Bruce McCulloch is coming home.
On many, many levels.
On the most immediate level, there’s the fact the comic, director and one-fifth the force behind Canadian sketch comedy legends the Kids In the Hall is performing a one-man show that hits his former hometown of Calgary on Sunday, Jan. 27.
He’ll do so at the Bella Concert Hall in the Taylor Centre of Performing Arts on the campus of Mount Royal University, which he attended.
“It was a college then, but now they’re full of themselves,” McCulloch quips.
The city holds a special place in his heart for a number of reasons, including the fact it was here where he first cut his chops in improv at famed institution Loose Moose Theatre. He’s also returned here post-Kids career on a number of occasions to film, including his semi-autobiographical TV series Young Drunk Punk.
“Some of my best friends in the world are still there,” he says, noting, specifically the crew at One Yellow Rabbit. “I both have an immense love for the city it once was in the ’80s when I was a punk there and the complicated, amazing city that it is now.”
In fact, he admits that when he made the decision to return to Canada with his family after living in the States for the past two decades, it was on the shortlist.
Why he came back north of the border is one of the things he will touch on during his show, Tales of Bravery and Stupidity, which he describes as a mix of storytelling, standup comedy and observational humour.
“The title comes from my personality, which is that somehow I have something weird in my body that makes me put myself in the middle of things that don’t need to happen, that I have a kind of chemical longing to be in weird situations, and I find myself in them. So it’s storytelling in that vein,” he says.
“It’s sort of standup comedy, it’s my world view. As I get older I become more of a humanist, in that corny, we’re-all-in-this-together kind of way.”
Again, that leads into his decision to return home to Canada, a part of the show that he says usually gets an emotional reaction.
And while the city in which he grew up had a pull, he chose to relocate to Toronto for business reasons.
One of those would be another return home — to sketch comedy.
McCulloch is now working with T.O. troupe Tallboyz II Men, in “heavy pre-production” for a series that was green-lighted by the CBC.
He notes that he actually worked on a couple of sketch comedy pilots including with fellow Canuck comic Norm Macdonald,but this is the first one that will see the light of day, and he couldn’t be more pleased with how it’s going.
“It’s really sweet to be working with a troupe that’s at the beginning of their career, as we were, to see how fresh and energetic and exciting it all is,” he says of the multi-racial quartet of artists — something that he says is very much a part of their comedy — whom he first became aware of when he was teaching at Humber College.
“And to actually just deal with the rhythms of sketch comedy, which I really haven’t done (since Kids), because I’ve done mostly films or 22-minute TV or series of whatever.
“So it’s just the funniest idea wins as opposed to a bunch of other things.”
Other than his directing skills, he sees his role as something of a mentor, helping them not only hone their comedic skills but also to help them navigate waters that he and his fellow Kids sailed through 30 years prior.
“I let them have their voice, but I’ve been through a lot the stuff that they haven’t been through,” he says. “No one ever told us that stuff and we just kept making weird mistakes or not knowing what the hell was up, so I’m endeavouring to kind of walk them through the entire process. And it’s fun because they’re young and really kind — a lot kinder than we were.”
It’s rather fitting that he now find himself back in the world of sketch comedy, considering that the Kids In the Hall — their career, their legacy — are very much in the fore thanks to the late 2018 release of their authorized biography One Dumb Guy, which was authored by friend and fan Paul Myers.
It tells the story of how McCulloch and his fellow Kids, Dave Foley, Mark McKinney, Kevin McDonald and Scott Thompson, came together and, from from 1988 to 1995, created arguably one of the five most groundbreaking sketch shows in TV history. And, yes, it also tells of some of those many mistakes and some of that not-so kind behaviour.
“I actually like the symmetry of that,” he admits of the book and his current work. “I don’t know, sketch comedy is in my brain again. I’m at that age in my life where it’s actually fun to talk about the Kids In the Hall. I think as a man in my thirties it was like, ‘Ugh, I don’t want to have to talk about the Kids In the Hall,’ but now I’m so proud of us and we all enjoy each other so much, that’s it’s like, ‘Oh, it’s kind of neat that there’s a book coming out about us now,’ and talking to the guys a lot during this, I kind of like that, a year of sketch comedy.”
Yes, as Thompson — who was in town the week prior to McCulloch’s date performing his own one-man show Après Le Déluge: The Buddy Cole Monologues at OYR’s High Performance Rodeo — admitted in an interview with theYYSCENE there has been talk of the crew getting back together for another sketch comedy series in the very near future.
It would be the first thing all five have have worked on since their 2010 miniseries Death Comes to Town, and as McCulloch says, he’s very much on board.
So the problem isn’t will, the problem is, well, the Kids In the Hall.
McCulloch points to the title of the biography, the phrase One Dumb Guy, which he coined because, “individually we’re all pretty smart, but when you put us together somehow we become one dumb guy.
“That’s mostly in terms of business,” he says. “Like it takes us two years to have a fucking conference call. But it feels like the weather is gathering and we’ll do a sketch series in the next year or so. After we did Death Comes to Town it was like, that was fun to do a murder mystery, but maybe let’s do a sketch show next time.’ That’s what our drunken dinners together have revealed.”
Bruce McCulloch and Cathy Jones perform Sunday, Jan. 27 at the Bella Concert Hall in Mount Royal University’s Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts.