Bruce McCulloch — San Francisco Sketch Comedy Festival


January 17, 2005
By Daniel Robert Epstein

Of the five members of The Kids in the Hall, Bruce McCulloch has always been known as the one that’s been the least seen, the quietest kid. In fact the other Kids call him socially retarded. But that’s just retard talk. A number of fully formed and hysterical projects have sprung from him over the years such as his two comedy albums, Shame-Based Man and Drunk Baby Project. He has also directed a number of studio films including Stealing Harvard.

Now he is going back to his roots, the live comedy stage. He’s headlining the new San Francisco Sketch Comedy Festival which is running from now until January 30.

Daniel Robert Epstein: Hello Bruce.

Bruce McCulloch: Are you a private caller? That’s how it came up on my caller ID.

DRE: [laughs] I am. I’m also a private dancer.

BM: That’s what I’ve heard but I didn’t want to say it and get off on the wrong foot.

DRE: Someone told me you now live in Los Angeles.

BM: Yes I moved here about four years ago.

DRE: Did you move there because you were doing studio movies?

BM: Yeah pretty much. It’s such a complicated thing for people from Canada. There is work in Canada but it’s a different kind of work.

DRE: I’m guess you’re a bit too big now to do shows like “This Hour Has 22 Minutes.”

BM: I don’t want to say I’m bigger than that. I’m getting interested in getting back on TV in whatever form that may be. But now seems like a good time to be here.

DRE: How did you get involved with The San Francisco Sketch Comedy Festival?

BM: They hounded me a little. They sent me emails that were just pithy enough that I felt like they had their shit together. They would send me an email and I would write back “You have no idea what you’re getting involved with.”

It seemed like it would be a good thing to do. I like to be connected to my impulses as a creative person. The reason I got involved with making things was not so I could have a conference call with FOX TV but so I could make something up and be in a room full of people. Also San Francisco is full of hipsters, weirdoes and it’s been one of my favorite cities to perform in with the troupe.

DRE: When was the last time you performed by yourself?

BM: I haven’t done it for a couple of years. I did a production of Letters to Wendy’s at a festival. I’ve done one man shows but I want to do something fresh. I want to work some new stuff out on stage. I can’t even remember the last time I did that, I think Kennedy was in office.

DRE: So you will be developing new stuff and maybe some stuff off the last album?

BM: I’ll do a little bit of that. Also I’ll do some things with the other guys who are on the bill. I’m trying to write something about Burning Man.

DRE: So you went to Burning Man?

BM: Well in my piece I did [giggles]. If you write something about Burning Man you don’t have to actually go to it.

DRE: Burning Man is certainly the hip thing to do now.

Are you going to stick around and see anything else at the SketchFest?

BM: I’m only in town for the day of my show but part of doing it is to hang about and meet people. But I won’t stay there for a week. If I had an alternative life, the one where I could have gotten involved with playing in a Hawaiian band, I would love to have a week to hang out and see shows.

DRE: You’re the person that’s top billed for the show along with Dana Carvey. It seems that even though Kids in the Hall is still popular, you now seem to be part of another generation. How is that for you?

BM: One of the things I am writing about is the passage of time and how you will look up and go “Y’know, that Madonna record isn’t so bad.” It’s not weird for me because I’m enjoying my life. I’m not an old vaudevillian but I’ve met people that are six to eight years younger than me and grew up on my show. But that’s not a big deal.

DRE: I know rock music was always a big deal for you growing up and when you were working. Rock is back in the mainstream again, do you check out much of it?

BM: I mostly listen to Dr. Laura and now you have to write in brackets “joke.”

The last show I saw was one of my favorite bands, Clem Snide, but I don’t see much. I don’t think I ever saw many shows. I think once I got my small little bit of fame, which is now half-evaporated; it was harder and harder to go see shows.

DRE: Do you have kids?

BM: We have a small baby in the house.

DRE: So you don’t have any time to do anything?

BM: Right but we haven’t done the blood test to see if she’s mine.

DRE: Does she look like you?

BM: She looks like the gardener.

DRE: How has that changed things for you?

BM: To be serious my father died recently so that and having a baby has kind of energized me. I don’t know why. It’s fun having a baby so I’m not exhausted.

DRE: Is she funny yet?

BM: No I’m worried. That’s why I don’t think she’s mine.

DRE: I read on your website that you and Kevin McDonald are creating a new show for HBO.

BM: Yes, we’re just writing it right now. It’s not set as of yet so I was probably an asshole to put that on my website.

Both Kevin and my dad shared a love of the drink. The show is called Last Family on Earth and it’s a funny show about a family who’s father is a boozer.

DRE: I know it’s really early on, but do you think Kevin and you will be in it?

BM: It’s possible. The main guy is a dental equipment salesman and I want to play an ostrich meat salesman.

DRE: Ostrich meat is a big deal.

BM: Yeah but he would be the Willy Loman of the ostrich meat business.

DRE: Ostrich meat is a red meat that has half the fat of chicken.

BM: Yeah but it tastes like ostrich.

DRE: I found out last year that comedy albums don’t really sell that well in general. How did Drunk Baby Project do for you?

BM: It did what it was supposed to do which is to show many of the things I do. It may have sold about 25,000 copies. People were only able to buy it off my website and so it wasn’t like I was doing a big push. The people that did find it seemed to like it. I go to something with an impulse then the business side of it is far too many details and too much work. I’m not going to get in a van and go start playing gigs.

DRE: I remember that Leprechaun in the Hood was a big deal for that album.

BM: It was almost everything.

DRE: I was wondering if you saw Leprechaun – Back 2 Tha Hood, the sequel to the fourth sequel in the Leprechaun series.

BM: No but I’m putting that on a tasty little Post-it because I know someone who will be quite excited by that.

DRE: What bad movie are you watching right now to help you out?

BM: I’m watching Battle for Ozzfest which in a way is the movie of my life. It’s actually really good.

DRE: Have you liked the presentation that’s been given to the Kids in the Hall DVD sets ?

BM: Yeah, I think so. I think we were all pissed off by the Brain Candy DVD. Our fans are actually doing a petition to add stuff to the Brain Candy DVD. We had an alternative ending and I wish we had been able to do commentary. That’s kind of sad. But we were a little more involved with our DVDs for the TV show.

DRE: Mark McKinney told me that Scott Thompson was late for the recording of the commentary so you guys spent the whole time making fun of him.

BM: Yeah the commentary is always fun for a while then you start going “Hey where did that shirt go?” and “I remember him, what happened to him?” Some of the commentary is hot for teacher and other parts are dull as shit.

DRE: I think when I spoke to you last time you mentioned that your favorite Kids in the Hall sketch that you weren’t in, was The King of Empty Promises. Has that changed?

BM: But that presumes that I’ve watched the DVDs. I actually did a thing on my website where I wrote that seeing myself on TV is like running into an ex-girlfriend at a laundromat.

DRE: Bronwen Hughes has gone on to be a pretty big movie director. She has fond memories of working with the Kids. Have you seen her movies?

BM: I saw her Ben Affleck movie [Forces of Nature]. What else she has done?

DRE: Since that movie she directed this independent film called Stander about a cop turned bank robber in Apartheid age South Africa. It’s really good.

BM: Her and Stephen Surjik both directed film segments in the last seasons of Kids. It was so nice to get actual directors, who knew how to do shots and had film references.

DRE: At one point you said you didn’t want to direct ever again but then you said you were writing new films anyway.

BM: I’m actually directing a film in three months. It’s called Comeback Season starring Ray Liotta.

DRE: Ray Liotta is an amazing actor and really funny

BM: Yes he is and I think he has something that I want to tap into and he’s happy I want to tap into it. It’s that there is no badge in this movie; his character is sweet and a little dark. It’s a funny movie about a guy who makes a mistake. We’re going to be filming it in Calgary.

DRE: Did you write the movie as well?

BM: Well I had 4 three year old children help me with the writing. No I wrote it by myself.

DRE: What’s it about?

BM: It’s about a guy who has a really bad affair, gets thrown out of his house and loses his wife. The kid who lives next door to him was a highly sought after high school athlete until his blew out his knee being introduced for the big game. They bond together to get their thing back.

DRE: You’re other films weren’t too well received. Are you doing something different to try to make sure that doesn’t happen again?

BM: My last film, Stealing Harvard, was hard. With studio films you sign on for one thing then they become another thing. Also they take two years to do. Will I do another studio film? I get offered them so probably. Some guys love to direct, they love to hang out and get the shot. I just like to explore ideas. I’m a hard worker but I have a weird relationship with directing.

DRE: Had you heard of SuicideGirls before you agreed to do this interview?

BM: Yeah the last time I was in Calgary they were there on tour. They looked like sexy pasty solemn women on the poster which is good for me.

DRE: As a rock fan was that the kind of girls you went after when you were going after girls?

BM: What do you mean “was into”?

DRE: [laughs] Aren’t you married?

BM: I still like girls. With the girls in LA, there is a line from my show, “I always like the girls from the before picture better than the after picture.”

DRE: Well there is no sun in Canada.

BM: There is a little bit but it’s not the same.

DRE: Obviously since you are doing a movie soon you and the other Kids aren’t planning another tour any time soon.

BM: Actually one of my impulses was for us all to do something at a small place and I thought San Francisco SketchFest might work for that. But only I ended up going. We’re talking about trying to do stuff. After the last tour we were really energized but then it just faded away like heat in a room. We talked about trying to do a film because we want to do something new but it just got hard with people’s schedules.

I never had that much fun doing the Kids TV show even though everyone else did. It was really only until the tour that I allowed myself to realize it was fun and I realized that we’re a really good comedy troupe. Now I’m more interested in comedy than I have been for a while. I think we’ll do something but I don’t know what it is.

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