Kevin McDonald tattles on the Kids' latest handiwork

By Jon Roig (
Arizona Daily Wildcat
April 16, 1996

Arizona Daily Wildcat

The Kids in the Hall play over 40 zany characters in their new flick, "Brain Candy."


By Jon Roig (

As part of the publicity blitz for "Brain Candy," the new Kids in the Hall movie, the good folks at Paramount were nice enough to set up a 10-minute interview with Kevin McDonald. How could I pass that up? Sure, my time slot fell after 47 other consecutive interviews and he was a little fried, but that's cool. The film opens tomorrow at selected theaters.

Wildcat: I guess what I'm curious to start with is what the new movie is going to be like.

Kevin McDonald: The new movie will be like, in terms of the comedy that we do, like the TV show. There won't be a lot of the characters. There'll be mostly new characters. And the biggest change is the fact that we're doing a whole story for a whole hour and a half. There'll be enough things that'll remind you of our sketches. There's enough smaller characters that have sketch-like moments. But there's one lead character and we sort of follow him along - like Monty Python in that respect, Graham Chapman and we follow him around.

WC: So was it difficult to make the transition from the sketch to the full hour and a half, and to keep people's attention for that long?

KMD: The only really difficult thing was the writing of it - not coming up with ideas, we always have lots of ideas, it was agreeing on everything. The five of us are strong-minded and you let more go in a TV show because it's just for a three-minute sketch, and there's seven of those every show, 20 shows a year, and five seasons. In a movie, it really matters, because it was the only thing we got and the only shot we had.

We just have to agree on everything. We stayed in the room at the same time writing, whereas we always wrote by ourselves or in pairs for the TV show.

WC: I've always liked your show, and it's sad to see it end.

KMD: Well, it was on for five years, and I think after awhile we'd only start disappointing people. We sorta quit when it was still good, I think. And we had the movie to do, so it fit perfectly to stop the TV show.

WC: How did the creative process work on the show?

KMD: The five of us wrote everything and we had, by the end, three or four writers. And so, sometimes we wrote with them but it all sort of stemmed from us. We'd write individually or in teams, then we'd have a read-through every Friday. We'd read everything - that would take about two hours. Fridays were horrible. Then we'd spend another two hours going through every sketch and doing notes. In theory, the sketches were supposedly improved. Sometimes they were, I guess. And then we voted which sketches we wanted in and which ones we didn't.

WC: So what do you look for in a good comedy sketch?

KMD: Good question - such a good question, I'm not sure of the answer. The hardest thing is an ending. And we didn't have such good endings, because the sketch was so good we'd shoot it anyways without an ending. Strong characters, and just a hook that you'd remember - the hook, we were always obsessed with what's the hook of the scene. If a person saw the scene, what would they say the scene was about in one sentence? But some things don't need a hook, like Mark (McKinney) would write subtle things where you really couldn't see what the hook was but you really enjoyed it by the end.

And if it was a great character, you could repeat it again. We never liked to repeat them a lot, like "Saturday Night Live," but we had fun writing for the characters.

WC: But what makes it funny?

KMD: You'd need a computer for that. There's no certain rules for that. There's something different, it's a chemical reaction. Sometimes it's funny, because people relate to it - like a scene I did where I made up promises and I told everybody, "Will do." Then the next day I'd always forget what I said I'd do and I'd say, "Slipped my mind." People seemed to like that because they always knew an asshole who was like that.

There are some scenes that just capture your imagination, like Chicken Lady or Bruce's Flying Pig, that in a million years you could never think of yourself, so you laugh at that.

WC: So how do you guys see that you fit into the evolution of sketch comedy from like the Marx Brothers to -

KMD: Oh yeah! Good for you! I was going to start with the Marx Brothers. I was going to say, to me, the major troops that influenced people, not including, like, Abbott and Costello, were: The Marx Brothers begat the Goon Show. The Goon Show begat Beyond the Fringe with Cook and Moore. From them you get Monty Python. And from Monty Python you get SNL and SCTV. And then you'd get Kids in the Hall, I would say. That's like putting us on a high pedestal.

WC: What makes you different from, say, Monty Python?

KMD: Monty Python are the Beatles of sketch comedy. They revolutionized it, but they revolutionized it in form. They just fucked around. They would stop halfway through a sketch, or they would run the credits halfway through, or they'd comment on a sketch. That's how they were revolutionary.

We couldn't really do that because they did that. So, I mean, we're fans and we'd have liked to do that, but that would've been copying. So I think what we fucked around with was the content. They have pretty typical form - a beginning, middle and end. And, they're all about three or four minutes. It was just what we did within those three or four minutes. I did a scene about my alcoholic father called "Daddy Drank," and we did scenes about beating up our dads. We had fights with our girlfriends or boyfriends or whatever, so we'd write scenes about them. And, we showed a lot of personal things that people really didn't do before us. And so, if we were revolutionary at all, I would say it was because of our content.

WC: Speaking of content, what's the plot of the new movie?

KMD: It's about a scientist who discovers a pill for depression in a very depressed city. He wants it to be a prescription drug, but the evil pharmaceutical company he works for sees the potential of this and puts it out over the counter. And the pill is much stronger than the scientist could ever dream of. He becomes a star, because the drug is so popular - like he takes hot tubs with babes and he hosts the music video awards. The pill starts having side effects. It makes people so happy that it puts them in what we call "gleecomas." They're so happy that they become zombies. And so the scientist has to go back to his science roots and discover an antidote for it.

WC: So the other Kids have done little things here and there. What can we expect from you?

KMD: Well, I did that movie that was released in the fall. That didn't do very well.

WC: Uh ... what movie?

KMD: "National Lampoon's Senior Trip."

WC: Oh no, I didn't see that. Is it -

KMD: No, you don't have to. Don't.

WC: It can't be that bad, for what it is -

KMD: It's a very bad movie. I could be a little funny, but I don't know. It's a pretty bad movie. It was the Kids in the Hall director who directed it, too. It was kinda fun to do but it's not that funny.

I'm going to Hollywood next week and there's a few directors I'm meeting. I enjoy concentrating on movies, and I've also written a script that I want to shoot this summer. It's sort of based on a Joseph Conrad novel, Lord Jim, except I call it "Officer Bob" and I made it a comedy.

WC: So how did the Kids in the Hall originally get together?

KMD: I met Dave (Foley) at a Second City improv workshop and in Calgary Mark and Bruce (McCulloch) met and they formed their troupe. Their troupe moved to Toronto and formed with our troupe, so they had like nine guys in the troupe. One by one they quit so there were four of us, and Scott (Thompson) forced his way into the troupe like he would a restaurant.

WC: How are you celebrating the year of the rat?

KMD: By staying away from them.