After close to three decades writing for KITH (and even a recent guest gig on Saturday Night Live), he's accrued a wealth of experience in improvisation and sketch situation. The 52-year-old's eager to pass on said knowledge, which is why he'll be hosting a two-day workshop at the National Comedy Theatre in Mesa on Friday and Saturday.
We recently spoke with McDonald about the improv and sketch comedy workshops, as well as what it's been like writing for Kids in the Hall for almost 30 years, some of his favorite characters, and what projects the troupe is working on.
What will you be doing at the National Comedy Theater this weekend? The big thing is that I will be teaching a two-day workshop, seven hours a day, where I'll teach what the Kids in the Hall used to do before we had a TV show and we were just a stage troupe, and that's how to write sketches through improvisation. And the other less big thing that I'll be doing is I believe I'm doing a show there, which will be me sort of attempting stand-up comedy. And I'm not good at stand-up comedy, so its sorta about a sketch comic struggling through stand-up comedy.
That's getting a bit meta, isn't it? Yes.
I'd feel like any potential comedian would want to learn from someone such as yourself who spent like.... ...A hundred and five years doing it, yes.
Dunno if it was that long. Kids in the Hall ran for like...five seasons? Yes...and we'd been in a troupe for like five years before the TV show and we'd done a new show of sketches every Monday. So we always thought of it as a TV show like in the sense that there were new sketches every week. Even in our 20s when we got the TV show we were like hardened veterans of writing and getting sketches on their feet.
How difficult is it to write for sketch comedy? I've read how writer's rooms for shows like SNL can sometimes be a pressure cooker.
I feel that if you're someone who really wants to do it, then you're in the position that it won't be difficult. It is a pressure cooker at Saturday Night Live. I just did a guest writing stint there for two weeks and you have one day -- Tuesday -- from 12 o'clock to 5 a.m. to write the sketches. And no one seems pressured. The fact that you're good enough to be writing sketches is why you're there on a Tuesday. And if you decide to see it as a pressure cooker, then you're not going to get anything done. And you probably won't be there. But once you're in the loop , that's all your doing and it's much easier than it sounds.