Writer, actor and director Bruce McCulloch was one of The Kids In The Hall. He is writing an autobiography for Harper Collins titled Young Drunk Punk. He will be performing July 22 and 23 at Hugh’s Room in Toronto.
Are you a father?
Yes, I am. I had kids late in life. I have kids that are 6 and 8.
Are you a traditional dad?
For me, the traditional dad is a guy who drinks rye and ginger and watches the TV and screams at it. I hope I’m not a traditional dad.
[For] my dad’s generation, the kids were kind of there, but they weren’t. I was the first generation where divorce was really common. A lot of us came from families that were kind of broken, dads were harsh or absent. My dad was a travelling salesman who drank, so in reaction to that, we are über-loving dads.
Is that a positive?
I think it is, but in a way, the pendulum sometimes swings too far. My son, who had just gotten out of kindergarten, was on a field trip. There were 15 kids and there were 20 parents. Everyone was trying to experience everything with their kids.
Are you aware, when dealing with your kids, that you are teaching them fatherhood as well?
Absolutely. No one ever taught me anything. No one ever really taught me about what it’s like to be a good person or what it’s like to face authority or if you are going over to someone’s house to be polite. When I grew up, we were just animals let out of the door. When I was a teenager, too, no one ever taught me about what it was to fall in love or to have a friend that moves away. I look forward to helping my kids, having a conversation with them.
Do men have to work at fatherhood or does it come naturally?
I think the propulsive part is born in us. “Get food for child,” “protect child” is born in us. But I think the nuanced stuff doesn’t come naturally. I’m an artist. Sometimes, we are selfish creatures. The unnatural part is to turn your attention to a life that is more important than yours.
Societal assumption is still that men are primarily breadwinners and not naturally nurturers.
I know. My kids, especially when they were super-young, they’d knock me out of the way to get to Mom. I was the outer family. Mom and kids were the inner family. I was this guy who just provided snacks.
That assumption of fatherhood not being instinctual is reinforced by ads and television and films regularly depicting fathers as inept boobs, useless without womanly guidance.
It’s partially true and something men can hide behind. “Oh, I’m not very good at it. Okay, honey, here’s the kids, I have to go do something else.”
The opposite stereotype seems to be in force as well. If a dad is too nurturing, walks around with junior strapped to his chest or takes readily to organizing kiddy tea parties, his masculinity is diminished.
I’m a feminine guy. I don’t care. I remember one of my friends who is a Canadian rock star. We went for a run and went for a shower at the Y. I looked down at his toe[nails] and they were [painted] pink. He said, “Oh, my daughter did that.” You become a prop when you have kids, which is really good for your ego.
I said to my son the other night when we were cuddling and watching hockey: “This is why I have a son.” It isn’t just to watch hockey. It’s to enjoy those moment that, perhaps, I don’t know I had the first time around.
Of course your kids are whoever they are. My daughter isn’t cuddly. I thought I’d have a little cuddly daughter. It’s my son. You may have an idea of how it’s going to be like, but your kids are going to tell you exactly how it is going to go.
Is it good that traditional fatherhood is being redefined?
I think there is no question. Traditionally – and I’m speaking of maybe a hundred people I knew – a traditional dad wasn’t looking at you. He was maybe beside you driving, listing to the radio. [Now] I see it every day at the playground. The kids who get all this attention flower.
The first day we let our kids off at school, they start to have their own world. Their own life. Our kids are going to live without us and that is the beauty and the terrible thing in this job. I actually asked my son, “Do you ever think about me when you’re at school?” and he said, “No, why would I do that?” So I’ve done a good job. We’re building them to move away.