"When I started, every goddamn idiot who just had loud noises, people would just love it. Now, there's still some of that but there's so many people that are just smarter that standup's much more pleasurable to do. I'm so trained from the old days, every time they laugh at something that never used to get laughs, I'm so pleasantly surprised by it. People are much more savvy now. They have a much higher IQ standup-wise."
– Colin Quinn
Guy MacPherson: There he is! Hello, Colin.
Colin Quinn: Who's this?
GM: Guy MacPherson in Vancouver.
CQ: Oh! There was no caller ID, that's why I didn't answer.
GM: Sorry about that.
CQ: Sorry I missed you the other day. I don't know what the hell happened.
GM: I think you were running long talking to my competition. I hope you didn't give him anything good.
CQ: Oh, Jesus, I gave nothing. Nothing! I've had no positive feedback from those interviews, for what it's worth. (laughs)
GM: Are you in New York?
CQ: Yeah, I'm in New York.
GM: I heard you know our good buddy Phil Hanley.
CQ: (laughs) Yes. I saw Phil last night.
GM: How's he doing in the Big Apple?
CQ: Phil's doing as well as can be expected in the elbow-throwing, under-the-boards as the Big Apple is. He's a civilized man in an uncivilized world.
GM: Well, you know, he's Canadian.
CQ: Yes, exactly. He's very funny and he's doing good because he's funny. In comedy, that's the only way to propel you forward. That's the most reasonable way; there's other ways. There's people that know how to play games, like any other business. But he would not be good at that, luckily, because once again, he's Canadian. You guys don't really do that, for the most part. I wonder if there are Canadians that are like really aggressive, political people that do do that.
GM: In the comedy world, you mean?
CQ: In any business.
GM: For sure, there are.
CQ: The reason I ask is because my new show is about that toxic asshole in every situation. Do you know what I mean? Like in every office, every thing, there's always one person. Always, in every situation. It's unbelievable. And I'm just wondering if they have to hide it more in Canada because it's not as – not that it's respected over here but maybe you'd try to be a little slicker if you're around people who are like, 'Hey, what are you doing that for?'
GM: We have a reputation to the outside world of being polite, but within Canada we certainly have jerks and super-aggressive people. But maybe the difference is they're just not as jerky or as aggressive as in other countries, in comparison. I don't know.
CQ: Right. I don't know. I'm sure they keep it a bit of a lower profile over there because it's not as accepted. I don't know, it's an interesting question how people deal with these people. I'm so into it right now with that whole behavioral thing. It's very fascinating to me.
GM: This is the show you're bringing up here?
GM: Did it used to be called Bully?
CQ: It used to be called Bully. I don't know what I'm calling it but it'll probably go back to Bully. Bully's the simplest way to do it.
GM: We've got bullies here. The schools teach us not to bully now, so it had to be a thing.
CQ: Right, schools teach not to bully but the schools don't teach... First of all, you can't teach anyone not to bully because a bully only gets pleasure out of bullying. Schools can teach them to masquerade bullying and have it shape-shift. That's all they can teach because a real bully, that's their thing. That's what they love. There are different ways to do it.
GM: Sure, they can be overt about it or they can give little digs.
CQ: Correct. That's correct. Believe me, I have the whole list.
GM: I believe you. You like these themed one-man shows. How different are they in your mind from standup? Or is it just themed standup?
CQ: In my mind – I'm glad you said in my mind – they're no different from standup. Because I work them out at standup clubs.
GM: They seem like standup when I watch the specials but I know other comics who do one-person shows will say they don't need a laugh every 20 seconds.
CQ: Yeah, no. In my things, I like them to laugh the whole time, you know? I still have that standup personality where I'm like, if I'm not getting a laugh why would anyone be watching? Nobody's that deep. If you're really profound and deep and you call yourself a philosopher and people pay to see you, that's good. Otherwise, if you're a comedian and people are paying to see you, I wanna get laughs, you know what I mean?
GM: Yeah, it's sort of in the job title.
GM: But you like doing the themes.
CQ: Yeah, I love doing the themes. I love doing the themes and I love not doing the clubs. I mean, I do clubs but clubs are annoying. People are drinking and ordering fucking mozzarella sticks, you know? It's just a different vibe. It's a vibe that's too democratic for my tastes, you know?
GM: Too casual?
CQ: Yeah. I prefer more of a monarchy really. A giant theatre, an intimidating theatre, and obedience from the crowd. Subjugation and obedience. That's not much to ask for.
GM: No, it isn't. I saw Jerry Seinfeld directed New York Story. I'm wondering, what does a director do in that situation? You've written the show. You just need to stand there and tell it. Maybe move over to the counters on set or something.
CQ: Sure, but it's a lot of shaping. Like saying, 'Why are you putting that there? Why are you doing that in that order? What are you trying to say?' Shaping and clarifying, which is what he does good. Like just saying, 'I don't understand that joke.' Just bringing that kind of stuff out.
GM: Because if he doesn't understand it, there might be something missing.
CQ: Exactly. A lot of other people might miss it, too.
GM: Have you ever played Vancouver?
CQ: No, I haven't.
GM: Why not?
CQ: The only time I had an opportunity to, the only time I was even offered it, was for New York Story and I thought I'm not bringing New York Story to fucking Vancouver; they won't even know what the hell I'm saying, about stoops and Puerto Ricans. But I always wanted to play... In my dream world... When I did Long Story Short, my first show, I literally did it consciously because I thought this show covers every country, including Canada, which is really the star. Canada is the star of two of my shows, by the way: Long Story Short and Unconstitutional. It's the fucking star of both. They're the ones that come off looking good in a world of trashing everything. I did it consciously because I was like, I'm going to do this all over the world because so many people go all over the world doing comedy. And for whatever combination of reasons, it never went anywhere. I did it on Broadway for a few months, then did it on the road a little bit and that was it. Obviously the best laid plans of... you know.
GM: Did you do it in Montreal?
CQ: No. Oh, I did do it in Montreal! Yeah, of course I did. I did it in Montreal. A couple of people saw it there but that was about it. There's a lot of other factors that go into things. That's all I know.
GM: But we're not the star of Bully.
CQ: Well, not yet but there is already a component, you know? The premiere is really the Vancouver Comedy Festival for Bully, so it may end up being something more than... It may inspire me.
GM: Like with standup, can you change it as you do it?
CQ: Sure. I do it every day.
GM: So you add a bit here or take a bit out?
CQ: Oh yeah, all the time. Lines, everything, whatever it is. It's one of those things where you try to make it into something more every time. When I did Unconstitutional, the week before I shot it, I started to understand it. I'd been doing it for like a year and a half and I was like, Shit, this is it! So I changed all the stuff at the end. And really, I wish I'd be doing that one now; it would have been really interesting. But you know, you do it when you do it.
GM: Now you guys have a bully for a president. Is that why you wrote it? Or did you write it before?
CQ: No, I wrote it before that. I started working on this whole idea... My fascination is with how come nothing really works except, once again, maybe Canada? Here's the principle of the show: The principle of the show is every system – capitalism, communism, theocracy, monarchy – all these systems bring out one kind of asshole or another. And then I just kinda correlate them with the people of today that would be comfortable in that kind of system or that were created from that kind of system. Like I said, those people, whether it be Trump or somebody at your office, there's always somebody that's there that helps destroy the fabric of whatever might have worked. So it's just interesting to me. I call them legal criminals because what they're doing is not illegal. Somehow the law doesn't cover certain things.
GM: Do you agree with my premise that Trump is a bully?
CQ: Oh yeah. He's a bully but I also think people have lost their mind by trying to deal with him rationally. Everyone's like, Hey, Trump, what are you doing?! And he's just sitting there with that crazy look on his face writing executive orders. And they're like, Trump, Trump! It's like, You're talking to a man who's gone mad.
GM: You can't reach him. You're a New York guy and he's a New York guy. Have you ever come across him or met him?
CQ: Yeah. I did a roast and he was one of the people at the roast. I roasted him and then he got up there and he goes, 'This guy's a loser...' This is about ten years ago. And it was funny. It was over the top and it was funny even though it was, Oh shit, this guy's a mean guy. I always tell people my mother analyzed him perfectly when he first was running. She goes, 'Oh, he's one of these construction guys. That's how they talk.' And I was like, Yeah, it's true. And what I think happened is that he's a construction dude; kinda crude but he had a certain charisma or whatever back in the day, a little bit funny in a certain way. But I think he had some kind of a snap. Like you said, you can't reach him now. He had some kind of a snap about probably five or six years ago. I don't know what it is but something. Maybe from being rich where people don't really give you feedback when you're being an ass. Who knows? Same thing, like how many famous actors you know where people go, Oh, I worked with that person; they're psychotic. And they seem normal. Now, he doesn't seem normal but I'm saying basically he's running on like a phantom personality at this point.
GM: It's surreal.
CQ: But everybody's talking like, Hey, wait a minute, Trump, listen to me. They're talking like they're talking to another normal person. But you're not. 'But wait a minute, Trump, be reasonable! You know, you don't have to say it that way. Come on, now, there's another way to say it.' He's not on the same fucking frequency. But that being said, everybody keeps talking about Trump but what I think the problem is the people that elected him, everyone thinks they're bullies but guess what: they're people that were being fucking scolded by the media and by everybody in my business for the past thirty years, basically being mocked. So this is what happens. Sometimes people burn down their own neighbourhood, you know what I mean? Everybody's talking about Trump. Obviously a horrible aberration, but I'm saying there's two sides to everything and it didn't come out of nowhere.
GM: He came out of the -ism of capitalism, right?
CQ: I'm so glad you said that. Let me tell you something: I'm so glad you said that because I was just literally... I'm working on this show for a couple months, you'd think I might have thought that. I just put that down this morning. So great minds think alike. He's the capitalism thing. The person with the money, hey, this guy must know what he's doing. That's how people feel. 'Hey, this guy must know what he's doing, he's rich.' It's like, no. Rich people... it doesn't mean you know what you're doing. It means you know a certain thing.
GM: You know how to manipulate.
CQ: Yeah, you know how to look at a situation and go, 'Oh, here's where you make money in that situation.' It's something I don't know, maybe you don't know. It's not that everybody knows how to do it, but I wouldn't call it an art. I would call it just one of those things. In some ways you could say it's the ultimate bullying because it's basically saying how can I get the most out of this goddamn thing.
GM: You must be torn because I know you don't like PC culture but also you don't like Trump and he doesn't like PC culture.
CQ: Yeah, but PC culture created Trump is what I'm trying to say. PC culture created a guy like Trump because there's a lot of angry people in the country and a lot of them are angry because they don't want to be the fall guy. When you look at the only acceptable people to mock and make fun of for the past 20 years, who is it? It's the red state Christian whatever, white, blue collar, redneck. And those are the people that voted for him because guess what? They're not going to be the fall guy, either. I don't blame them. They're like, 'Oh, we're the laughing stock? Okay, guess what. We'll show you the laughing stock. Laugh at this.'
GM: You can say white trash but you could call any other group trash.
CQ: No, exactly. And that became the go-to. You can't expect to de-personalize people and have them not have some reaction. And people are like, 'But he's going to be the destruction of them.' That's right, but guess what? They don't give a shit because like when people riot, what do they say? 'When black people riot, they burn down their neighbourhood. Why would you burn down your own neighbourhood?' Because you don't care. At this point I think people are like, 'Yeah, we don't care, either. Even though it's fake, at least he's paying lip-service to us. Everybody else is trying to make us the villain in the narrative.'
GM: Do you think comedy will get more PC or less PC under Trump? Where do you think comedy's headed?
CQ: I don't know how long he's going to last. I mean, under Trump, I don't know how this could last more than a few months. But it's been going more PC so I don't feel like... I don't know. It's hard to say. I'm very bad at predicting anything. One thing I've noticed in my life is I've been the worst prognosticator in history. I'm really out of step with anything that you should predict. Good thing I wasn't trying to be a businessman. No, I don't know anything about anything. Whenever it comes down to what does the future hold, or sports, people are like, What?
GM: If you or another comic is not particularly PC now, you run the risk of people going, 'Oh, this is a Trump guy, this guy's a conservative.'
CQ: That's right, yeah. Totally.
GM: How do you combat that?
CQ: You can't combat it, you know what I mean? You just gotta live with whatever people are going to think. You can't combat it. I don't think it's the nature of a comedian to pander and go, 'Hey guys, I agree...' you know what I mean? I believe what I believe. If people turn that into a Trump guy, it's bad for me but what am I going to do, start a fucking publicity campaign? Fuck it. What am I going to say, you know? People can say whatever they want. Obviously being a Trump guy is not the... By the way, somebody comes up to me last week and goes, 'Hey man, I know you gotta be careful. You don't wanna go against Trump because half your audience..." I was like, 'Yeah, that's a really bad showbiz move is to be against Trump. You're right.' People are delusional. I'm like, 'Yeah, you wanna make sure you're pro-Trump for show business purposes.' Did you see his inauguration? There were people on there that haven't been in show business in fifty years! It was crazy.
GM: It was kind of funny, though.
CQ: Even Ted Nugent wouldn't show up.
GM: Oh right, he didn't, did he? I wonder if he was asked.
CQ: I don't know.
GM: It seems like the perfect time to resurrect Tough Crowd.
CQ: I feel like Tough Crowd should have been on since it was off, obviously I would think that. Yeah, it would be a great show right now. But it'll never happen. Speaking of PC, I mean, they couldn't rid of a show like that fast enough. People were horrified in show business. Not regular people; show business people. Horrified. The public had no problem with it. That's how fucking people talk. Obviously showbiz has their little ideology and their standards of decency as much as they want to pretend they push the envelope. They have their legion of decency mentality like anybody else.
GM: You mean the suits, the executives?
CQ: Everybody. No, I don't mean the suits. I mean everybody. I mean artists, suits, everybody. They have their own little standards. You know, I mean everybody does. We all have things that offend us. No, I don't just mean the suits by a long shot. But suits, too. They just get scared for other reasons.
GM: You would think enough people would get what you were doing on that show.
CQ: Yeah, you would, but you know...
GM: Is there a comedian you're a fan of who doesn't get the recognition you think they deserve?
CQ: There's a lot. There's so many. I should put together a list because there are so many that are underrated people that are just doing... At the show last night, even, with Phil Hanley, I saw Nick Griffin shoot a special. Hilarious. I'm sure there are a lot of Canadians that are underrated, too. You almost have to have, like, bombast, too. So if you just have good material, people are like, 'Wait a minute.' They want certain things from comedy. But there's a lot of underrated people. You can always find, 'Well, that's why this person didn't make it, they didn't do this,' but you could say that about the people that made it, too. Yeah, there's a lot of people that are underrated.
GM: Back in the eighties when you started there must have been guys where you – because you're a bad predictor and prognosticator – might have gone, 'This guy's gonna blow up and be huge' and then nothing.
CQ: Oh my God, so many people where I was like, 'This guy's going to have his own sitcom, this person's going to have a movie career.' It's funny, I try to look for reasons and sometimes the reasons are there and sometimes it's just luck. It's bad luck, bad timing. And sometimes the person did something – they got on drugs or they stopped writing, stopped caring. That kind of shit happens, too, I guess.
GM: Started reading their own press clippings and hype.
CQ: That's the worst thing, especially for a comedian. If you start feeling like, 'You know what? I am a genius,' it's like, Oh, God. Nothing's more insufferable.
GM: I see your earliest imdb credit was 1983.
CQ: What?! What was I?
GM: I have no idea. I was just looking the other day. Is that wrong?
CQ: Yeah, that thing's wrong. My first credit, I believe, was – speaking of delusions of grandeur – was my great Crocodile Dundee II part. It's the famous story I always tell people about how I rewrote the script and tried to give myself a co-lead.
GM: What year was that?
CQ: Like, '87 or '86 or something. I was in Three Men and a Baby. I had like three lines in Three Men and a Baby and Crocodile Dundee II. That was '86, I think.
GM: I'm looking you up right now. In 1983 it was Rock 'n' Roll Hotel.
CQ: Oh, well that was '85 or '86, but yeah, yeah, yeah. That was a movie that never got put out. It was like an independent movie. It never got put out, yeah.
GM: So you were doing something then. When did standup start?
CQ: Right around '84. Right around the same time. Rock 'n' Roll Hotel was probably '85, yeah.
GM: And you went all-in with standup? Or were you still thinking you want to be an actor?
CQ: No. I mean, once I got into standup I was like, oh my God, I can't believe this. I was there at the right time. I didn't deserve to make a living at it yet but I did make a living at it. But I shouldn't have been making a living at it at the time, but I was just there at the right time when it was booming. And then every time you try to leave... You see every standup goes back into it.
GM: Is it booming now, do you think?
CQ: Yeah. It's become like a real industry. It's crazy. It's like a real thing now, you know? Now the fans are so much smarter than they were when I was started. When I started, every goddamn idiot who just had loud noises, people would just love it. Now, there's still some of that but there's so many people that are just smarter that it's much more pleasurable to do. I'm so trained from the old days, every time they laugh at something that never used to get laughs, I'm so pleasantly surprised by it. People are much more savvy now. They have a much higher IQ standup-wise.
GM: You're finally legit. Tomorrow I'm talking to your old pal Sarah Silverman.
CQ: Ah, I love her!
GM: What question could I ask her that she would immediately know is from you?
CQ: Uh... I got it, I'm just trying to phrase it correctly. You could say, Why weren't you attracted to Mike Reynolds? He's a good looking, why weren't you attracted to Mike Reynolds?
CQ: She will fucking die! (laughs)
GM: Alright, it's an inside joke and I don't need to know the details.
CQ: He's just a friend of ours but she will laugh so hard. (laughs) Maybe I should make it more specific. What about something like, That was very nice of you to buy the Peter North tape for Mike Reynolds. Or to get Peter North's autograph for Mike Reynolds. This is how great she is as a person: our friend Mike Reynolds was obsessed; his idol was Peter North, the porn star. So she once was in Vegas and Peter North was doing a signing or something and she got an autographed picture for Mike.
GM: Yeah, she's a great person.
CQ: Yeah, she's so great. She's really great.
GM: I don't know what day you're in Vancouver. Maybe it's the same time she is.
CQ: I think we are. I think we're both at the festival, hopefully.
GM: You're at the festival, but I don't know if your dates cross or not.
CQ: Oh, it's a big one?
GM: It's a couple weeks. She's on the 25th, I think.
CQ: Yeah, I'm on the 24th, 25th, I think. Alright, so I'll definitely see her.
GM: Thanks very much. Glad I finally got you.
CQ: Same here. Thanks, Guy. Or is it Ghee?
GM: It's Guy, but I answer to both.
CQ: You answer to Ghee on the east coast and Montreal?