Daily Radar Interview, July 2000

Daily Radar Exclusive Interview with Kevin McDonald By Chris Bushnell

After five long years of groundbreaking sketch comedy, the Kids in the Hall retired their television show and headed to the big screen. Unfortunately, their feature film debut, Brain Candy, met with a cool response from critics and fans alike. Burt out from the constant creative struggles and conflicting personalities within the group, the Kids in the Hall went their separate ways.

Dave Foley went to NewsRadio; Mark McKinney returned to SNL; Bruce McCulloch moved to the directorís chair; and Scott Thompson created a website (www.scottland.com) while touring as his alter ego Buddy Cole. Kevin McDonald, cited by a majority of the Daily Radar staff as ďthe funniest kidĒ, didnít latch on to any one particular project. Instead, he focused on writing the perfect film script and guest starring in a parade of cameos and bit parts.

Now, after four long years apart, the Kids in the Hall have reunited. Their spring tour sold out houses around the country and a partnership with the brand spankiní new website comedyworld.com promises even more. We caught up with Kevin McDonald recently to discuss comedyworld.com, and ended up talking about a whole lot more...

Daily Radar: The big announcement is that the Kids in the Hall have signed on to comedyworld.com. Whatís your role with comedyworld.com?

Kevin McDonald: Not that I understand anything about computers. I know nothing about, whatís the word, streaming media applications. That doesnít mean anything to me. But the Ďcomedyí part of comedyworld.com means something to me. What excited me and the other Kids in the Hall, was that we get to do comedy all the time. Every three or four years with a tour or movie. With the TV show, we got to do comedy all the time. Thereís been no venue or platform for us to be doing any funny ideas that we have, and now we have a new platform. Thatís what really excited us, and thatís why we knew weíd say yes right away, and we did.

DR: So what will you be doing for comedyworld.com? A weekly show? Occasional bits?

KM: We could pretty much do whatever we want. Weíre just at the beginning, so we havenít really figured that out yet. It was a great offer and they wanted to make it as much like us as possible, which is good, because some people would make it less like you. That would make us unhappy because weíre us. We donít know what weíre doing yet, but its about to begin and weíre looking forward to it.

DR: Well, what kind of things would you like to do with comedyworld.com?

KM: Because Iím an old-fashioned guy, and I donít understand the computer and streamlining media or streaming, I would like to do a lot of things where they film me or radio type things. Is that possible on the computer? You kids nowadays, can you do that?

DR: Yes, absolutely.

KM: Good. Before the TV show, in Toronto, Mark, Dave and I had a radio show. We had twelve minutes to fill every week for a university radio station. Really, some of our most inventive things came from there. Some stuff we could never do on TV because it would have cost a million dollars.

DR: Do you have anything for comedyworld.com in the can yet?

KM: Weíre gonna have our first meeting about it soon. I think we have a lot of stuff individually. I have lots of stuff that Iíve been writing for a few years that has had nowhere to go. I know Scott is like that. I think everyone is like that. But we have nothing that was thought of in the same room.

DR: Are the Kids in the Hall still on tour now?

KM: We finished the tour. Weíve been finished for a month and a half.

DR: How did it go?

KM: It went really well. We didnít fight, and people came to see us. Thatís all I ask, that we donít fight and that people come to see us.

DR: Did you guys fight a lot?

KM: Well, when youíre together every day...I watch VH1's Behind the Music all the time. Every group always splits up after their second or third world tour. With the TV show, we were writing together every day. When itís creative, itís all about egos. Weíre like a rock band where all five of us were writers, so there was more ego. Also, we were younger. Now that weíre older and have had four or five years apart from each other, no one wanted to fight. I mean, there were creative fights that were important, and that was good, but it never really got personal. Or too personal. It was a lot better. And, yet, we didnít hold back. We were still creatively tough with each other, which is the only way for us to be us.

DR: Does having a successful tour come off with no hitches reinvigorate the Kids as a group?

KM: Yeah, it did. In fact, weíre all talking about another fictional movie, like Brain Candy. That was at the back of our minds when we started talking about the tour, but didnít come to the front of our throats until halfway through the tour, and everything was going well. The most exciting thing was the thing that no one sees: when we came in for sound check or when we had meetings in the hotel rooms or when we were all together, we were coming up with ideas for sketches. Ideas that we mostly couldnít use on the tour, but they were funny ideas that whoever thought of it would make the other four laugh. And thatís really the lifeblood about the group: ideas. It got us excited about the future again. I mean, we never really gave up on anything. Everyone was busy, and we just stopped working together. But we picked up where we left off.

DR: So, you think Kids in the Hall, in one form or another, will continue for the forseeable future?

KM: I think so. At least in the sense that there are so many rock groups, but thereís only one really long-term comedy troupe, Monty Python. So their bible is really the only bible for comedy troupes. But I like it. They did a TV show and then a movie every three or four years.

DR: Was there ever a time that you felt pigeonholed by Monty Pythonís legacy?

KM: Yeah, for sure. Weíre five guys. Weíre all white. One of us is gay. Weíre kinda like Monty Python. Weíre Canadian, so weíre almost British. We dress in drag. So all of our lives weíve heard that. And the truth is that some of us were really influenced by Monty Python. But youíre sort of half-proud that youíre even close to it, but, yeah, it does get a little pigeonholish. Iím inventing words. Pigeonholish? At least with rock groups you could be the Black Crowes. Your could be Bon Jovi...

DR: Youíve mentioned rock groups a few times. Is it true that every comedian secretly wants to be a rock star?

KM: Every comedian secretly wants to be a rock star, and conversely, every rock star secretly wants to be a comedian. Itís true. Itís totally true.

DR: The party line is that Kids in the Hall was ďdiscoveredĒ by Lorne Michaels. Is that literally true? Was he actually the one who found you?

KM: We were discovered by a person looking for him. We had been together, the five of us, for a year. They were looking for people for Saturday Night Live, and we were just getting good. We always did a completely different show each week. So we thought ďwhy donít we rent a theatre and do a Best OfĒ? Weíd never repeated a scene before. It was a new idea. Mark thought of it. We did it, and it was a big hit, and there was a lot of press, and this guy just happened to make it to the last show. Then we got an audition for Saturday Night Live, and they hired Mark and Bruce as writers, were they worked for a year. And then Lorne Michaels came to Toronto and saw the five of us. Liked us. Fired Mark and Bruce, so he could work on getting the five of us a show. So he directly-indirectly discovered us.

DR: Lorne produced Brain Candy, and youíre working on The Ladies Man coming up. Do you continue to work with him out of a contractual obligation or by choice?

KM: Oh, no. Weíve worked together before, so sometimes when weíre right for something, heíll ask us. And I always say yes because a) itís usually funny and b) I feel obligated anyway. I mean, itís always funny anyway, so it doesnít matter. I guess we do owe everything to him. And it was funny. They gave me a very funny part in The Ladies Man. I play a mailman who hates the Ladies Man. I wouldnít say yes just out of obligation. I would want it to be funny first.

DR: Is there really an entire movie there, or are they just stretching a bit?

KM: I donít understand computers, is my voice going to be heard? [laughs] Well, I, uh, yeah, uh, I think it will be funny. There are some very funny things and some very funny people in it. Except for me.

DR: So when Kids in the Hall ended, Mark returned to snl. Was that something that was offered to all of you, or something he pursued?

KM: I donít think he pursued it. I think he was offered it.

DR: Was it an offer that was extended to you?

KM: They toyed with me. We had talks, but it never really happened.

DR: Would you have wanted to do more sketch comedy, or at that point were you looking for something different?

KM: Yeah, I was looking to do movies. If it had ever become an official offer, it would have been an amazingly hard thing to turn down because I had been doing that my whole life. But Iíve always dreamed of doing movies, and Iím heading towards that goal. I canít say Iím glad I didnít do it. I wouldíve had a really troubled week where I wouldíve thought a lot about what to do, then I probably wouldíve said yes.

DR: What kind of roles are you being offered these days?

KM: Well, because of Brain Candy, a lot of them are computer geeks. I went up for the first Mission: Impossible. That part that Ving Rhames got. Before they tried something different, they tried something traditional. So I went in with my thick glasses and tried to be a computer geek. Thatís the kind of part, usually.

DR: Youíve been the king of guest spots. Do you prefer that, or would you prefer something more stable?

KM: Well, what I really want to do is be Albert Brooks. Direct my own movies. Or at least writing, producing and being in them. The guest spots were great, but TV is kind of hard for me. I wouldnít be able to be in control of it unless I came up with my own premise. But the guest spots are great because youíre in and out. Youíre in, boom, youíre out. I was on one show, I wonít name the show, where I did a thing. One or two days before you shoot it, they have a rehearsal for the producers and writers. It was the last year on a sitcom that was just canceled, but Iím not going to tell you which one! But I never got more laughs in my life. And I got a sick feeling in my stomach. Sure enough, two days later, on Valentineís Day, they called me to replace me. They told me that I was too funny, that it unbalanced the rest of the show.

DR: Does that kind of thing happen a lot? Do you find that when you have good ideas that itís a struggle to get good material across?

KM: Oh, for sure. Also, they were being nice by saying ďtoo funny.Ē Also what they mean is that I was a bit too sketch-like and over-the-topish and not more real. Although, when I think about it, almost everyone on that sitcom was. But I also think they have a prejudice against me. Directors are always putting their arms around me and saying stuff like ďThatís wonderful what you do on your sketch comedy show...but here on That 70's Show weíre a bit more reality based.Ē

DR: So your resume doesnít get you any additional props?

KM: Well, it does, and it doesnít. The actors all come up and they all really appreciate my work and say theyíre looking forward to working with me. The first day, the director is usually going out of his way to get me to tone it down. Then by the second day, they realize Iím not going to be a problem and just laugh and go with it.

DR: A while ago you were thinking about adapting a Joseph Conrad novel to the screen?

KM: [excited] Yes! Yes, Iíve done that! Itís called Officer Bob. The novel is Lord Jim, but the movie is Officer Bob. We had it under contract for a year with Jason Alexander. Nothing has happened on it yet, and I think that contract ran out. Everyone in Hollywood saw the script, and they really liked it...or so they say. Iím gonna get another script out there and pick up on that one again, because I have a good feeling about it.

DR: What kind of looks do you get when you go and pitch Joseph Conrad to the studio suits?

KM: People try to seem impressed. ďOh, Joseph Conrad!Ē quickly followed by ďBut I never read that one.Ē Itís such a great story with Lord Jim. They pretend to be impressed, but they couldnít care less. I donít think it hurts it or helps it.

DR: Are there projects that you are actively avoiding?

KM: If itís funny, thatís the important criteria for me. I personally say yes to everything because you move to L.A., and you panic and you think you may never work again. Once Iím settled in and everything is fine, Iím gonna try to be more picky and selective and say to myself ďwhat can I bring to this role?Ē Hopefully one day Iíll be doing my on movies and I wonít be doing other peopleís roles.

DR: Is there anything that youíre really embarrassed for having done?

KM: Yes, there are a couple of things. But I donít want to hurt anyoneís feelings, and you know Iím being diplomatic so Iíll stick with yes. You can probably guess if you study my work.

DR: What was your biggest professional disappointment?

KM: Thatís easy. The box office performance of Brain Candy. I didnít think it would make $100 million, but my goal was like $20 million. It cost $8 million, and then it would have been perceived as a hit. Also, the critical response was about 55% favorable. Maybe 60% favorable. I wanted 85% favorable and $20 million. And I thought we could have done our own movies forever.

DR: What was the final gross on Brain Candy?

KM: Uh, $3 million.

DR: Do you hear from a lot of Kids in the Hall fans about the movie?

KM: Everyone who has come up to me that mentioned the movie has told me that they liked it. Now I know there are Kids in the Hall fans who were disappointed, but our fans are polite. They donít come up and tell me that. Iím not deluding myself. Iím not thinking that 100% of the people liked it, but when they come up to me, theyíre favorable about it.

DR: How long did it take for people to stop coming up to you and saying, ďIím crushing your head!Ē?

KM: [Laughs] Well, itís died down a bit, but it will never stop totally. Not as long as Comedy Central runs it four hours a day. Bruce hears all the time ďMy pen! My pen!Ē That must be a drag for him. I get ďIím crushing your headĒ but I also get ďEvil!Ē Iíll be walking my dog and people will drive by and yell ďEvil!Ē Once we did a scene where I was a child molester. There was a jam contest. The mayor, played by Mark, who wrote the scene...very funny scene, is trying to pick the jam. And he says, ďNumber 3. I pick number 3.Ē And someone says ďOh, no, you canít pick that one, thatís the child molesterís jam.Ē They cut to me, and Iím in my handcuffs on a prison work program and I win. The next day after it was on, someone saw me in a store and pointed and yelled, ďItís the child molester!Ē

DR: Do you ever get mistaken for other celebrities?

KM: Well, people get sketches mixed up. They mention sketches that are on other sketch comedy shows, like The Vacant Lot.

DR: What do you think about sketch comedy today? Are there troupes out there that impress you?

KM: I was impressed a few years ago by...I get the name wrong all the time. Exit...

DR: Exit 57?

KM: Yes, Exit 57. I thought that was smart comedy, and they are all great comic actors. And the one out now is good, but I havenít seen it that much because of my horrible admission that Iím about to make. Iíve sort of become jaded and bored with sketch comedy. We did improv for a while, and then I became bored of improv after awhile. Sketch comedy is great, and people donít get bored with it, but since I did it so much, I guess Iím a little bored with it. Whatís the group out now?

DR: Upright Citizens Brigade?

KM: Yeah, yeah. Dave says itís very funny. Iím sure I would think itís very funny if I could turn the station to sketch comedy.

DR: Whatís your dream project? If someone comes up to you and says ďKevin, you can do whatever you want and Iíll put up the cash,Ē what would it be?

KM: Officer Bob! Iíve already written the script. No one will need to rewrite it, since this is my dream world. Iíll produce it so I have power over it. Iíll get to pick my own director which would be Kelly Makin, who was our director on Brain Candy.

DR: If you could switch post-Kids in the Hall careers with another Kid in the Hall, who would it be?

KM: Good question. None of them is exactly perfectly what I would want. Iíd think Iíd pick Bruce, because heís in demand as a director. I would rather act, so itís not that perfect. If I could do a combination, Iíd like Bruce in the sense that he can write his own ticket. He has a lot of movies that heís offered, and he gets to direct his own screenplays for a good budget. And a bit of Dave. Not NewsRadio, though that was amazing. But the fact that heís done NewsRadio and From Earth to the Moon, he can get good second-banana parts in comedy movies. So, from what I have to choose from, Iíd choose a little of Bruce and a little of Dave. Not that Scott and Markís careers arenít great.

DR: So we arenít going to see you directing Superstar 2?

KM: Uh, no.

DR: Did you see Superstar?

KM: Yes, I saw Superstar.

DR: What was your opinion of it?

KM: I thought Bruce did a very good job. There were some really funny moments in it. And coincidentally I thought the funniest moment was the scene with Mark when he was eating the dry toast.

DR: Whatís the biggest benefit of your celebrity?

KM: Of my minor celebrity? Uh, sometimes at Baskin-Robins they let me have the chocolate peanut butter ice cream for free.

DR: Youíve never dropped your name or made a phone call to get tickets to something?

KM: No. Mostly because Iím shy, and Iím shy on the phone. I would turn red, and it would turn ugly.

DR: You donít have people do that for you?

KM: People always ask me about my people. But Iím stupid and I donít know which people are my people. Iím sure I have people somewhere waiting for me to call them, but I donít know which ones they are.

DR: You were on the Martin Short Show recently in a recurring role.

KM: Yeah, I was one of the cast members and a writer. The plan was that I would get to write my own things. The show was canceled a few months ago. It was supposed to be half Saturday Night Live and half Rosie. It was just too hard to do. It was a great plan, but the reality set in that it was an afternoon talk show. People arenít going to be tuning in at 2 or 3 in the afternoon to see hip, cutting-edge sketch comedy. It was a nice dream, and it wouldíve been great, but it basically turned into a talk show. I quit before it was canceled.

DR: Debunk or support a perception that might be out there: you had a hit show that was on for several years and is on in reruns constantly. You did a movie. You sell out large houses on tour. Therefore, youíre set for life. You got a lot of dough and everything youíre doing now is for love.

KM: [Laughs hard] Iím not set for life. Weíre set for life in that we always have the Kids in the Hall to go back to. But as our lawyer told us back in 1986, ďSign it, but itís the worst deal in television history.Ē

DR: Do you get any cash from Kids in the Hall being rerun so constantly?

KM: We do. We get money, but weíre not set for life.

DR: Do you own any rights to the shows or the characters? Do you have to go to Lorne and get permission to do a movie based on a character?

KM: We own rights to the characters. Weíre very lucky that Lorne gave that to us. We went on strike at the beginning of the third year. But we didnít want anyone to know that we were on strike, so we went to work. Somehow it worked and we got our characters. ďThe Secret StrikeĒ we call it now.

DR: Any plans to release a Kids in the Hall DVD or compilation tape?

KM: We talk about it. It would be great. I think if we got it together and talked about it with Lorne, he would like that. My idea would be to have us on one track talking at the same time about how the scene was. Because thatís exactly what would happen. Weíd all be in the studio, weíd all talk over each other and no one would understand what we were saying. I think an hour and a half of that would be great.

DR: Who were your comedy influences?

KM: Buster Keaton. Dave and I always say that, but itís true. It may be boring to say that, but heís our favorite because heís sort of modern and timeless. Chaplin always went for sentiment. And even though Chaplin was good, Keaton was so unsentimental and deadpan thatís why I think his stuff is more modern.

DR: What question are you sick of answering?

KM: ďWhy are Canadians so funny?Ē

DR: Tell me one good embarrassing story about another member of Kids in the Hall.

KM: One time during the writing process for the TV show, Scott got mad at something. This was in the writerís room, so we were all in there. Scott took a banana and threw it across the room. Only it hit the electric fan and it went back on him in little bits and pieces. He was covered in banana. He had been in a bad mood all day, and he turned around to us and yelled, ďNo one laugh! No one laugh!Ē We all had to run out of the room so we could laugh outside.

DR: If someone came to the Kids and said ďLetís do it again! Letís do another sketch TV show!Ē Would you do it?

KM: I would be tempted to, except that I feel so old. It was such a great time. Everyone on SCTV always said that no matter how successful they got, they would always know that their best work was always in the SCTV show. There is a chance that our best work would always be in the Kids in the Hall TV show. But itís sort of like Mary Tyler Moore quitting while it was still good. I kinda like the idea that we wouldnít hurt or damage it by doing it again.

DR: If it ever got to the point where one of the Kids didnít want to go on with the project, would four of the five of you continue under the Kids in the Hall name?

KM: Thatís interesting. I know that no one would be replaced. We wouldnít replace the drummer, obviously. This is me guessing, because I donít know what the five of us would think, but my vote would be if one of us quit, then it would damage it for me. But if one of us died, I would say go on. ďWeíll do it for Dave!Ē

DR: Do you ever stop and watch the show when you flip by and see the show?

KM: Actually last week I was on the toilet, and there was a TV Guide there, and I saw there was a Kids in the Hall episode on that I kinda liked. My girlfriend wasnít in the house, so I didnít have to be embarrassed, so I put it on, and I watched. And I enjoyed it. Itís funny. The things I didnít like then, I like now.

DR: What are you most proud of?

KM: Iím very proud of completing Brain Candy. That we got to write it and finish it. It was a very, very hard process, and Iím very proud that we finished it and that it is a good movie. And Iím very proud that we did five whole years of the sketch comedy show.

DR: Do you ever check out the Kevin McDonald fan sites online?

KM: I did once because I needed some information that I forgot. I was making a resume or something. Once a few years ago I was at a friendís place in Toronto, and he pulled up the Kids in the Hall website. We were making the movie, and it had been a year or so since the TV show had ended. Someone had written ďI guess Kevin McDonald has become the Ringo Starr of the group.Ē I joined in and wrote back ďActually, Ringo had more #1 hits than any other Beatle in the 1970's.Ē Iím ashamed that I did that, but I was a little drunk.

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