Three Kids in the Hall comics strategize for possible reunion
by mike thomas Staff Reporterfirstname.lastname@example.org October 19, 2011 10:12PM
Dave Foley stars in HOW TO BE A GENTLEMAN, a comedy about the unlikely friendship between a traditional, uptight columnist and an unrefined personal trainer. HOW TO BE A GENTLEMAN will premiere this Fall, Thursday Sept. 29 (8:30-9:00 PM ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. This photo is provided for use in conjunction with the TCA SUMMER PRESS TOUR 2011. Photo: Cliff Lipson/CBS ©2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved
‘TWO KIDS ONE HALL’
◆ Mayne Stage, 1328 W. Morse
◆ (773) 381-4551; maynestage.com
◆ Friday and Saturday
◆ Improv, 5 Woodfield Rd., Schaumburg
◆ (847) 240-2001; improv.com
Updated: November 21, 2011 10:20AM
Nothing’s for certain, but Kids in the Hall stars Dave Foley, Kevin McDonald and Scott Thompson say there’s a good chance they might rekindle the old magic Thursday night at Mayne Stage theater in Rogers Park.
That is, if Foley can grab an earlier flight.
By pure coincidence, all three are in the area doing separate gigs — McDonald and Thompson at Mayne Stage, Foley at the Improv in Schaumburg.
And since Foley’s performances don’t begin until Friday, he says a last-minute reunion of sorts is on his radar. His mates are strategizing, too.
From 1989 to 1994, the Canadian “Kids” were one of the hottest showbiz commodities north and south of the border, introducing such surreal and goofy characters as Buddy Cole, Bad Doctor and Sir Simon Milligan.
Eventually bitterness, infighting and downright hatred broke them up — and kept the five-man, Emmy-nominated ensemble apart until a reunion in 2000.
Since then they’ve occasionally reassembled and are on far friendlier terms than before. Last year an eight-episode “Kids” miniseries called “Death Comes to Town” aired on Canadian TV. There’s even talk among members of a “Kids” live tour.
In the meantime, Foley, McDonald and Thompson are playing smallish venues on the stand-up circuit. Why? Because they want to. And, OK, they need to.
“You could say, ‘Oh, the poor Kids in the Hall, they have to do stand-up,” says Thompson, 52. “You could also take the other route and go, ‘Man, how lucky they are at their age to still be cutting-edge.’”
Unlike his more practiced pals, McDonald (who is reported to be 50 but declined to specify his exact age) is a stand-up newbie.
“This is completely new to me, and it was terrifying,” he says. “I always knew I was funnier with other people — that I needed to be onstage with people — and I think that’s still true. But I’m enjoying stand-up. This is sort of pretentious, but a club owner in Atlanta told me I was deconstructing stand-up comedy, which is maybe a lazy way of not doing stand-up comedy well.”
Foley and Thompson draw from similar wells for portions of their respective acts. To some degree each mines his ongoing personal pain. Thompson is recovering from cancer, which ravaged his body and continues to cause physical issues even though he’s been free-and-clear for two years.
Foley’s duress comes from a different source. Since his high-flying days on NBC’s 1995-99 sitcom “NewsRadio,” his income has dropped precipitously — from $800,000 annually, he says, to $200,000. To make matters much worse, he’s been doing legal battle with his first wife and the mother of their two teen boys, Tabatha Southey. Canadian courts say he must pay her hundreds of thousands of dollars in child support or risk jail time. Foley scoffs at the “draconian” system that’s “skewed, basically, to punishing men” in his position.
“That’s where being a Kid in the Hall comes in handy,” he says. “The stuff that’s the darkest and scariest to us is the stuff that we find somehow the most invigorating to laugh about.”
Discussing his woes onstage, Foley says, is a fine form of self-therapy and something of a stress reliever. It also has been artistically fulfilling and a boon professionally. That he’s no longer able to participate in such rich guy activities as “money bowling” and “gold swallowing” smarts less than it once did.
“Suddenly I was working more than I had been in the last few years,” he says, “and I think part of it was the fact that I was out on the road doing comedy, so people were aware that I was still around.”
Until its recent cancellation, Foley had begun to re-establish “a middle-aged version of myself” on CBS via his role in the short-lived sitcom “How to Be a Gentleman.” And while he’s grateful to have been part of two hit shows — “Kids” and “NewsRadio” — and is deeply proud of both, his current monetary predicament casts a large pall.
“At times it can be frustrating,” he admits, “because you think, ‘I’ve done all these things and have very little to show for it in terms of personal comforts.’ ”
Thompson has the same concern. It’s not an all-consuming one, but it’s there. Lately, though, he’s begun to accentuate the positive. Past negativity, he’s convinced, helped contribute to his condition.
“When we have small audiences my thinking is, ‘OK, we’re not sitting pretty [financially], but how many people do I know in my generation who are still feeling so creatively valid?’ We have tons of friends who are huge superstars … and I know that some of them look at us and go, ‘Oh, they’re so lucky.’ Because first of all I’m not bugged by people constantly, I can still observe people, my fame have never gotten out of control — and now it’s totally slipped. So now it’s fabulous.
“What I’d like to do is get enough fame so I can sell my stuff,” he adds. “My books and my tours and Kids in the Hall stuff, but I don’t want to be Mike Myers or Jack Black. I need the space to have freakouts in public. When you’re really famous you can’t have a bad day publicly.”
On the subject of bad days, Thompson readily and even laughingly details his treatment-precipitated travails: collapsed veins, throat sores, face shingles, a torn calf muscle, lost feeling in his hands and feet, frequent vomiting and chemo-caused baldness — “all those regular things.”
“It’s been a horror show,” he says. “It’s been a nightmare. But that’s why, no matter what happens now, everything’s great.”
This rather newfound confidence, he says, has made him a stronger performer. Long out of the closet, he also claims to no longer harbor bitterness at having been shunned by the gay community in the ’80s and ’90s. And he’s far less susceptible to gay insults.
Back when HIV was “ravaging north America,” Thompson recalls, “gay men were scum of the earth, the lowest thing. That’s not even an exaggeration. It was awful. I did a couple of open-mike nights in Toronto at Yuk Yuk’s [comedy club], and my treatment there was so bad. I got so heckled and the comedians were so ugly to me and everyone called me a faggot and I went, ‘I f---in’ don’t need this.’ I attacked an audience member one night because they called me a faggot, and very soon after, I met the Kids in the Hall and I went, ‘That’s what I’m doing.’ Because there’s no way I could have done [stand-up]. It would have been a nightmare.”
Today he simply wants to be known as a great comic rather than a great gay comic. And if any barbs come his way, he simply turns them back on the hurler. At a show in Providence, R.I, he says, a moron in the crowd bellowed, “How the hell did you not die of AIDS?”
“The old me would have gone ballistic,” Thompson says. “The new me laughed and then I just went off on him, but in a different way. I eviscerated him.”
Thompson chuckles devilishly, relishing the memory.
“I’m thinking, ‘F—- you.’ And yet, I don’t give a s—-. Because as I say to the audience, ‘You’re not a tumor.’”