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The Globe and Mail

Kid in the Hall calls for more kidding around

Comedian Scott Thompson wears a feather tiara after suggesting Drag Day as his big idea for Toronto, on Queen Street West, Friday April 29, 2011

j.p. moczulski The Globe and Mail

Seriously: Scott Thompson has some serious ideas.

It only makes sense that the 51-year-old founding member of the iconic Canadian sketch-comedy troupe Kids in the Hall has some thoughts of his own about how to make Toronto better. After all, he grew up in Brampton and now calls Toronto his home. And despite pressures from higher-ups on both sides of the border, the Kids in the Hall refused to bend to demands to "de-Torontocize" their show, as Mr. Thompson described it. "You don't have to pretend that you're from somewhere else, and that's what Canadians have always done, and I find that embarrassing," he said. "I was very proud that, with us, you knew this was in Toronto."

He's also beloved in the city's gay community - "I feel like the queen of Kensington," he said - and he's seen change there, for the better. He still remembers bathhouse raids when he was a student at York University and how, when he was a child, people would gather on Yonge Street on Halloween night to throw stones at drag queens.

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And while he sees a day when the "gay ghetto" won't be needed, he says it still serves a vital purpose today: as a safe place for gay youth to be themselves when cultural traditions hold them back. "Homophobia's really only been dealt with in Riverdale. That's about it," he said. "But there's a million kids out there who come from cultures where being gay is the worst thing on earth. They're going to need the ghetto."

So while he's known for his comedic characters - from the flamboyant Buddy Cole to a bosomy impersonation of the Queen - Mr. Thompson giving serious solutions for the city isn't out of the realm of possibility. But his biggest idea? To have Toronto stop taking itself so darn seriously.

What was it like growing up in the GTA?

When I grew up in Brampton, it was farmland in between. It's not like today, where it's become all one big blob. It was very boring, very middle-class, very white. Nothing ever seemed to happen, and I was always waiting for something to happen.

You said that the Kids in the Hall were very insistent about representing Toronto. What made you so passionate about the city?

When I was a child, honestly, I would dream about the day when everybody wasn't white. I'd go, 'I can't wait for that day when I'm a minority.' I prayed for it. And now I'm on the cusp of it, and I'm so thrilled. It's more fun being a minority. It's better. It's more interesting when you have to rub up against people of different races and religions and backgrounds. It creates tension, and tension creates art.

My favourite thing about Toronto is that - the fact that all these people from all over the place are getting along, fairly well. I know that sounds kind of sappy, but it's true. I've travelled all over, I've been all over the world, and I've never seen a place like this.

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So what can the city do better?

Here's what I think is missing: We don't have enough fun. People are too concerned with doing the right thing, and people are too concerned with fairness. I think we're too fair. I think that fairness is the enemy of fun, and that life isn't fair. It's like when we lost the Olympics. There's that whole crowd in Toronto, that says 'bread not circuses.' I say: bread and circuses. And I think a city needs both ... What I don't like about Toronto is that super-leftist socialist anti-party atmosphere. We need a big party. We don't need any more food kitchens or shelters: we need a party. I think we need to invent some sort of a day. A non-denominational sort of day. What I would do is invent a drag day, where everybody goes as the opposite sex.

And how would you go about doing that?

I would just proclaim it. If I was mayor, I would just go, "February 18th is now Drag Day." And that day, you dress and behave the way you think the opposite sex is. As a Kid in the Hall, playing all these women was a remarkable experience. And I think with all five of us, that enriched us. That really changed us, in a way.

I think that's something that everybody should discover. And it'd be a lot of fun! We could elect the best drag king and drag queen.

So have you found that Toronto's gotten less fun?

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Maybe it's the Scottish history of the city, that kind of no-fun attitude. It's disappearing, but I think the city could loosen up a little, and stop trying to be world-class. You just are. Do you know what I mean? People that are world-class or are stars, they don't have to tell anybody, they just are. And I think Toronto, it just is. And it should just accept it, and just let its freak flag fly.

I think a Drag Day would bring everybody together. Everybody, every culture's got its own way of thinking of how men and women dress, so you wouldn't have ethnicity or race or language or religion or all those other things that [mess]people up. And I just think that it would be so much fun.

I mean, it would never happen. Because people are always too worried about the homeless. We should stop worrying about the homeless. (Laughing) Is that too hard?

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