Interviews

Kevin McDonald on Writing For SNL, His Favorite Characters, and Another Possible Kids in the Hall Tour

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What was the creation process like for Kids in the Hall? Well, at first as a stage troupe it was like what I'm gonna teach in the workshop. People would bring one-line ideas and then we'd improvise 'em. We'd talk 'em out first, make beats for 'em, figure out where the scene could go, and any joke we thought of, we'd use. Like someone would bring in a scene like "Dr. Seuss Bible," like Bruce [McCulloch] did with his idea and we'd work on that. We'd point for him where we could go. We decided who played Jesus and who played Dr. Seuss. And then we'd improvise it for an hour over and over until we'd stick with the stuff that's working.

When we got the TV show we were forced to use computers, which were new to us. And we had to write our sketches out, but even the format of how we wrote onstage sorta helped us a lot how we wrote. And we wrote in groups of twos and threes and ones. And by that time we knew what a sketch was like. We were obsessed with that; a sketch had to be seven pages for example, like a normal sketch, it wasn't a blackout or an epic. And we brought our sketches in every Friday to read through. And then we'd pick 'em that way.

How did the Kids in the Hall movie come about? When we did the movie Brain Candy our writing process changed again. All five of us plus Norman Hiscock, our writing partner, were in the same room, and it was very slow, because we were very opinionated and we couldn't go onto the next page until we all agreed and we never agreed on anything. It took a long time to write, and when we shot the movie we didn't have the ending really perfect. And I like Brain Candy a lot, but the ending's a little weak.

Brain Candy was a very difficult project to bring to the screen for reasons like that with the writing or... ...Personal reasons, yes.

Looking back some 17 years later, do you regret it? I'm proud of it. Like I said, I'm not so happy with the ending. I think we did a pretty good job for a first movie. What I always think is this: in retrospect, we were too ambitious. We picked a story and it was a story with sort of a serious theme. You could've easily made that into a drama, with that plot. We're comedians, so we made it into a comedy.

But I think that should've been our second or third movie, and maybe the first one should've been a gag-fest where we just had a loose story and just went for laughs. Sort of like how Monty Python's first movie was a sketch movie. And then their second one was Holy Grail, which is what I'm talking about -- a loose, loose plot, but an excuse for a series of gags. And then Life of Brian was sorta like Brain Candy, but way better, in the sense that it was a serious theme and a real plot and lots of laughs in it. We should've gotten our feet wet with a gag-fest first, I think.



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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.