Canadian comedy legend Kevin McDonald is in Toronto this week and we caught up with him at the SiriusXM office to chat about everything he is up to, including 2 shows on December 13th at The Rivoli.
McDonald currently lives in Winnipeg but travels a lot with work. He has a traveling podcast, sketch comedy workshops, a rock opera, an upcoming theatrical appearance, a movie on Netflix, a TV pilot and a possible Kids in the Hall thing.
Tell us about the show on The Rivoli you have on December 13th.
Kevin McDonald: The show at the Rivoli, on the 13th, Friday, is a rock opera that I wrote. I call it a mini rock opera, because it’s only 42 minutes, though I’m writing four more songs. I think when I do it again it’ll be longer. I wrote it, I have a podcast called Kevin McDonald’s Kevin McDonald show, which is like an old fashioned variety show with sketches, and guest stars. I always do a song and a story. It’s usually Kids in the Hall stories.
When I was writing for this one two years ago, I thought of a true disgusting story. I remember one that Dave Foley and Scott Thompson and I were involved in, and my girlfriend. Yeah, I don’t think this ruins it, whose nickname was Cheater, because she cheated on me a lot. True story that culminated in a disgusting thing that happened in New York. As I was writing it, because usually the stories are five minutes long, and I just told them, I thought this is like an epic. This should be like Jesus Christ Superstar. There should be songs. Or, like side two of Abbey Road. It should be like a rock opera.
I was doing the podcast in Seattle, so I’m about to name drop. Sorry. Am I talking to the calculator? (plays with conference phone system)
I’m friends with… There’s no non-name dropping way to say it. Ben Gibbard from Death Cab for Cutie, who lives in Seattle. I asked him, “Would you do the rock opera with me, and play the part of Dave?”
He said yes, so we did it and it went over very well. I’ve done it six times live since, or five times. It’ll be the sixth time. Anyway, it’s sort of one of my favourite things that I’ve written. I’m not a musician. I warn people. People from the calculator.
Okay, so how do you know Ben from Death Cab? he was a guest on your podcast, right?
Kevin McDonald: Yeah. Actually, luckily I am a fan. At the time I met him I only knew the single, Soul Meets Body
I remember I started listening to them in the late ’90s maybe.
Kevin McDonald: Yeah.
Mid to late ’90s or something.
Kevin McDonald: Yeah, like Postal Service.
Postal Service. Exactly.
Kevin McDonald: I like Death Cab for Cutie. To me it’s Paul Simon, and the backing band was Depeche Mode.
At the Comedy Central Comedy Awards, I just came to watch because I knew some of the comedy writers. The band was Death Cab for Cutie. They did something fun, which I liked. I was so happy. Afterwards, at the party I met them and he (Ben) was a Kids in the Hall fan.
I’ve seen them eight or nine times. I decided to do it solo once at UCLA, where he brought a guest and it was Canada’s own, Alanis Morissette.
To name drop. I guess I met her afterwards… I don’t think she knew who I was.
Yeah. There’s a breed of musician who is the nicest guy in the world kind of musician. He really fits into that mold. Yeah. He really is the nicest guy in the world. There’s others who are life of the party musicians, and he’s not that.
Now, I also heard you were writing a pilot.
Kevin McDonald: Yes. I’m writing a pilot with Norm Hiscock, who was my writing partner on Kids in the Hall. We’re writing for the producer of Schitt’s Creek Ben Feigin.
It’s about a true story. I guess I can just say this.
We’re having fun with it. It’s about a true story. It’s fictionalized, but it’s based on a true thing the CIA does. They train seals and whales to spy on the Russians.
Someone’s going to make a TV show. I don’t know who’ll be first, but we’re trying.
What’s it going to be like? What’s the style of the show?
Kevin McDonald: Oh, I can tell you, this is how we’re seeing it. Either a slightly more realistic Brain Candy, or a funnier Cohen Brothers’, Burn This.
Somewhere between the two.
Straighter Brain Candy, or funnier Burn this.
Now, the podcast. You do on the road as well?
Kevin McDonald: Yeah, I do. It’s live, in front of a live audience. For a while, I was just doing it in New York and Los Angeles, but now my producers are so wildly successful with their younger podcast, mine is not wild and successful. They have people getting 40 or 50-thousand listeners. That’s pretty good, isn’t it?
I go do a different city every weekend to do my workshops and shows at night at different theatres. Then, when it’s a city that makes sense, when I know there’s a celebrity around, like I just did one in Charlotte, North Carolina with a musician no one’s heard of but I love him, Benji Hughes.
He’s sort of like Brian Wilson, but not.
Like, in the same general ballpark. I did one in Los Angeles, Thomas Middleditch. Those two are coming out soon. I got to look at my schedule and pick out a city. If I know a celebrity there, if I can name drop that city then we can maybe do a podcast. They don’t lose any money, and then the three-thousand people who listen to me are happy for a while.
Okay, so live podcast, how often do you do that kind of touring one of that?
Kevin McDonald: We were doing them once a month. Now, it’s probably been about five or six times a year.
Yeah, and I’m so busy now. The fun part was, for a year I could just write that, and I’m writing to write the next one, like, write a new sketch. As a result, if the Kids in the Hall have a new tour, or TV show or something, I am onto new sketches.
Yeah, and that’s the thing too, do you have some possible 2020 Kids in the Hall news?
Kevin McDonald: There’s a chance, yes. We’re advancing in talks. I can’t confirm anything yet, but it’s looking good.
I want to paint a picture for Kids in the Hall fans as well. You talk about the rock opera. Is this going to be a standalone thing that you want to do?
Kevin McDonald: Yeah. It’s evolving. I’m writing songs and stuff. I think it’s something I can tour with soon. I have, when I go to my different theatres, when I go to a theatre that I’ve been to already three or four times and I have to bring a new show, this is the one I’ve been bringing lately. For Kids in the Hall fans it’s also, A, it’s a Kids in the Hall story. Well, it’s half a personal story with me and Cheater, and half a story with Dave and Scott, and it’s Kids in the Hall-ish in the sense that I’m a Kids in the Hall.
There’s a very dark thing that… It’s a true story that happens in the middle of it, and I write several songs about it in the rock opera that I think only Kids in the Hall fans will let me get away with, but it’s true. It’s not something I made up.
It’s like a reading, because I go with Chuck Berry’s band every week. I don’t have time to memorize all of it. I can’t memorize my songs. You have to be a musician to memorize. If I memorize the lyrics, I can’t memorize… Do I do it right when the chord starts, or do I wait a beat, or… It’d be like a reading performing.
Like a half-performance, half-reading/singing. There’ll be music. Alun will play guitar.
Are you going to have guests in Toronto?
Kevin McDonald: Well, I try to get some. Last time, when I did the Rivoli last year I did, but no.
Not this year?
Kevin McDonald: Unless, in two days-
Unless, you never know.
There may be one, yeah.
Yeah, somebody might pop up.
Well, someone who I asked was out of town, now isn’t so I’m going to try to get him to do something.
This is a not for sure, because he’s showing movies.
Bellini was almost in it.
Do you know Bellini? Kids in the Hall fans would know Bellini. Anybody talking to a calculator. Who’s going to write this up?
Bellini was that guy. He wrote with Scott Thompson, who was his best friend. He was the guy we put in a tie and poked with a stick.
You’re also doing something with Netflix, correct?
Kevin McDonald: Well, I did the Invader ZIM movie.
I’m excited. It’s good (high pitched). I know when you go high-pitched it sounds like you’re lying. The kind of fans that I would go out and eat lunch with, though I wouldn’t. That’s a weird thing to do. They’re like the Kids in the Hall when we were teenagers, the cool freaks.
Kevin McDonald: Not even cool, like, the nerdy-cool freaks.
What we see as cool now, but used to be seen as nerdy.
Kevin McDonald: Yeah, yeah.
Invader ZIM, in the early 2000s, I think it ran two years, maybe three years. It was like a cult. Everything I do… The most exciting, everything I do either bombs, or the successful ones are a cult. Invader ZIM was written by this 26-year-old genius and creative (Jhonen Vasquez).
He wrote comic books, and he wrote this. It’s like PeeWee’s Playhouse in the sense that adults like it as much as kids, but it is for kids. It’s dark for kids. We did it for Nickelodeon in the early 2000s, but it really became a cult. The Kids in the Hall and Brain Candy never became a cult, never become more popular, though I like it. Invader ZIM picked up more, and more speed, and now people who are like kids now like it so Nickelodeon commissioned him to do a movie. I’m not sure of the story. I don’t know if it wasn’t shown on Nickelodeon and sent right to Netflix, or if they showed it on Nickelodeon and then to Netflix.
Invader ZIM, Enter the Florpus.
It’s like a punk rocky cartoon for kids.
What else are you working on?
Kevin McDonald: Welcome to podcast. I got my weekends. I got a family now in Winnipeg. I got the rock opera. I got this vague thing that I’m most excited about. Here’s one little tiny thing that I’m scared about, but they’re paying me a fortune, by my standards, to do it.
They’re paying American dollars, you mean?
Kevin McDonald: Yes, exactly. They are. There’s a place in Florida, Tallahassee, which is known for their Shakespeare, which I’ve never done, so I’m doing Shakespeare in the Spring.
Kevin McDonald: Shakespeare in the park. I’m playing Malvolio in The Twelfth Knight. Every day, except for now that I’m here in Toronto, because I live in Winnipeg. I don’t think I’ll have time, but I’ve been memorizing an hour or two. I haven’t got the money yet, but I think I’m going to have to quit and tell them to keep their money, because memorizing it is…
That’s so hard.
Kevin McDonald: It’s so hard, and not only to memorize it, but you have to say it in iambic pentameter.
You have to almost learn a new language, and then memorize it.
Kevin McDonald: Yeah. Yeah, and it’s like, ba-bum, ba-bum. If you do it like that, then they say to you, “You’ve got to make it seem natural, but the experts know whether it’s in or not.”
It’s Shakespeare in the Park, so they warned me that every hour, so it can happen during your play, a train goes by. The audience can’t hear you for 10 minutes.
You have to write that pause in?
Kevin McDonald: Yeah, a 10-minute pause.
The director’s name is James Bond.
Is it actually?
Kevin McDonald: Yeah.
Whoa. His parents were like, “We’re just going to call him James.”
Kevin McDonald: Yeah. No offense to his parents, but…
He can’t be that old.
Kevin McDonald: Yeah, I think he’s a lot younger than me, like mid-40s.
Yeah. Bond has been around for some time now.
Kevin McDonald: Oh, yeah. Bond was obviously around-
If anybody’s named James Bond, mostly likely their parents knew.
Kevin McDonald: If he’s mid-40s, oh yeah. Bond was big forever back then. Sure.
What parents, if your last name’s Bond, would call their son James?
Maybe it was Jimmy, and he’s just like, “I want to go by James.”
Kevin McDonald: No offence. If you hear this, James, no offence to your parents.
I’m not going to call him 007 because I’m sure he’s heard that his whole life.
The guys in the system, I’m going to call them Moneypenny.
Or, the guy that makes props, I won’t call him Q. Again, getting over it right now.
Everyone’s going to have a nickname on set.
Kevin McDonald: Yeah. Q, can I have a bigger staff?
Catch Kevin McDonald at The Rivoli December 13th at 7pm and 10pm.