From Young Drunk Punk to good-natured family man

Bruce McCulloch with his small stature and goofball comedy is the eternal child. So it’s strange to see him all grown up. Now living in Los Angeles with his children and wife he phones for his scheduled interview shortly after getting some Dinosaur Nuggets for his boy. It’s hard to reconcile that image with his mulleted character Bob eating his mom’s fucking good ham. Yet the little goofball who first practised his craft in Calgary has developed a sort of wisdom befitting a grown up Kid.

“I love that people know anything or have any thought about me but they think I’m this dark guy” he says when asked if he’s wistful or happy looking back on his youth. “And I think I did come from a dark place I think I did in Alberta. But I actually always have been a humanist and I think as a young man I cared what the world thought of me even though I pretended I didn’t because I was punk but I did. And then now I kind of feel like I just want to be part of the world a bit more. You know the world is sad and beautiful. All the music I love is sad and beautiful. It’s not one thing or the other so I’m interested in both.”

That balance and that remembrance will be on display in McCulloch’s one-man show at the High Performance Rodeo Young Drunk Punk which takes a mostly funny look at his life in Calgary as the aforementioned intoxicated punk leading up to his days as an older parent in California.

“It’s a night of comedy. I don’t want to scare anybody off” says McCulloch. “It’s not like I’m telling 15 stories about getting beat up at Tom’s House of Pizza. In general the people who like it respond to it because it’s not just about me it feels like it’s about them. When I talk about my pet dying it’s their pet dying. Or whatever.”

McCulloch for those who don’t know spent his formative years in Calgary mouthing off and running from the “cowboys” who still roamed and would beat down a kid for wearing something out of the ordinary. He would drink and fight and revel in his rebellion.

“I’d go [to the Calgarian] and see Hüsker Dü and the Modernettes and I wouldn’t so much get in fights as actually get beat up. Fight implies I did a good part of the work” he says.

“I’m a little guy and believe it or not my best friend that I would hang out with was littler than me so I had to do the fighting. It was terrible.”

Although not really fun at the time growing up in Calgary during that period helped solidify an outsider mentality that stuck and which helped formulate a quirky and bizarre comedy that ended up catapulting McCulloch and the other Kids to fame. Although McCulloch considers that outsider status a gift he also says that it would have been nice to get a little more advice in order to avoid some of the scars he accumulated along the way.

“I also think that when I was growing up no one ever taught me a fucking thing” says McCulloch. “No one even said ‘atta boy’ or ‘here’s what you need to do in this situation.’ And I think having kids I sort of realized all the conversations I never had with my parents that I have with my kids. So there’s something about that. I am a guy with young kids and I was a self-described punk — of course I mean ‘punk’ in the spirit it is kind of literal but it’s really the outsider spirit — and now I’m a guy that has to get Dinosaur Nuggets.”

Thankfully for McCulloch he found an outlet at Loose Moose Theatre where Keith Johnstone was teaching his style of improv in a city that was still largely a cultural wasteland.

It was also in that wasteland that McCulloch first encountered the weirdos in One Yellow Rabbit who were just starting out and challenging the hegemony of fake British accents and tired scripts in Calgary’s theatre scene. In those days they were far away from bringing international acts to Calgary for one of the largest cultural festivals in town.

“I brushed up against them before I left town but I didn’t become great friends with them until after I left town” says McCulloch.

“There was so little [in Calgary at that time] but they were a little freakier than me. They did Juggle on the Drum which was one of their first shows when I was starting in late-night comedy at Loose Moose Theatre in ’83.”

Because of that connection it was important for McCulloch to have this show in order for the Calgary performance. Although he’s performed Young Drunk Punk in Toronto and Los Angeles he says he’s been tweaking the script and that “this is the unveiling that I’m kind of finally done now.”

The show will follow McCulloch through his life offering insight sure but also plenty to laugh about. There will also be music — a constant in McCulloch’s life and performances — with Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet’s Brian Connelly playing live onstage with him.

For fan’s of Kids in the Hall and of McCulloch it will likely provide the same quirky style that he’s always done so well. After all although the man may be sitting at home feeding oddly shaped separated chicken bits to his child he hasn’t lost his punk spirit.

“I absolutely do [still feel like an outsider]. It is the gift of the Kids in the Hall in a way which is I thought only I thought the way I did and then we would go play Toronto or Michigan State or Calgary or whatever and there would be 300 to 500 people who felt the way we did. So I am an outsider but I feel like there are a lot of us. So yeah of course even as I’m writing a pilot right now for Fox it’s like ‘yeah but I’m this weird guy.’”