A Kid In The Hall Grows Up
was one of those days the industry lives for--five Careers thrown
together in one tiny Hollywood home laughing and pretending they'd
known each other for years. A steady flow of industry chatter--"Well,
I had dinner last night with Trent, and he said. . ."--kept
uncomfortable silences at bay.
Then they arrived, small-talk topics and filofaxes in hand. After
greeting The Assistants, The Photographer and The Star, you locate
The Publicist who ushers you and The Comedian outside to conduct
Metallic tap water (courtesty of The Assistant) in one hand, tape
recorder in the other, you take a self-satisfied breath of smoggy
air while musing about how normal and familiar and routine this
Then he drops the bomb.
don't really like comedy."
Say what? Is this petite little average-Joe looking, khaki cut-off
wearing, Canadian accent-sporting man before you not Bruce McCulloch?
As in Bruce McCulloch--that funny guy from Kids in the Hall? Or,
Bruce McCulloch--that funny guy who just released a comedy album
Shame Based Man, on Atlantic?
The Toronto resident shifts in his rickety patio chair and tries
to explain. "You know, funny is this weird word for me. I hear
is so many times it has no meaning anymore. . . I don't love comedy
but I can watch someone who's kind of interesting forever. I think
a waitress who's having a bad day is a lot more fun than Robin
Williams doing forty minutes of material. I mean, I like jokes
and weird premises and stuff, but that seems like a pretty finite
world in a way."
Excuse me, but where is the laugh riot you were promised? Damn,
there go the witty one-liners and biting comebacks, too. "I try
not to be sarcastic. It's the easiest fucking thing in the world."
So where does Shame Based Man, with its bitter love musings
("Our love is like a Bruce Springsteen concert--it's not that
great, it's really long, but 'Wow-what energy'/Our love is like
my parents' love--the only difference is I won't wait till you
die until I leave you") fit in?
think the record has sort of a dark sheen," McCulloch allows.
"Maybe it's because it's a break-up record. I think a lot of the
stuff I write is fueled by relationships."
Relationships and losers. "I like to do little obsessed losers,
or people who are in over their head, or people who are trying
to figure stuff out, or guys whose girlfriends leave them and
they don't quite get it. Guys who just don't quite get it."
A business major, born in Calgary--a town of "rednecks and guys
who wear cowboy boots and guys who beat you up if you have a pink
shirt 'cause you're a fag"--McCulloch found comedy by default.
"I got through college realizing business was repugnant. I got
involved in improv comedy. It settled me down when I was getting
wild. I was sort of an evil teenager smashing up my cars and drinking
and driving, let's just say, a lot. Once I found comedy it was
easy. It just clicked."
With the exception of the true cult fans hanging on every deft
career turn, McCulloch is still best known as a member of the
now defunct comedy troupe, The Kids in the Hall.
This is met with mixed emotions. "Well, I'd be lying if I didn't
say it was a double edged sword. Sometimes I get sick of 'Which
one was he?' People know us but they don't know our names, which
is good and bad. I love the homogeneity of us in a certain way.
I'll probably always be known as a 'Kid'."
Complaints aside ("It's just not a very graceful name to grow
older with, it's not like, "Hey, weren't you one of the Distinguished
Gentlemen?'"), McCullch is not trying too hard to shake the association.
doing a movie. We'll probably start production in the summer."
Questions about content are met with the usual elusive response.
"It's called The Drug and it's about a drug that moves
through society. That's sort of all we ever say about it."
Perhaps the enigma with which the man shrouds himself is a defense
against being labeled.
know the funny thing about coming to Los Angeles, people want
to ask you what you do. I have a couple of films I'm trying to
set up to direct, and you talk to your film friends and they think
Shame-Based Man is a distraction, and people in the music
industry think I'm in music now. It's this weird obsession with
people trying to figure out how things work."
He anticipates the next question. "I don't know, I just sort of
follow my own momentum, whatever that is. I'm not, like, on the
rewrite circuit, or on the stand-up circuit. I'm lucky. I'm not
so big or small that I have to do 'big' stuff. . . I know people
who spend a lot of time thinking about their place in the industry
and it just ultimately makes them said. It's like you can never
be the fastest or best looking guy in the world. I just don't
think about it."
But such an amicable relationship with an industry that has the
power to turn paupers to princes is a rare thing. McCulloch readily
admits to the thin line he treads.
much business I should partake in is a complicated question in
my life. I mean, everyone slams Hollywood. It's such an easy thing
to do, and I'm sure I would too if I spent a lot of time here,
because you know what the game is. People want to make money off
of you and people want you to succeed. They're not necessarily
interested in art--and in fact, they're almost hardly ever interested
in art although they say they are as soon as you meet them. It's
just a really complicated issue for me right now. But it doesn't
make me cry. It doesn't make me curl up in the fetal position."
Though loathing to categorize, McCulloch does offer keys to unlocking
his sense of humor. "I'll be in a restaurant and I'll say to a
woman, 'I love the Baby Jesus.' But it's only fun if they don't
know me. If they do then they go, 'Oh I get it--you're that guy
And it finally makes sense. To McCulloch, humor builds walls and
requires anonymity. It's big and grand and impersonal. This is
fine for a studio audience, but sometimes McCulloch would rather
just have a conversation.
He continues. "I don't really make fun of situations and people.
A lot of peope think that comedy is about making fun of stuff.
With my stuff it's about character and it's about people's sad
little obsessions and struggles. It's a bit hokey but that's kind
of what makes me rock a little."
As a Hollywood sun sets over gridlock, and you bid farewell to
The Careers with promises to "do this again sometime," it dawns
on you that maybe it was unfair to expect a non-stop one man riot
show. And maybe what you received was far more precious. Schtick
can be found at any corner store. It's honesty that you stumble
on when you least expect it.
Two days passed and cleansed of this whole bizarre charade, McCulloch
calls you from his Los Angeles hotel room. "I have this weird
love-hate relationship with interviews," he reveals. "I don't
want to be the dullest guy, but I don't want to try to be funny
Alison. "A Kid In The Hall Grows Up." Axcess. Vol III No. 3. p