The Stranger (April 10-16, 1996)
"Sugar and Malice"
McCulloch, a member of the comedy troupe, Kids In the Hall, is
staying at Seattle's posh Four Seasons hotel. When I walk into
his room, he's shouting into the phone:
Service! Where the FUCK is that Fresca I ordered!?"
I'm barely in the door, and I'm already in hysterics. I ask Bruce
if he puts on similar shows in all his interviews:
know I'm not literally being judged," he says, "but I always have
this knee-jerk reaction during interviews where I always wanna
scream, 'Is that FUCKING coffee here yet!?' Then to the reporter,
'I'm sorry, you were saying?' For some reason I always wanna do
the worst possible thing in these situations."
It seems Bruce has made a career of finding the "worst possible"
in his sketches ever since The Kids in the Hall first performed
together in 1984. After five years of hilariously surreal stage
shows, they got their own hilariously surreal TV show on Canada's
CBC network, and produced 110 episodes which have played on HBO,
CBS, and currently run on Comedy Central (Monday through Friday,
1:30 am). This month they move from TV to film with their first
feature film, Brain Candy.
Candy captures the Kids at their morbid best, spoofing our
culture's never-ending search for the next feel-good prescription
drug. Bruce, along with cast members Dave Foley, Kevin McDonald,
Mark McKinney, and Scott Thompson, have created over 40 new sugar-coated
and malicious characters for the film. These include heavy-metal
rockers, an evil corporate president, a TV talk show host, repressed
homosexuals, love-lorn scientists, and what will probably be the
most controversial movie character of the year, the wheel-chair
confined, chemo-riddled "Cancer Boy." Despite the film's darkness,
and probably because of it, I started by telling Bruce I thought
Brain Candy was the funniest movie since Mary Poppins.
Bruce: What in the hell are you talking about? We can't put that
on the movie poster.
see, because in Mary Poppins you have that same kind of mean-spirited
sense of humor, but somehow you end up liking the characters.
Oh. . . thanks then.
did you experience a lot more freedom making a film, than in the
Not really. The freedom came from being able to do a longer piece,
but the constraints came from the studio people discussing our
work. Much of our time during the television show was spent keeping
our shit from executives until it was too late for them to do
anything about it. With film it's a lot harder.
did the movie come about?
We've always cherished the film work we did on the show, because
it had a different feel than the live sketches. However, we couldn't
focus on the films much during the series because we're dumb.
Individually we're smart guys, but together we're one big dumb
guy, and couldn't concentrate on two things at once.
was Brain Candy's script an equal collaboration?
Yeah, all except Dave (Foley) who went off to do NewsRadio. When
the series finished production, one of the few good instincts
we had was "We have to work on this script right away, because
if we take a break, Scott'll fly off to Jamaica and shave his
head, or whatever, and the project will fall apart." So we went
off to Northern Ontario for three weeks and had a "bake-off" of
all our best ideas, and that's how Brain Candy came about.
writing the movie like putting together sketches?
Not really, because we had to work together. In terms of the series,
we worked separately, getting together in rehearsal to beat out
the material. But we wanted to work in a way we never had, which
was write everything together. We had to face each other in the
same creative room, which gets tougher as you get older, because
you don't want to be confrontational.
does the group still get along as well as it once did?
We see less of Dave, certainly, and he's kind of fallen out of
the sphere of our group, mostly because he's working on his show,
and has kind of lost the fun of the party. But after this last
year and dealing with the studio, the rest of us are closer than
we've ever been.
Brain Candy designed as a "just say no to drugs" movie?
Actually, it was written at a time when a lot of people we knew
were getting picked off by Prozac. People kept turning up, saying,
"Sure, I'm on it. And I'm feeling better now, and I'm sleeping
better, my appetite's better, and I'm.... umm.... as creative....
I think." Even Scott (Thompson) was considering getting on Prozac,
but then he was like, "I'm not fucking taking it! I'm depressed
some days, and I'm really happy other days! So WHAT?!"
So I think the idea was more "just say no to the proverbial notion
of always being happy." That's the American dream, you know. Everything
should be a day on the beach and you should always be happy, and
if you're sad, then that's weird. Life isn't about feeling just
one thing. And that's part of the troupe's outlook; darkness is
part of life, and it's part of the beauty of life, too.
the movie does have it's share of dark humor. At certain points,
I kept my hand over my mouth because I didn't want anyone to hear
me laughing. Like the "Cancer Boy" section. . .
Yeah, we've gotten a lot of questions about Cancer Boy. At one
press conference where there were about 100 journalists, the first
question was, "What's up with Cancer Boy, and who the fuck do
you think you are?" I guess people felt we were trying to push
it as far as we could, or make fun of Cancer Boy. But in a sense,
he's the heart of what our work is all about. Cancer Boy probably
has the saddest, noblest, sweetest heart of any character I've
To me it's all about sports celebrities doing photo-ops with cancer
kids. If you have cancer you get to see Wayne Gretsky, but if
you're just "sorta sick^?" What, do you get a photo opportunity
with a guy on the third line? It was more about the cynicism of
the sympathy industry. We understand why we put him in the movie.
Sure, it's savage in a way, and it's certainly not politically
correct, but hey, bring on the noise!
guys probably get compared to Monty Python a lot. . .
yes. But your work always seems to be more character driven than
doing funny walks and saying "Neep!"
We're certainly not averse to stupid ideas. Part of me likes stupid
ideas, like "flying pig" or toast fucking. Now,that's a stupid
idea! But what really drives us is the characters. The assistant
bank manager who's an asshole, so everybody hides food from him,
or a guy obsessed with pens. . . it's a character world.
you think you guys are good representatives of Canada? You're
all obviously nice people, but you're also really disturbingly
Yeah, we're sweet but savage, and I think a lot of Canadians are
that way. But it's like looking at the Oriental culture, where
everyone says, "Oh those people are so nice^" which they are,
but because they're smiling and nice to you doesn't mean they
don't think you're a fucking asshole because you're complaining
about the room service in your hotel.
you guys deal a lot with facades, or how people hide what they
feel and want. . .
That always interests me, people's private and public lives, and
that's why I like doing things like getting on the phone when
a reporter comes in and screaming, "Where's that fucking coffee
I ordered?!" because while I hope this interview is a good representation
of me, it's still feels like I'm applying for a job.
Steven. "Sugar and Malice." The Stranger. April 10-16, 1996. p