ArtsComedyFestivalTheatre

Scott Thompson’s Buddy Cole is the queer guy and clear eye the world needs now

Scott Thompson’s demeanour on this day is as sunny as the California sky over his head.

Just before Christmas, he is in a very good mood and is celebrating what has been a pretty great year.

Hell, the comedian, actor and member of Canadian sketch comedy legends Kids In the Hall isn’t even bothered by the political clouds that have been raining excrement down on the nation south of his former homeland’s borders.

“I know I’m not supposed to be enjoying the States right now, but I am,” Thompson says. “I’m the one. I’m the person that’s enjoying it.”

Perhaps, that’s due in part to the fact that he’s enjoying a “bonus round” in life, thanks to beating cancer a decade ago.

But it’s also due to the fact that 2018 was a busy one for him, with a new and thriving standup career — which saw the release of the hilarious Not A Fan album — and his touring one-man show Après Le Déluge: The Buddy Cole Monologues.

The latter is what will bring him to Calgary, for a four-night run — beginning Wednesday, Jan. 23 — at the Big Secret Theatre as part of the High Performance Rodeo. The show is a “compilation of (untelevised) monologues from the end of the Kids In the Hall until now,” featuring his groundbreaking character Buddy Cole, a flamboyant and fabulously gay alter-ego that was a KITH fave and even found longevity with at the release of an “autobiography” and a stint on the later days of The Colbert Report.

Right now, he thinks, is the perfect time to unleash Cole on the world, to let him say what needs to be said, to cut through the nice and polite agenda that the progressive audience, his audience, are pushing on various levels.

“I think people are just overreacting. And that’s from a person who’s a real overreacter, like I am a drama queen,” he says before admitting that as a gay man even he wouldn’t be granted immunity from the PC police the way that his character is.

“I can get away with a lot, but no one can get away with as much as him. He can say anything. I don’t understand why he can do it, he just does and people go, ‘It’s just Buddy.’

“Because Buddy is not a drama queen, he sees things clearly … He looks at things with a real clear eye and he’s not really swayed by sentiment and emotion, and I am a lot.”

He continues. “When I’m Buddy I feel kind of protected. I put on the armour and I can’t really be hurt. I can be hurt, but Buddy can’t. Nothing touches me when I’m him. It doesn’t really matter what people say, I don’t really care. But when I’m myself I’m much more vulnerable”.

That’s one of the reasons he has a preference for putting on the Buddy suit, sitting on a stool, with martini in hand and being his catty, lispy, loungey other, as opposed to hitting a stage with a brick wall as the background and trying to get some laughs from the drunks.

He notes that he attempted it when he was first starting out, pre-Kids and pre-coming out, and that after a few open mics in the ’80s at a Yuks Yuks out East, where he was called “faggot” and things got “ugly” when he responded by jumping in the audience, he killed that notion.

The environment was not a good one for someone of the LGBTQ community, with the comics and audiences almost universally “homophobic” and unwelcoming he says.

“It was just very obvious that I wasn’t wanted there,” he says, noting that gay men were seen as “garbage … the bottom of the barrel” in the era of AIDS. “We were just fighting for our lives.

“If I was a kid today, I’d probably go right into standup, but not my generation, it wasn’t possible for gay men to do standup in the ’80s, the ’90s — it was impossible, you couldn’t do it,” he says. “You could only do it in a ghetto way, you could do it only in the gay circuit, but you couldn’t be a mainstream openly gay comedian, it just was never going to happen.

“When I was very young … I wanted to be an actor, just a regular actor, like a dramatic actor, who was funny on talk shows — that was my dream. I didn’t have any notion of becoming a comedian, it didn’t seem possible, because the comedians I like talk about their lives and I couldn’t talk about my life. So that wasn’t going to happen.”

That, of course, changed when he saw an early incarnation of the Kids, as related in author Paul Myers’ excellent authorized biography One Dumb Guy.

Having already been in an improv troupe at York University, it was the moment when he was truly introduced to the world of sketch comedy where you could act and be funny and not be you.

“When I met the Kids In the Hall, I went, ‘Oh, I can be characters. I can hide in a group, inside the group, they’ll protect me and I can do what I do,’ ” he says.

“The moment I saw them, that was it. I went, ‘Well, that’s my life.’ It was like, you know you have a certain type, you go, ‘I only like this type.’ And then you see a redhead and you go, ‘I don’t like redheads; I like this redhead.’ And that’s what it is … It was love at first sight and I never really looked back …”

That’s not to say he was welcomed into the Kids world immediately, noting that he auditioned for a full six months, and his sexuality was initially an issue with the rest of the five — Dave Foley, Kevin McDonald, Bruce McCulloch and Mark McKinney.

“Oh it was,” he says and laughs. “Oh, please. Let’s not kid ourselves. It was … That’s all in the past, but it was definitely a rocky beginning. But look, it’s always an issue, and in the ’80s for men it was an issue. But I’m the kind of person who won’t allow it to be. I think they just respected me because I’m a fighter and I think that’s what did it.”

While he won’t go into specifics, he admits there was “one instance … it was little ugly” where things came to a head, but afterwards the other four made up a song and sang it to him and welcomed him in.

And, he says, the quintet will be together for life. He likens it to his own family, where he grew up one of five brothers and felt proud to be part of the pack and, yes, protected by it.

Talk of a new series continues to this day and news that McCulloch is performing a one-man show at the Bella Concert Hall in Mount Royal University’s Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts the Sunday after his run is completed is met with delight that they might meet up and, perhaps, push the reunion forward.

Just like for Buddy Cole, Thompson thinks now is the perfect time.

“Kids In the Hall coming back into this environment would be very exciting. It would be exciting and terrifying, I’d love it. We’d get into so much trouble — it would be a blast,” he says.

“The world is in trouble and comedy is really in trouble, it’s being attacked everywhere, and I think comedy’s going, ‘Well, what did I ever do? I’m just doing my job.’ But people don’t want comedy to do it’s job any more.

“But I think what the world needs right now is five middle-aged white men.”

He laughs. “Don’t you think that’s what this culture is clamouring for?”

Scott Thompson’s Après Le Déluge: The Buddy Cole Monologues runs until Saturday, Jan. 26 at the Big Secret Theatre as part of the High Performance Rodeo.

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