The Comedy Couch

 BRUCE MCCULLOCH - May 8, 2008

Bruce McCulloch

Every so often we go some place and they go, "We thought you were young guys." And I go, "We were."


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.
BM: Absolutely.

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."
     
Kids in the Hall

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.

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.


We'd always been these kind of loser geeks who just fucking toiled away... We're not the winners of society, the five of us.


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.

                                 Bruce McCulloch
I'm an unbelievable humanist and a dark little motherfucker, too.

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.


 
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