I think we all thought that, more or less.
GM: Who would always win?
BM: Depends. We would all win a little bit. But we would all point at the part where we lost. Dave and Kevin are much more elegant than the rest of us in some way. I think Scott and I are much more ferocious. And Mark is kind of a weird diplomat but is very confusing sometimes. So that's kind of the internal dynamics.
GM: Wasn't his father a diplomat?
GM: Who's aged the best?
BM: Well, probably me. I mean, after we talk I'm going out on a run. It's probably a quiet debate we have in our brains when we see each other. Like, 'Oh, Kevin's looking tired. Oh, Scott looks good.' You know.
GM: A lot of people mention the Kids as their favourite sketch troupe. Do you have one?
BM: I think if I had one it would really be Carol Burnett, which formed me as a little kid. I always say I wasn't into comedy but I did watch that. I certainly don't watch a bunch. I don't watch my contemporaries or the people who came just after me. I've actually gotten involved again just over the last few years in sketch comedy and I'm working with a young troupe out of Toronto. But it's not like I sit around watching. Of course, Monty Python, I guess we all just agree is the greatest. Like who's the greatest rock band? The Rolling Stones. Who's the greatest comedy troupe? Monty Python. But hey, we're still at it, writing new stuff.
GM: That's it: You're the Rolling Stones.
BM: We're more like the Pixies. We're not really the Rolling Stones.
GM: Well, just in longevity. And Monty Python would be the Beatles. So the Carol Burnett Show: Which actor would you be from that show?
BM: Well, I'm Lyle Waggoner with my boyish good looks. We all know Harvey Korman is Kevin McDonald. And I guess Scott Thompson is Carol Burnett. And I can't go past that.
GM: What about Vicki Lawrence?
BM: Vicki Lawrence, I guess, is Mark McKinney.
GM: Tim Conway?
BM: I guess that's Dave. He has great comedy timing.
GM: Lyle Waggoner, the forgotten member of Carol Burnett.
GM: In 2008, you told me you were still as driven as ever. Here in 2015, it seems like not much has changed in that department.
BM: No. I just sort of think that's my job. Like, you get up in the morning and go, 'What do I have to do today? What do I get to do today?' And certainly when it comes to ideas and doing things, I've gone through phases where, oh, my pilot at NBC didn't go; I'll take a month off. But I think now, especially that I'm in the landscape of working on my own ideas be it with the Kids or my book or the TV series, I'm pretty excited. And as we're getting older, we see the people beside us who've stopped doing it. We're like blues musicians. They're still out there. I saw Mavis Staples. She was 75 saying, 'CDs are for sale in the lobby.' That's kind of us a little bit now. You just keep doing it.
GM: But even outside the group, you yourself are driven.
BM: Yes, I am, without question. I love to get my ideas out of my body. And I'm pretty happy that I have a house that I bought that's built on me and my ideas. I don't take that for granted. And I enjoy it. When I can't sleep at night, I think of an idea I love. So they're my friends. It's hard. Everything you see, you see a series on TV, and there's four or five series I tried to do that didn't happen. That's just the terrible nature of this business, which we didn't realize when we were young men getting to do every idea we thought of. I think that's also why it's more precious to be able to do it.
GM: Your kids are at an age where they can appreciate some of what you do. Do they?
BM: Yes. In little bits. We have to be very careful. I showed them a couple Young Drunk Punks. One is a little too dirty for them and one is good for them. So we have to be cognizant of what they can see and what they can't see. I showed them Flying Pig, which was a sketch I did for Kids in the Hall, and I guess daddy as Flying Pig got killed and eaten. They didn't think it was as funny as I thought they would think it was.
GM: And with Young Drunk Punk they can see mommy and daddy, right?
BM: That's right.
GM: And they come up to Calgary with you?
BM: Yeah, they were there going to school, doing the whole thing.
GM: When you first came here and met Craig, Brent Butt was opening for you. I was at that show.
BM: Yeah. Brent's an old friend and sometimes we'd have standups do stuff and we were lucky enough to get him then.
GM: Do you use anyone now or is it just you?
BM: No, it's just us. We sort of found eventually it was better to just start the show.
GM: Are you excited?
BM: Oh, very much. This is very exciting. And I'm happy that we're still standing and excited to do it again. And like I say, we don't do it that often or that many shows that we get so tired of it, so it's still pretty sweet for us.