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!
This episode of Long Night with Vish Khanna was recorded at the Great Hall in Toronto during the Long Winter multi-disciplinary arts festival on Friday March 13, 2015. Aside from Long Night sidekick James Keast and house band the Bicycles, Vish’s guests were Don Pyle, Damian Rogers, Scott Thompson, and Overnight. Don Pyle is a punk rock historian whose photo book, Trouble in the Camera Club, documents the rise of underground music in Toronto in the 1970s. He’s also a busy musician and producer who has overseen records by Flesh World and TV Freaks and scored shows like Queer as Folk and films like the forthcoming Portrait of a Serial Monogamist. His band Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet is one of the most significant to ever call Canada home and, at some point in the future, the American label Yep Roc will be reissuing their three albums individually and in a box set. Damian Rogers is the poetry editor at both House of Anansi Press and The Walrus. She’s also a published poet herself and her new collection, Dear Leader, is celebrating its release on Coach House Books with a star-studded book launch at the Drake Underground at 7 PM on Tuesday March 24. Scott Thompson is an Emmy nominated actor, writer, and comedian who appears on the groundbreaking NBC hit, Hannibal, and was also a featured performer in my favourite television comedy program of all time, HBO’s The Larry Sanders Show. He is a member of the iconic comedy troupe, the Kids in the Hall, who are touring this spring, including shows at the Danforth Music Hall on April 23, 25, and 26. Overnight is a band from Toronto featuring two members of the influential and no longer functioning Halifax pop band Plumtree. Sisters Carla and Lynette Gillis have kept themselves busy since the end of Plumtree and here, they played a song called “It Gets You Down” from their brand new album, Carry Me Home.
Related links: torontolongwinter.com vishkhanna.com
Bruce McCulloch is a tremendously influential and iconic comedic writer, performer, and director from Alberta who currently lives in the Hollywood Hills. He has written for Saturday Night Live, directed films like Stealing Harvard and Superstar, and released two excellent comedy records, Shame-Based Man and Drunk Baby Project. McCulloch is best known as a member of the beloved and edgy troupe, Kids in the Hall, who produced one of the greatest sketch comedy shows ever. Some of his adventures with the Kids have been documented in his excellent new memoir, Let’s Start a Riot, which is out now via HarperCollins, and has been partially adapted for a new series called Young Drunk Punk, which premieres Wednesday January 21 on CityTV. Here, Bruce and I discuss editing Young Drunk Punk in Toronto, how the Hollywood machine inspired him to write a book, revisiting himself, his Pretty Wife, what to write about, growing up in Calgary and Edmonton, One Yellow Rabbit and Sled Island, loving music but being saved by comedy, knowing thyself, self-identifying as a punk, Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet and the den mother that was Don Pyle, wisdom and caution, celebrity and humility and explaining your creative life to your children, what the Kids in the Hall think of Bruce’s book, what Young Drunk Punk is about, Ian McKay not Ian MacKaye or even Ian McKay, upcoming North American Kids in the Hall live dates, playing characters on shows like Arrested Development, “Tired of Waking Up Tired” by the Diodes, and then it was time for happiness pie.
Related links: brucio.com vishkhanna.com
Listen, subscribe, rate/review on iTunes.