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Kid from the Hall heads up big-screen debut

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(San Francisco Examiner, Tuesday, April 9, 1996 Page C 1)

Kid from the Hall heads up big-screen debut

"The moment I realized how geeky I was, I tried to be funny'

Barry Walters
EXAMINER STAFF CRITIC

Scott Thompson of TV's cult comedy troupe "Kids in the Hall" is frantically trying to think of something funny. He wants desperately to give us a clever photo opportunity, so he's pacing the lobby of the Prescott Hotel in search of inspiration. He likes the fireplace and makes the connection between it and his T-shirt that advertises the L.A. rock band Porno For Pyros.

"Do you have any porno we could burn?" the 36-year-old actor-writer asks at the information desk. When the answer comes back negative, he goes back to the fireplace, staring at it as if waiting for it to answer a question. Much to the delight of the hotel staff and the folks at the adjoining PosTrio restaurant, who are practically genuflecting at the sight of this comic deity, he decides to drop his pants.

"It is a big responsibility to be funny all the time," Thompson admits after ordering lunch from an adoring waiter. "But I'd rather have that than people expecting me to be macho. At least it's something that I can live up to."

Thompson is in town to promote "Kids in the Hall Brain Candy," a new film featuring the Canadian comedy quintet. Known primarily for their TV show, now in reruns on cable's Comedy Central, the Kids have made a considerable artistic leap by starring in and co-writing a dramatic film in which they play over 40 roles. Unlike many TV comedians making movies, the Kids have created a film that has little to do with their beloved series. Only a few of the show's recurrent characters pop up in this farce about a drug company that changes the world with an over-the-counter anti-depressant.

"If it's research to fall apart and have nervous breakdowns, then yes, I did a lot of research," Thompson admits. "The show ended and I wasn't prepared. It had been my whole life for so long and I couldn't handle it. I didn't have a boyfriend and I thought everything was over and I just fell apart.

"I think anti-depressants can help people, but as a comedian, I fetishize my darkness. I really believe that it helps my comedy. I don't cultivate it or court it, but I try not to run from it. I had that kind of Protestant upbringing. My father is 67 and he'd never taken an aspirin until a couple of years ago." Since he was a child, humor has been Thompson's favorite brand of therapy.

"At the moment I realized how geeky I was, I tried to be funny. I was not a complete pansy, but I certainly wasn't Huck Finn. I was much more a nerd and I think being funny was a way for me to fit in and not get beat up."

The Kids in the Hall - a comedy troupe of four straight guys and one gay guy who play hundreds of characters, many of them female - has often been cited as an example of how America's Canadian neighbors have cultivated a less macho-obsessed culture. Thompson agrees with this analysis.

"The settling of Canada was much like America's - genocide, wars against the Indians, etc., but the symbol of settlement was the Mountie, the cop, whereas the American equivalent is the gunfighter. The Mountie brought order, government and peace. The gunfighter brought chaos and violence. A lot of the early Canadian settlers were people fleeing America who were a little more willing to bow down to England, a little less aggressive, a little more sucky."

"Brain Candy" was conceived by the Kids during a retreat that followed the final taping of the series. During that two-week brainstorming session, the group came up with 110 pages of scenes around the idea of drugs, suicide and depression. Norm Hiscock - who co-wrote the TV show and now writes for "Saturday Night Live" - then hammered out a story that the Kids then destroyed. Many drafts were written as the group assigned each other homework for nearly a year. The only character that remained from the original sessions was Thompson's Wally, a closeted family man whose life is revolutionized by the drug. The role demanded several nude scenes.

"You know in "The Exorcist,' when the devil's inside her and it spells out across her chest "Help Me'? I think Wally's nudity is a cry for help. And I think my bum's never looked better."

Another one of Thompson's characters, the androgynous scientist Baxter, bares a striking resemblance to Fran Lebowitz. What does he think the writer and raconteur will think of her likeness finding its way into the film?

"She'll love it. She loves "Kids in the Hall.' She took me and my boyfriend out for dinner in Toronto and told me that a lot of literary people love the Kids. That was very impressive to me, being a closet snob and all."

Thompson admits that he gets bored with talking about himself. Although he's certainly interested in the film's future, nothing gets him going like the subject of gay life in the '90s.

"I actually think - and this may get me into trouble - that gay men are collectively going insane and that we should admit it. We've seen a level of death that maybe no one in our culture has seen except maybe for black men. We live in the third world in a first world country. The incredible drug use and promiscuity that's back again is insane. I think it's tragic that this long into the epidemic we're not talking about love, fidelity. So many of the people who run our community make money off of death, our neuroses. And I think that's really sad.

"We're doing tremendously well for what we're going through, but this idea that we have to put on this happy face and tell the world we're wonderful will hurt us even more in the future. I say tell the truth and look at ourselves. We're anorexic. We look at the mirror and see something smiling back, but that's not what we really look like. We're a skinny person who thinks we're fat.

"That's not very funny. I haven't said anything funny yet."

 

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