Kids in the Hall's Bruce McCulloch Says TikTok Is the New Punk Rock The comedy legend discusses creativity, artistic compulsion and his new one-man show 'Bruce McCulloch: Tales of Bravery and Stupidity.'
"I talk about things like the worst sex weekend ever with my wife."
When you ask Bruce McCulloch a question, you need to be ready for answers like that. As all comedy nerds know, McCulloch is one-fifth of the legendary comedy troupe The Kids in the Hall, whose absurdist sketches warped many a young mind throughout the "90s. During the show's run, McCulloch and his fellow Kids Mark McKinny, Scott Thompson, Dave Foley and Kevin McDonald crushed heads, sang about people named Dave, and introduced the world to an overly amorous chicken lady, among many other unforgettable characters.
I spoke at length with Bruce about his show, the revival of The Kids in the Hall (which can be seen on Amazon Prime) and the joys of embracing your own weirdness for an upcoming episode of the Get a Real Job podcast. Here are some of the highlights from that delightful conversation.
Comedian Bruce McCulloch was almost an entrepreneur
"I studied business at college, hence all of the businessman sketches in Kids in the Hall. But I remember my girlfriend at the time said to me, "If you add our marks together, we got a hundred.' And I said, "Oh, I bet I got 45 and you got 55.' She said, "No, I got 80, and you got 20.' And I went from business to journalism, which kind of saved me, because I started writing my freaky little stories and ultimately found comedy. I went to Loose Moose Theater at school, where they had this improv comedy competition, and I felt like I was coming out of the closet — that these were my people. I felt like I jumped on this conveyor belt that took me to now."
The creative compulsion
"Once I started with comedy, my compulsion to create stuff was strong. Writing, directing, performing. When I watch Kids in the Hall, I think to myself that there are four really funny guys, and then there's one little guy with a weird head that bobs around and his little hands won't stop moving. And that's me. I just love communing with an audience and seeing what weird things you can get a laugh from. And like in the business, I just like making a thing. It can be a wedding toast, it can be a little video trying to sell tickets, it can be a huge expensive TV show. I just love making things, it's a compulsion."
Finding comfort in discomfort
"I used to go to comedy clubs and do a character that bombed every night. He'd go out on stage and succeed at first, and then I'd start to bomb and then I'd cry. I started crying and then I'd go backstage and you could hear him whisper into the mic "I shit my pants.' So I would just lose the audience and I guess I like that! I like the low. Everyone's afraid of it. I embraced it. It's scary, but I think it's beautiful. It's stoicism. You've imagined bombing so bad, and then you do it and know it is all okay. That's beautiful."
TikTok is the punk rock of comedy
"I love that people are out there making their own comedy stuff on YouTube and TikTok and making money without big studio backing. I love it because I'm a punk, right? And punk music was all about, 'We don't need a deal at Atlantic — we can do it ourselves.' These video creators have taken back the tools and, sure, sometimes it's stupid, but it's fun to watch. Like a bird shits on someone or someone's pants down or just, like, they're dressed as a Smurf and they cross the road and go, 'Fancy.' I love the weirdness of it."
Connecting with audiences
"As I say in my show, "Outsiders, there sure are a lot of us.' At first, I was scared by fans who wanted to talk to me and stuff. Before our show really hit, I'd love to go to a bar and play some jukebox tunes and have a bourbon and just write. And then after the show started, I couldn't do it anymore because people would say, "Why is McCulloch just sitting there alone?' And it was a little uncomfortable, to be honest. But now fans will come up and they'll go, "I was young and fucked up and I watched your show and it was the only thing in my little weird town that made me feel okay,' or I'll meet two wonderful people who've driven seven hours to see me, and it is a real gift."
"When I was doing the original Kids in the Hall series, I was such a punk that when we did promos, I just couldn't say, "Watch my show.' So I'd stand there like a little punk and the other guys would have to say, "Watch my show! See me!' But now, yes, I think you should come see my show. I think it's a nice event for people to commune together at this moment. And they're in my fairly capable, if tiny, hands."