John Semley is a prolific journalist and cultural critic based in Toronto who regularly contributes to the Globe and Mail and Macleans magazine. His obsession with comedy led him to fall in love with true originals in the innovative Canadian troupe, the Kids in the Hall. ECW Press has just published This is a Book About The Kids in the Hall, Semley’s exhaustive and engaging overview of the life and times of Dave Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney, and Scott Thompson, otherwise known, as the Kids in the Hall. Semley and I recently met at his home to discuss Bloordale and a toxic gas event, Scharpling & Wurster at the Mod Club in Toronto, SCTV, phone comedy and radio shows, oblivious characters, The Kids in the Hall and The Simpsons and Mr. Show, adults comedies getting syndicated and then running at like four in the afternoon when kids get home from school, obsession and fandom, being a metal guy, comedy and classic rock, the Prodigy and the Chemical Brothers, metal and hardcore scenes and Alexisonfire in St. Catharines, Constellation Records and Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Neurosis, generalism in a post-taste era, sardonic, contemptuous comedy, surrealism, humour and coping with life, the Kids in the Hall were outcasts, seeing Brain Candy at a movie theatre when he was nine years old, dad issues among the Kids, Mr. Show and irony versus The Kids in the Hall and sincere rage, psychological studies and post-Freudian critical theory, skewering authority figures and conceptions of manhood, cross dressing and female characters, queerness, dad types, rebelling via The Kids in the Hall, idiocy, his 2013 oral history about the Kids for NOW Magazine and its surprising popularity, Toronto the cool, Queen Street West in the mid-1980s, comedy club intimacy and the Rivoli, love comedy discomfort, comedian smugness and aloofness, the interviewer who thinks they’re as funny as the comedian they’re talking to, his entertaining prose in this book, when trying to relate to someone leads to alienation, Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet and Lorne Michaels’ pride for the Kids in the Hall, Janeane Garofalo, Dave Foley’s show Spun Out and the Kids’ unique chemistry, Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert reviewing Brain Candy, negative reviews of Death Comes to Town, nothing like the Kids in the Hall, “Screw You, Taxpayer!,” an unauthorized biography, a second book proposal, interviewing ‘Dylanologist’ AJ Weberman, @johnsemley3000, and then John when to hang out with these guys who smoke!
Scharpling & Wurster is a beloved and very funny comedy duo consisting of Tom Scharpling and Jon Wurster. While they mainly work together on The Best Show radio program and podcast, which airs every Tuesday from 9 pm to midnight ET at thebestshow.net, they’ve been making rare live appearances around North America since the Numero Group released The Best of the Best Show 16 CD box set this past spring. They’re closing out 2015 with three shows at the Mod Club in Toronto on November 28, The Sinclair in Cambridge, Massachusetts on November 29, and Union Transfer in Philadelphia on December 13. Here, Tom and Jon and I discuss their busy 2015 and doing these live shows, comedy frontman versus drumming in a band, doing Late Night with Seth Meyers and condensing comedy for their appearance on the show, going out a different way, how the Scharpling & Wurster live show works in each city they perform in, whether the stage show is as interactive as The Best Show, what the live show brings out in Tom and Jon, Tom’s confidence, Jon’s physicality, local references, Tom’s history with Toronto and the city’s Best Show fans, their love of SCTV, when Jon met Tom, Tom’s history with Superchunk and Mac McCaughan, how Jon and Tom began working together, “Rock, Rot, and Rule,” the Newbridge infomercial, getting into more TV stuff together, what the Best Show box set meant for the trajectory of the duo, how the new Best Show feels, the future, the phone call “OnStar,” and then we hung up our Skypes.
Related links: scharplingandwurster.com thebestshow.net vishkhanna.com
Mike Sacks is a respected journalist and humour writer whose work has appeared in many of America’s top periodicals. He’s a member of the editorial staff at Vanity Fair and has written three books including two acclaimed and mind-blowing interview collections, 2009’s And Here’s the Kicker: Conversations with 21 Humor Writers About Their Craft and 2014’s Poking a Dead Frog: Conversations with Today’s Top Comedy Writers. With David Letterman’s retirement as a TV talk show host imminent, it seemed like a good time to gain more insight about what this means for comedy so here, Mike and I discuss Brooklyn and My Little Pony, attending one of the last tapings of the Late Show with David Letterman, growing up with Dave, watching and taping Letterman as a kid and then reciting his jokes to other kids, observing Reese Witherspoon and fakery, encountering Letterman after the taping, the end of an era and connecting with someone, real time and in the moment with great TV, attending a Letterman taping and seeing all the behind-the-scenes stuff, Norm Macdonald’s amazing tribute to Dave this past Friday night, Letterman’s impact on comedy and kids who watched him and acted and spoke like him, a Letterman bias, Merrill Markoe’s tremendous role on Late Night with David Letterman, Dave admitting that he’s been outta the loop the last few years, coasting, NBC to CBS, Letterman’s stunt-free power and great interviewing skills, Jay Leno, Jon Stewart, and Stephen Colbert, silence and listening, how the world of comedy views Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon, subversive comedy lives on the radio and in podcasts, Scharpling, Wurster, and the Best Show, 12:35 AM versus 11:35 PM, Leno’s edginess, Conan O’Brien was pushing the envelope even on the Tonight Show, the tempering of Letterman’s show at CBS, the resilience of the late night TV talk show format, tradition, the dullness of certain interviews as opposed to real talk, Letterman says he might do a podcast, what will happen to TV and comedy when Letterman leaves, youthification, historical comedy, the greatness of Poking a Dead Frog, writing a crime book and/or collaborating on a comedian’s memoir, not chasing a Letterman interview, the Harry Shearer versus The Simpsons fiasco, Letterman’s final episodes feature Tom Hanks, Eddie Vedder, Bill Murray, and Bob Dylan, predicting what the final episode will consist of, anyone can do anything but not everyone can do everything, @michaelbsacks, and that’s all kids.
Related links: michaelsacks.com vishkhanna.com