One of the featured attractions at this year’s Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival is a staged reading of Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy by all five members of the legendary Canadian troupe. The 1996 film, about a drug that locks into place a person’s most cherished memory, is considered a cult classic. The Globe spoke to Kids in the Hall member Scott Thompson after he returned from the Winter Olympics in Russia.
You took a trip in character as the very uncloseted Buddy Cole to cover the Sochi Olympics for The Colbert Report. Seems like you had some fun and got into a little trouble as well, right?
Oh yes. I almost got arrested. [They] briefly detained us. I attended the opening ceremony, which was awesome. We couldn’t film any of that, though. Most of Buddy Cole’s stuff in Russia was looking for gay propaganda and looking for winter. Buddy staged a protest. We pushed as far as we could.
Did it surprise you that none of the athletes protested Putin’s anti-gay laws?
It did. I thought someone would wear a rainbow outfit. But no – nothing. I was proud of what we did though.
Can we talk about that?
Really? Is that what you want to talk about? The truth is, I did it in character, and I kind of want to keep it that way. Does that make any sense?
As much as it needs to. Let’s move on to the upcoming Kids in the Hall performance at the Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival. As I recall, the making of Brain Candy wasn’t completely pleasant.
Well, it’s been well-documented that Dave Foley was not listed as a writer for the film, even though he did contribute. That whole period was probably the most difficult in our collective life. No one really behaved well.
Was it the project itself, or was it just where you guys were at at the time?
It was where we were at. Well, the project didn’t help because the film is about depression. And I would say the group was in a depression. There was a lot of tragedy swirling around us at the time, and I think that may have contributed to the way we behaved.
Sounds like you could have used some brain candy.
Actually, it was the beginning of the whole Prozac epidemic. That was the first time we’d ever heard of it. We knew people who were on it. We were all so confused. It was the beginning of the medicalizing of depression. And in many ways, the medicalization of just moods, which was making mood swings pathological, rather than, you know, moods.
How do you feel about the film now?
I think it really holds up. I will say it’s not a joyous movie. I think if we made a film today, it would be a much more joyous film.
But for many the darkness is the appeal of Brain Candy.
I feel the same way. I think the darkness makes it intellectually challenging. It’s very much a thinking film. It’s certainly not a feeling comedy.
How do you feel about revisiting the film now?
Years later, I think we appreciate the film in a way we didn’t back then. Perhaps more importantly, we all appreciate the group in a way we didn’t back then. There was a rift between the four of us and Dave, but that’s all over and done with. So, to put Brain Candy back on its feet and to perform it, it could end up being a real cathartic experience. Knowing how we are, I suspect we’ll comment on that part of our life as we perform the script.
The Kids in the Hall reunited last fall for a series of performances in Toronto. Is there more of that to come?
We just want to keep the momentum going. We’re going to Austin, Texas, at the end of the month, and then to Dallas. We have all this new material, and a tour has been talked about. We have to work out the scheduling, but the will is there and the mood is there.
And what is that mood?
We have more fun with each other than we do with anybody else. You learn that that chemistry is not common. It’s actually extremely rare.
If only you could bottle that chemistry, right?
I think the Kids in the Hall are like Liz Taylor and Richard Burton. We realize that, after a few other marriages among us, the first marriage was the best one. When you’re young, you think that it will happen over and over again. But it really only strikes a couple of times in your life.
The Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival runs March 6 to 16 at various venues. The Kids in the Hall present a live reading of Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy on March 11 at Queen Elizabeth Theatre. Info at torontosketchfest.com.
This interview has been condensed and edited.