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!
Baroness von Sketch Show is a very funny sketch comedy TV program that airs on CBC. This edgy yet grounded show is written by and stars four very talented and hilarious human beings: Carolyn Taylor, Meredith MacNeill, Aurora Browne, and Jennifer Whalen. They’re just wrapping up their first season on CBC with the finale airing on Tuesday July 19 at 9:30 PM ET and you catch up on past episodes and sketches at cbc.ca/baroness. I recently met up with Carolyn, Meredith, Aurora, and Jennifer at the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto to chat about a roll call, Aurora’s action figure name, capes and tools, superhero skills, meeting and working at the Gladstone in Toronto, Junction Triangular or West Bender, different Canadian cities, getting to know Baroness von Sketch and where it came from, better origin stories, the Patton Oswalt George Lucas/prequel bit, spending a chunk of time talking about the Justice League, parenting and childhood nostalgia, questions about robbers, nerd lines, 20 years to BVS, TVO Kids is awesome and is often spearheaded by edgy, Canadian comedians, writing for kids’ cartoons, Odd Squad, local comedy coverage by Canadian publications, brain drain, eh, Canada’s confidence complex, America is much weirder than us, community support, people like Jon Dore who maintain their roots in Canadian comedy, the Mars One sketch Dore’s improv, beards, David Letterman’s beard, positive and negative feedback, a male shipwreck, the Fuck, Marry, Kill sketch, making your parents uncomfortable with your comedy, the fart lighting sketch, my wife, trying to describe the show and its shorter vignettes, relatable and grounded sketch, rich details, learning at Second City, Smack the Pony, The Muppet Show, 9 to 5, Monty Python, The Kids in the Hall, Amy Schumer, The Office UK, Not the Nine O’Clock News, SCTV, Superjail!, Rick and Morty, parameters and working with CBC, not a bucket of jizz, Seinfeld and saying things without actually saying it, an all-female sketch comedy show, perceptions of political undercurrents, a feminist recruitment tool, being women working in comedy, political correctness and privilege, all the stuff have white man have done, the strange responsibility of having to explain what it’s like to be a woman, just wanting to talk about the work, we’re not post-gender, comedy control, the future of BVS and oh the places you can watch the show on Tuesdays at 9:30 PM ET and Sundays at 9:00 PM ET on CBC, BVS hasn’t done it live, the Book Club sketch, and then we said good-bye.
Related links: cbc.ca/baroness vishkhanna.com
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