More Random Roles
- James Urbaniak on Venture Bros.’ return and Hal Hartley’s Lord Of The Rings
- Jon Cryer on Charlie Sheen’s work ethic and correcting Gene Hackman
- Ricky Schroder on public puberty, NYPD Blue, and re-watching his child-actor roles
- Mark Boone Junior on Sons Of Anarchy, Christopher Nolan, and playing a dirty cop
- John C. McGinley on 42, Oliver Stone, and missing the Oscars to watch the NCAA championship
The actor: During his 26-year tenure with The Kids In The Hall, Kevin McDonald has gotten a lot of comedic mileage out of the idea that he’s “the Kid In The Hall you don’t like.” That isn’t true, of course: He starred in many of the troupe’s most popular sketches, and the rest of the group has long pointed to McDonald as its funniest member, an actor whose inherent silliness always elevates whatever scene he’s in. (As Scott Thompson once observed, McDonald seems like he was “created in a comedy blender.”) That specific energy has landed him many other roles as well, and McDonald’s presence has similarly transcended even small parts in sitcoms like Friends and Arrested Development or films like Sky High and The Ladies Man. His unmistakable voice has also popped up in cartoons from Invader ZIM to WordGirl. McDonald can currently be seen in The Kids In The Hall’s eight-part miniseries Death Comes To Town, playing both a forgetful delivery driver and a defense attorney who’s devoted to his dying cat, two characters McDonald describes, with typical self-deprecation, as being “both sympathetic and comical—I hope,” and as different from previous work he’s done with the Kids in that it’s “more character- and story-based—I hope.” Death Comes To Town premières Aug. 20 on IFC.
The Kids In The Hall (1988-1995), Various characters
The A.V. Club: Since we’ve interviewed you about your time in Kids In The Hall fairly extensively already, let’s talk about the origins of a few specific characters and sketches. How about Sir Simon Milligan?
Kevin McDonald: Scott [Thompson] and Dave [Foley] and I were in the Second City touring company. The Kids In The Hall were together but it looked like we might be split up, because Lorne Michaels had discovered us but he hired Mark [McKinney] and Bruce [McCulloch] to write for Saturday Night Live. This was in 1985. So the three of us got jobs at Second City, and I remember we were walking to rehearsal, and Scott was talking about his dark life. I forget what was dark at the time. Maybe his dad was sick, and all the dark things Scott had done, uh, sexually with other men. [Laughs.] And Dave was going through his dark life—whatever that was. And then there was a pause, and they looked at me, and I said, “I have demons. Polite demons that would help a lady carrying too many parcels, but demons nonetheless.” And then Dave said those magic words, “Hey, that could be a monologue or something.”
So I started writing, and I told Mark about it and he loved it. And Mark said that he should play the part of Sir Simon Milligan and I should be a sidekick, and he came up with the name “Hecubus.” This is when we were a stage troupe. At this point Mark had come back and there were five of us again. It took me a few months to write. In those days I didn’t know how to write yet—I hadn’t become a machine—so it took me a while. So Mark took it over and he became Sir Simon Milligan, and I was this guy called Hecubus that Mark invented. Then we rehearsed it a few times to do a show—and this is a very rare thing for me—and I had a bit of a mutiny. I remember my voice was shaky, and I said, [in shaky voice] “Mark, I actually think that I should play Sir Simon Milligan, because it was my idea and it was sort of based on me.” And Mark said, “Okay Kevin, I’ll play Hecubus.” And then I said [in shaky voice], “No, actually I think Dave should play Hecubus.” Because that’s just the way I imagined it, that Dave would do it better. And that’s how Simon and Hecubus were born. Now isn’t that interesting if you’re a comedy fan?
AVC: “The Real Buddy Holly.”
KM: “The Real Buddy Holly” was right before the TV show. I think we knew we were getting one while we were still doing our stage show. Bruce had this idea that would be a series of blackouts: “Famous Deaths”—or no, “Last Words,” that’s what it was. One of the things was going to be an old guy dying, going, “I can’t die! I drive a Volvo! I’ve never kissed an Asian woman!” Things like that. So we wrote a few of those at his house. Then he had a phone call from his girlfriend and he walked out of the room, and I thought, “Oh, Bruce is coming up with all of this, so I’ve got to think of something that’s really, really good by the time Bruce comes back.” I’ve always been a big fan of rock ’n’ roll, so I went through famous deaths. I tried to think of something for Jimi Hendrix and I couldn’t. I somehow landed on Buddy Holly. Everyone always said he was so nice, but what if Buddy Holly was a prick before he died? And then I started coming up with all that stuff. It was a long phone call, and I was writing well at this point. By the time Bruce came back a half-hour later, I had pretty much what is the sketch written out, and I remember Bruce—who is pretty much the best comedy writer ever, I think, next to maybe a couple guys in Monty Python—I’ll never forget this, he read it and said, “Kevin, you know, this is pretty brilliant.” And that’s the story of Buddy Holly.
AVC: “The Bass Player.”
KM: Again, that’s Bruce and I. Again this was during the stage-troupe days. I went to Bruce’s place—not the place for Buddy Holly, but the next place he lived after that. It was at his apartment. He, Dave, and I actually lived in the same apartment building. It was sort of like The Three Stooges, except we weren’t all in the same bed—which was good. I went to his apartment for an hour to write, and we couldn’t come up with anything. At the end I said, “Oh well, let’s call it quits.” I went to the bathroom, and when I came back he was sitting on his amplifier, playing bass. And I started going, “Ooh, look at the bass player! Ooooh, the bass player.” And he came up with the line, “He’s playing so sweet, he’s getting chubby.” And we ended up staying another hour and wrote this sketch “The Bass Player”—which has always been very popular, especially among musicians.
AVC: “Citizen Kane.”
KM: “Citizen Kane” was written for the TV show, but we were still doing stage shows during that first year. The first year we had the TV show, we were writing and just starting to shoot, and CBC—the network in Canada that we were on—went on strike. So even though we were also doing the show on HBO, we had to wait. I think the strike went on for six weeks, and as a result we wrote a lot of good stuff. We wrote a lot of better TV stuff. But “Citizen Kane” could’ve been a stage sketch—and we did do it on stage a few times during the six weeks before the show aired.
Scott, Dave, and I went to some small restaurant across the street from the apartment complex where we were living and wrote a couple sketches that day. We wrote one that was good, and we wrote one that ended up being horrible—and it’s the only sketch that after we started shooting it, we stopped and didn’t finish shooting it in front of the audience because it was so bad. But, uh, never mind that one. Then Dave came up with the idea for “Citizen Kane”: “Wouldn’t it be funny if there were a guy where it’s so obvious that he’s wrong, but he argues with you anyway?” And what Dave doesn’t know is that Dave really is like that. But Dave doesn’t know that. [Laughs.] I didn’t realize that until years later when, for like the fifth time in my mind I said, “Dave’s being just like the ‘Citizen Kane’ guy.” Then it hit me, “Oh, that’s how he got the idea. He is like the ‘Citizen Kane’ guy.”
AVC: “Never Put Salt In Your Eyes.”
KM: I just remember an incident when we were playing the Rivoli every Monday—that was our club—and Scott had some kind of contact lens problem backstage. He was gonna put salt on his contact lenses, because someone told him to do that, and Mark said, “No no no. I said don’t put salt in your contact lenses. It just kills your eyes. Don’t do it.” Mark left, and a half-hour later I was walking when I heard Scott say, “Did Mark say put salt in your contact lens solution?” [Laughs.] And 30 seconds later when I was on stage I hear him go, “Ahhhhhh!” Because he had blinded himself with salt. He ran out of the club into the street. And then years later I remembered that story and wrote the sketch.
AVC: I wish we could do this all day, but one more: “The King Of Empty Promises.”
KM: Well, I’m sort of like that. [Laughs.] Chris Cooper, our editor, wanted some kind of rare Paul Simon album—we put that in the scene, I think—and I said, “Oh, I have that! I could tape it for you.” And he said, “Really?” And I said, ”Oh yeah, will do!” [Laughs.] And weeks later Chris Cooper said, “Where’s that Paul Simon album?” The first thing I said was, “What Paul Simon album?” And he said, “The one you said you were gonna tape for me.” And I said, “Oh yeah yeah. It must’ve slipped my mind.” I’d done that a couple of times, and my writing partner Norm Hiscock said, “You know what? That’s actually a good sketch—you promising people things and not coming through.” We went into our cubicle one day and wrote it and we laughed but when it was finished—I was just doing it normally, like me—and I thought that something was missing. So I said—and this is rare for me—I said, “I think I should try doing it like a character.” We tried it with a few different characters, and then I thought—you know Paul Bellini? The guy in the towel? He was Scott’s writing partner. If I impersonate Paul, I can’t really do it, but it comes out kind of funny. So I said, “What if I do it like the way I do Bellini?” I tried it like that and Norm laughed his head off, and that’s how “The King Of Empty Promises” was born.
Now, Dave’s character was supposed to be just totally straight. When we read it at the read-through for everybody, he read it totally straight and the scene killed and it was picked. But when we came to film that day, he had picked out this crazy wig and this weird voice, and I was a little frightened because I thought, “Oh, this is two weird characters. This will never work.” I tried to talk him out of it, but he was pretty insistent—and I trust him anyway, and I knew I couldn’t change his mind. So I said, “Okay, let’s see what happens.” And of course, I think it turned out great. Dave came up with the names of the characters. Do you know the names of the characters?
AVC: Lex and Dean.
KM: Yeah, but it’s Dean Deen, which is a subtle thing that makes me laugh. And Lex’s last name is Hair, which makes me laugh. Dave is good with names like that.
AVC: I don’t know if you’ve heard that Scott Thompson is doing a Danny Husk graphic novel.
KM: Oh yes, I know. You can’t be with him without him opening up his laptop and showing you the pictures.
AVC: What character of yours would you turn into a comic if you had the choice?
KM: [Laughs.] I’ve often thought maybe Simon and Hecubus.
AVC: So not Darcy Pennell.
KM: [Laughs.] Oh yeah. Of course I like that, but it’s too much of a cartoon to begin with. I also thought of another one that Mark wrote, and I’m trying to talk the other guys into it—but we always say yes and then we don’t do anything. That’s a Kids In The Hall problem. We get excited, and then we leave the meeting and we forget. Anyway, I always thought that we could sell to Adult Swim a cartoon version of Sex Girl Patrol. Isn’t that a good idea?
AVC: That would be a great idea. Maybe even better than Minoriteam.
KM: Yeah, exactly. It’d be like that. But then Mark started thinking, “But we’d get real girls to do the voices.” And I thought, well, it should probably be us anyway. And then it just stalled. Maybe this article will bring it back. I think it’s a good idea. Hey, Minoriteam, aren’t I in that?
AVC: You were, that’s why I brought it up.
KM: [Laughs.] Oh yeah, I was in that! What part did I play? Do you know? You don’t have to know.
AVC: I don’t remember, sorry.
KM: I don’t remember and I did it.
Kids In The Hall: Brain Candy (1996)—“Dr. Chris Cooper / Doreen / Chris' Dad / Lacey”
AVC: Playing the main character obviously meant that you weren’t able to do as many other characters. Did that make your job harder or easier?
KM: It’s funny, I was just telling my girlfriend about this the other day. Harder and easier. The easier part was that I wasn’t in hair and makeup forever. The other guys were playing five or six parts and so they were constantly in hair and makeup, and that’s just tiring. I just came in and they saw me for three minutes and I was done for the day. The hard part was that I was in every scene. Also, looking back at it, I’m not sure if I was the right guy for the job. I tried my best, God bless me, but I think it would’ve been better off if I were playing the funny characters around the lead guy—who should’ve been Dave. When we came up with the idea, I always envisioned Dave in it. It’s sort of like what he did later on NewsRadio. I think he’s the best of us, for sure, at being funny and the straight man at the same time. Sort of like Gene Wilder in Young Frankenstein, who was hilariously funny as a character and he’s a straight man.
I always thought it should’ve been Dave, but it wasn’t, because of the troubles we were going through. And because he was busy with NewsRadio. And because he quit the troupe. [Laughs.] And he had to be coerced back into doing the movie. It couldn’t be Dave. Now Mark, he lobbied. He wanted to be the lead guy. And Mark is a total character comic. And Bruce and I—it’s hard to win fights against Mark, because he’s very good at arguing, but we just didn’t let him. I think the best thing in the movie is Mark’s characters, so I’m glad we won that. Did you know that in The Life Of Brian, John Cleese wanted to be Brian?
AVC: Yeah, that would’ve been a big mistake.
KM: Big mistake. Yeah, Eric Idle was the one who said, “That would be a waste of you, John.” So Bruce said, “Kevin should do it,” and I did. And like I said, God bless me, I tried my best and it was fine, but it should have been Dave.
AVC: Because you two were so close even before the troupe, when Dave quit, did you ever try talking to him about it one on one?
KM: Well, I’m the one that caused it. And I realized years later that part of it was that I was jealous of his success, and also part of it was that I truly do believe that he was making choices that he shouldn’t have, that hurt the troupe. [Pauses.] I’m stuttering here because I’m trying to figure out how much to get into it. There was something that I thought he was doing wrong instead of focusing on the movie, so I wrote him a letter. We were meeting every day to write Brain Candy, and I handed him the letter and asked him to read it—in private, not in front of everybody. And he got really mad and quit the troupe. He was looking for a reason to quit and that was it.
Now, the trouble was that we had already signed to do the movie, so he had to do it. But his manager—who was also the troupe’s manager— called and said, “Dave’s gonna do the movie, but there are several things that he won’t do.” For example, he didn’t want to play a woman. The only reason I can think of why—because Dave loves playing women—is that he didn’t want to be hanging out with us in hair and makeup for so long. But the reason I bring this up is because, knowing me, one of the things his manager said is, “He won’t do the movie if Kevin tries to talk to him about anything.” [Laughs.] That was one of the provisions, and I had to agree that during the movie I wouldn’t talk about what we were going through.
It’s funny because Kelly Makin, the director of Brain Candy, he’s in Winnipeg right now shooting a show. I went out to dinner with him, and we were just reminiscing about this. Dave and I were the best friends in the world, and suddenly we weren’t talking. So the first day we ever shot of the movie, there were several big talking scenes the whole day between Dave and I, and for the first time ever there was no chemistry between us. Those scenes ended up being cut from the movie because they were from the original ending where he played Zendik, and that whole character was cut. I always wondered whether it was the writing or if it was just that day. It was the first day of shooting and I thought, “Oh, what an omen. This is going to be a horrible movie.” Dave and I—the best comedy team of the five of us, in my opinion—couldn’t do anything comically right. It was stilted. We were both trying, but it was pretty stiff.
AVC: Zendik—this is the “The fries will never be ready” guy?
KM: Yeah, exactly.
AVC: There’s a legendary “workprint cut” that’s out there with him, as well all those other lost scenes.
KM: Oh really? Hey, if you ever find it, let me know. We’ve been wondering for years whether it’s still around.
AVC: Some of it’s on YouTube, actually—not the whole cut, but some of the deleted scenes, like the one with Janeane Garofalo.
KM: Oh yeah. The Janeane Garofalo scene had the best joke in the movie—one of the jokes that convinced us it was a good movie. It was a Bruce joke. We love Janeane Garofalo. We think she’s a genius. But she couldn’t—it was a windy, blustery night in Toronto, it was like a hurricane, and we were outside shooting and she couldn’t say the line right, so we had to cut it. She was a science groupie, and she, um… [Pauses.]
AVC: She says she slept with Stephen Hawking.
KM: That’s it! Thank you for helping me. She says, “I slept with Dr. Stephen Hawking. He’s a pig in bed.” Is this right?
AVC: “An unconscionable pig.”
KM: That’s what it was! She put the word “unconscionable” in it. And I kept going to Kelly, “It’s killing the rhythm of the joke. No one’s going to laugh at the joke with the word ‘unconscionable’ in it.” She was softening it up, like she felt sorry for Dr. Hawking. [Laughs.] Kelly kept telling her, but she wouldn’t say it without that word, and so it was cut. And like I said, it was really sad for me, because it was one of the jokes that made me think, “Oh yeah, this will be a good movie.”
AVC: You say you haven’t seen them in years, so are those scenes really and truly lost? When the DVD came out, a lot of fans were hoping they would be on there, or that they’d eventually turn up on a “special edition” or something.
KM: Yeah, for some reason they were deleted, and that’s that. I haven’t seen them. There was one other scene that I always thought should be in the movie—and actually, it was never filmed. I wrote it and everyone liked it but it was cut for some reason. Maybe Paramount didn’t like it. And you know what? I’m going to close the door to my bedroom right now so my girlfriend doesn’t hear this. It’s in the lab and one of the scientists is going, “Who do you have to blow to get a lab rat around here?” And then a door opens and Bruce’s character Alice comes out with tears down her face, and she’s holding a mouse and saying, “Right here.” And the scientist who wants the rat goes in the room, and there’s a puff of smoke and dark lighting and you hear a voice go, [in Satanic voice] “Next.” And he closes the door. [Laughs.] I always thought that would be a classic scene, but it never got in. If I ever write another comedy about scientists, I’ll put it in.
NewsRadio (1997), “Throwdini”
AVC: This was not long after Brain Candy, so were things still uncomfortable between you and Dave?
KM: That had ended by then. Before that I moved to L.A., and I was by myself in an apartment a few blocks away from Dave’s place. I remember I was in the bathtub and I got a call from Dave—and I remember this because the first time we had talked since then, I was naked and wet. [Laughs.] There was a hockey game on, and he asked me to come down to his place. And we watched hockey and went to see a movie. So he’s the one that sort of—because I was too shy, I wanted to be friends with him, but I didn’t think he did. He reached out to me, and from then on it was all good. It was two years later that I did the Throwdini thing. They called me last second. The crazy thing about NewsRadio was that they would write an episode and the actors would start rehearsing and camera blocking it, and they would realize it wasn’t good and then the writers would spend the weekend rewriting it again. They started rehearsing Wednesdays and filming Tuesdays. So on the Sunday night before, they called me and asked if I wanted to be Throwdini. So we rehearsed it Monday and shot it Tuesday. It was fun, and Phil Hartman was hilarious. I remember thinking of that [episode] shortly before he died. And of course, it was a blast to be with Dave again.
Senior Trip (1995), “Travis Lindsey”
KM: [Dejectedly.] Yeah. Yeah. [Sighs.] I’ve done worse! Kelly Makin directed it, and they were shooting a few blocks from my house. And it was a real Hollywood movie—my first one—so it seemed like I had to say yes. But as my friend Norm [Hiscock] said later, “How many ways can you make getting kicked in the balls funny?”
AVC: Some people have built their whole careers on that.
KM: [Laughs.] I think I may have discovered a few ways.
AVC: And you worked with Jeremy Renner, who’s now a big deal.
KM: I know! He was the nicest guy in the world. Now he’s a big movie star, and a great actor. I had no idea he was a great actor. I thought he was good, but I had no idea that he was a real actor. And he was super nice. I saw him a few times in Hollywood after that, and he would always be really nice. I always thought he had an Elvis lip. He always reminded me of Elvis.
AVC: And you’ve played Elvis yourself, so you know what you’re talking about.
KM: That’s right, I have played Elvis. In a sketch that Bruce wrote.
The Godson (1998)—“Guppy”
KM: [Dejectedly.] Yeah. I have so many stories I could tell you about that. Um…[Pauses.] I had just moved to L.A., and the money was good. [Laughs.] I did get to work with one of my childhood idols, Dom DeLuise.
AVC: He was your childhood idol?
KM: One of them. Not the number one, but in the top 40. I have very many happy memories of me as a kid watching him in The End, with him and Burt Reynolds. He’s hilarious in that. Also the Mel Brooks movie that not many people have seen, The Twelve Chairs, where he plays a mad monk going after gold. The way he plays some of the scenes in that defined, in a certain way, how I do comedy. So it was amazing working with him, and he was very nice—but of course it was a bad movie and I was embarrassed. There was some nudity in it, so I got them to rewrite the scenes to make sure that I wasn’t in any of the naked scenes.
AVC: What about Rodney Dangerfield, any good experiences with him?
KM: I did meet him and he was very nice. At that point in his life he had cue cards. He couldn’t memorize, and he was high the whole time. Can I say this?
AVC: This is actually the second Random Roles we’ve done with a “Rodney Dangerfield gets high” story.
KM: Do we get sued if I go on?
AVC: No, he’s dead.
KM: But his family.
AVC: I’m pretty sure they know he liked to get high.
KM: [Laughs.] And anyway the paper would be sued, right? Not you and I? Okay. Well, from Rodney’s trailer, the marijuana smoke, you could get high from just being outside of it. But he was super nice. And I remember the guy who held his cue cards was 90, and legend had it that he had done cue cards in the ’50s for Bob Hope and Jack Benny and Sid Caesar, but he was too weak to hold the cue cards up. So Rodney Dangerfield kept saying, [imitates Dangerfield] “Higher! Higher, Milt, higher!” In between takes, Rodney Dangerfield came up to me and said, “You’re a funny kid. Where ya from?” And I said, “Toronto”. He said, “Oh, Toronto. There’s another funny kid there—what’s his name—Jim Carrey. I got him a few gigs. He’s funny too.” And that was the extent of my conversation with Rodney Dangerfield.
That ’70s Show (2000-2001)—“Pastor Dave”
KM: That happened because The Kids In The Hall did their comeback tour in 2000. Around the block where I was walking my dog, Topher Grace was driving by, and he stopped the car and came out and told me he was a big fan of The Kids In The Hall. We talked for a bit, and he was super nice—as I keep saying—and I told him to come out and see the tour. So he and the producer, Mark Brazill, the guy who created That ’70s Show, came to see it. A month later they created this character Pastor Dave and Topher said, “Hey, why don’t you get Kevin to do it?” Which is the showbiz system working. That’s why you’re supposed to do shows in Los Angeles, apparently. [Laughs.] But that’s the one time it ever worked. If it works in one person’s life, it’s like getting hit by lightning. It’ll never work again. So I did it and they kept writing him back and I think I did around 10 episodes? I might be exaggerating.
AVC: You did six.
KM: Is it six? Well, it felt like 10. I’m gonna keep saying 10, because it’s a well-rounded number.
AVC: What ever happened to Pastor Dave? He just disappeared.
KM: Yeah, he just disappeared. I think Mark Brazill left to work on That ’80s Show and other stuff, and I guess they just forgot about me. But there are a lot of people now in their late 20s and early 30s who only know me as Pastor Dave. Here in Winnipeg the other night I heard, “Hey Pastor Dave!” And they didn’t know anything about The Kids In The Hall.
Seinfeld (1997)—“Denim Vest”
KM: That I also heard last week. [Laughs.] You know what I learned about that? I actually used to wear jean jackets and jean pants, and that’s when I learned that you shouldn’t do that, that women think you’re a loser. I didn’t know that until then. That’s what that episode taught me.
I remember we were filming the scene where I was outside with Julia Louis-Dreyfus and—and I know I’m saying this a lot about people, but when I don’t think this, I won’t say it—she was super nice. The scene ended with a joke that I say. And Jerry Seinfeld was pretty much directing the episode. He wasn’t directing it, but when you’re a showrunner you sort of have more power than the director. Two of the writers were with him, and he wasn’t happy with the joke, so him and the two writers started spritzing jokes. I just flashed back to the Kids In The Hall days when we’d be on set like this, where it’s a communal kind of thing, so without thinking, I offered one up. And all of a sudden it was like a Western movie, where someone walks into a saloon and everyone goes quiet. It was a stunned silence. Then Jerry Seinfeld turned and looked at me and said, “Noooo.” [Laughs.] And then he turned back to his writers and they kept spritzing jokes. I realized I had overstepped my bounds—and I didn’t mean to. I had just gotten caught up in the comedy river of it. We were all swimming in the comedy river. But I understand.
AVC: On the DVD commentary for that episode, when you first come on screen Seinfeld says something like, “Oh, that guy.”
KM: Did he? [Laughs.] Yeah, I guess he had a bad taste in his mouth about me. It’s funny: During the rehearsal—I guess he knew one Kid In The Hall—he kept calling me “Dave” over and over. I guess he thought I was a jerk. But I didn’t mean to be! I understand, though. I understand his position, I really do. I didn’t mean any offense, I swear.
Sick In The Head (2003)
AVC: This was one of Judd Apatow’s early pilots that didn’t get picked up.
KM: Yeah, and that’s a good one! They showed it a few times. What was that channel that you can’t get any more in the States that showed failed pilots?
KM: Right, Trio. It was really good. It was a good experience too. Judd Apatow called me in, and he didn’t want me to audition. He wanted to create a part with me. And I realized that I was sort of writing it with him. [Laughs.] He’s a brilliant writer, and he comes up with really great jokes at the drop of a hat, but he also creates things for the actor. So I went to his office for three hours and we talked about things we could do and say, and then he had the actors improvise on set one day. And a lot of those jokes got in—but the jokes he came up with were way better. He refined and rewrote the stuff that we’d improvised. He’s a genius. But he does use the actors a lot to come up with the material.
AVC: Why do you think it wasn’t picked up?
KM: That year he did that and Freaks And Geeks—Undeclared came the next year—and I guess Fox could only pick one. It was a really good show, though. It was kind of like a young Bob Newhart Show kind of thing. David Krumholtz has such perfect comedy timing. He really reminds me of a young Alan Arkin—maybe because he was in that movie with Alan Arkin [Slums Of Beverly Hills] so I’m thinking of that. Anyway, he’s a young psychiatrist that’s just graduated and he’s starting his business. Kevin Corrigan was his roommate, and I remember he was a physical trainer even though he was chubby. [Laughs.] And Amy Poehler was in it, and Andrea Martin—oh, and one of my other top 40 comedy geniuses of the ’70s, Austin Pendleton. I would sneak up and watch him rehearse, and it was just amazing to watch him work. It was a great cast. I was one of the clients. I was gonna be a client that in every episode had a different disorder. It was funny: For years Fox didn’t quite say no, so for two or three years I would see the producers at a bar or something, and they would say, “We still don’t know, it might still be picked up.” [Laughs.] So now, every time I see Judd, the joke is, “Do you think it’ll get picked up?” And those producers actually ended up working on Bruce McCulloch’s series Carpoolers, so I saw them regularly.
Lilo & Stitch (2002)—“Pleakley”
KM: Soon kids will be 30 who saw that when they were kids. [Sarcastically.] I look forward to that kind of aging. One of the co-directors, Dean DuBois, was a Canadian from Ottawa. One of the Kids In The Hall sketches, the voice I did—it’s pretty much the voice I always do—but the voice and attitude were what he wanted. It’s that sketch where Dave’s at a business thing and someone’s talking about his tie, about how there’s never anything wrong with his tie, and he says, “Oh, it’s not like I’m an alien sent to destroy the planet.”
AVC: Oh, Delphar 7.
KM: Exactly. And then you go back and I’m the boss and I’m saying, “No no no, I’m not saying it’s wrong to blow up the planet.” And Dean DuBois was kind of obsessed with that, and that’s the voice he wanted. I had to audition a few times because he had to convince the Disney brass—who wanted a big star—and finally they said yes.
AVC: Do you get asked to do that voice for kids a lot?
KM: Every now and then I have to say [in high voice], “No, crazy-head!” [Laughs.] I’m really proud of that sketch. We had read-throughs every Friday in the Kids In The Hall world, and the best sketches got picked for the show. It was always at 2 p.m., and at 12 p.m. Dave told us his idea—and his idea was just the first part of the sketch. The guy gets nervous, thinks he’s detected, and he blows up the planet right away. Norm and I laughed, and we started thinking, “Wouldn’t it be funny if later you see him with his boss who’s a passive-aggressive guy who doesn’t like him blowing up planets and has trouble saying it?” So it was really two sketches put in one. So Dave was in his cubicle writing his half and Norm and I were in our cubicle writing our half—furiously, because we had to get it in before the deadline. Also, in those days, it took forever to print and photocopy and everything. We had to get it in by 1 p.m. or something. When Dave finished his sketch and we finished ours, I had to quickly find a segue to it, because it was like two different sketches. It’s like “Baby, You’re A Rich Man” by The Beatles, a Paul McCartney song that they lumped in with a John Lennon song. So we found a segue and we got it in and people laughed and we got it in the show. If you’re a comedy nerd these are interesting stories, I think.
Epic Movie (2007)—“Harry Potter”
KM: Can I say something positive about it? It’s my only No. 1 movie. It was No. 1 that week. There, I’m finished with the positive stuff. [Laughs.] When they asked me to do it, I rented Date Movie, which I thought was funny. I know I’m not in Date Movie—I’m in Epic Movie—but Date Movie was sort of funny. Don’t you think it was sort of funny? You’re obviously well educated in comedy. Give me your opinion.
AVC: Here’s my main problem with all Friedberg and Seltzer movies: Nearly all the jokes are based solely on pop-culture references—which is something that The Kids In The Hall have always stayed away from, and that’s one of the reasons why your comedy still holds up.
KM: Yeah, I understand that totally. And playing a pop thing like Harry Potter… Sometimes Scott would write things with pop-culture references, and we didn’t always win but we tried to stop it. We just wanted to make our own universe. It wasn’t even conscious. Sometimes it was conscious, but that’s just the way we think. So yeah, it was kind of weird that I did [Epic Movie], but I thought it might be funny. And now when I see the movie, I see me trying too hard. I tried really hard.
AVC: Definitely, I’ll give you that.
KM: Please give me that I’m trying very hard. [Laughs.] And again, they were super nice guys. If they weren’t, I wouldn’t say it.
AVC: That’s like a crappy band that you know: “They’re super nice, though.”
KM: [Laughs.] Yeah, that’s like that Canadian band Sloan. What’s [their saying]? “GGBB: Good guys, bad band.”
OutKast’s music video for “Roses” (2003)—“Principal”
KM: That’s another one where there’s a whole genre of people that only know me from that. When I go to my hip-hop clubs. [Laughs.] When I go down to East L.A. after 1 a.m., like I like to do. That happened because my manager also has Eugene Levy as a client. Bryan Barber, the director of the video—who later directed their movie [Idlewild]—he wanted Eugene Levy. But Eugene Levy wasn’t in L.A., so my manager called back and said, “I have a Kid In The Hall.” And Bryan Barber said, “I’m a huge fan of Kids In The Hall. You don’t even have to tell me which Kid In The Hall. Just send him down.” So I went down to Inglewood at two in the morning—which was kind of dangerous-seeming—where they had this whole high school rented out, and I shot the video.
Three things I remember about the video: The song was amazing, and I bought the album and ended up becoming a big fan. The food was the best food on any set ever. It was every food in the world, from pasta to chicken to fruit and lobster—it was the best food ever on a set. I’m a vegetarian, but just to smell it was great. And Andre 3000. [Laughs.] You had to bring your own clothes and I didn’t have a tie, and I was playing the principal. After the first take, Andre 3000 came up to me with a tie—and he’s a small guy, even though I’m not so tall—and he had to stand on his toes and put the tie around me, and he said, “There, that looks better. By the way, you’re being very funny.” [Laughs.] I love OutKast. Have they had an album since that movie soundtrack?
AVC: No. Big Boi has a new album out.
KM: I like his stuff too. What was that album I’m talking about, where he has his rap stuff and Andre 3000 has his more Prince-like stuff? I love both of them.
AVC: That’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below—which you actually say in the video. “Hey, no Speakerboxing, and certainly no Love Below!”
KM: Do I say that? They just let me do whatever I wanted. They didn’t want me to fight the guys or be mean, but I just did that part and they liked it so I kept doing it.
AVC: Guy Maddin has also worked with Mark before, on The Saddest Music In The World. Is he a big Kids In The Hall fan, or is it just that all Canadians know each other?
KM: [Laughs.] It’s a little bit because all Canadians know each other. I met him through Mark, and every now and then for the past five years I would see him, either in Los Angeles or somewhere in Canada. When I came to Winnipeg—because I’m sort of living here—I e-mailed him and told him I was here. Because Woody Allen has New York and Guy Maddin has Winnipeg. He said, “Oh, I’m doing a movie. You should play one of the parts.” And it’s a gangster who becomes a ghost, in Guy Maddin fashion, and it seemed to cry out for me so I said yes.
AVC: You’re working with Isabella Rossellini. Do you think she looks like Dave Foley in drag?
KM: I totally do. It’s funny: My scenes are in the other part of the warehouse, and I’ve never seen her yet, but I hear her voice. That’s actually the way it should be, probably. But I see her pictures all over hair and makeup, and we’ve always thought for years that that’s Dave big thing, that he looks like Isabella Rossellini in drag. He really does.
AVC: You wouldn’t tell her that to her face.
KM: No. He would.
AVC: Does this mean you’re looking for more serious roles in the future?
KM: I would sort of like to look for serious roles. This was supposed to be serious, but I did it my way. I make big faces, basically, and hopefully [Maddin] trims it down a bit so I don’t ruin his movie. But I would like to do serious things. I’ve been offered “The Fool” in a few Shakespeare things, and I’d like to do something like that. Sometimes I think I can act, and sometimes I think I can’t. Once I get over that barrier I think I’ll be fine. If there’s a part that’s just like myself that’s not funny, maybe. My instinct is always to find a laugh—but that’s just insecurity, too, because it’s what I’m comfortable with. But I think somewhere along the line there’s a role and a director that can make me look good in a drama.