A Whole Lotta Kids in the Hall

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Bruce: Axcess (1995)
A Kid In The Hall Grows Up

It 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 The Interview.

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 all is.

Then he drops the bomb.

"I 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?

"I 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.

"We're 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.

"You 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.

"How 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 from TV."

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 either."

[Rosen, Alison. "A Kid In The Hall Grows Up." Axcess. Vol III No. 3. p 48-9.]



 Trista Lycosky

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