Scott Thompson: “The idea that there are certain topics that can’t be addressed by humor is a terrible notion, and I reject it.”
In 1989, The Kids in the Hall debuted on HBO and CBC Television, deconstructing stale notions of sketch comedy and reassembling the pieces as surrealist performance art, complete with orgasmic chicken ladies, a man with a cabbage head, and all the forced-perspective head crushing one’s heart could desire.
Young, literate, and unabashedly Canadian, Dave Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney, and Scott Thompson amassed a cult following, and the legacy of the Kids in the Hall lives on more than two decades after the show left the airwaves in 1995.
One of the most memorable characters from the Kids in the Hall was Buddy Cole, a gay lounge lizard with an acerbic tongue and wicked wit. Developed and played by the openly gay Thompson, Buddy Cole was a unique character in the late 1980s and early 1990s; a homosexual character with some stereotypically homosexual traits played by a homosexual man. The punchline wasn’t that Buddy was gay. The laughs came from Cole’s distinctive takes on fashion, celebrities, life, and love.
Thompson brings Buddy Cole to the Moontower Comedy Festival in Austin, Texas, this weekend performing “Apres Le Deluge: The Buddy Cole Monologues.”
Buddy may be a bit older, but he hasn’t mellowed a bit, Thompson said.
“The show is Buddy Cole’s monologues from the end of The Kids in the Hall to today,” Thompson said. “I decided to take all of the stuff that I’ve written for him since 1995, put it all together, and make it a trip through 25 years of history, and watch the world change around him and watch Buddy Cole not budge an inch.”
While Buddy may not have changed, the world around him certainly has, especially in today’s “woke,” politically correct culture. A flamboyantly gay character like Buddy might be expected to come under fire from the self-professed social justice warriors. Yet Thompson – who recently performed “The Buddy Cole Monologues” to sold-out crowds in New York, Denver, and Boston – said that hasn’t been the case.
“Everybody tells me that the audiences are going to eat me alive, that people won’t take Buddy Cole anymore, but it’s not happening. I say outrageous things – I don’t know how I get away with it. There are things in the show that should, on paper, infuriate people. But the character seems Teflon,” Thompson said. “My age is actually, for the first time, working for me. … I think young people look at Buddy Cole as like a wise queen or something, so they feel they have to listen to him.”
But Thompson is quick to admit that being openly gay had a negative effect on his career early on.
“It changed my career totally. I didn’t have the same opportunities that other people did,” he said. “It ate at me. I decided to let it go. Because what am I going to do? Become bitter? That’s not any fun.”
While we may be living in a very PC world, Thompson said there is a yearning for the kind of tell-it-as-it-and-damn-the-consequences type of humor that Buddy Cole represents.
“The late 1980s and the 1990s when the Kids in the Hall came out was very similar to this time,” Thompson said. “It was a very polarized world. Political correctness was coming in. The world was in the midst of huge changes. And that’s when we thrived. I feel it’s the same way now. It’s a very similar time.
“I got sick of comedians apologizing for being funny. It doesn’t make any sense to me. Being worried about upsetting people is silly because you’re always going to offend someone. Some people have no sense of humor about anything. The idea that there are certain topics that can’t be addressed by humor is a terrible notion, and I reject it. There’s nothing that art can’t touch. There’s nothing that comedy can’t illuminate.”
When asked about the nature of Buddy’s appeal and longevity, Thompson becomes philosophical. Great comedy often has its roots in enormous pain, and that is certainly the case with Thompson and his avatar, Buddy Cole.
“I think the audience looks at Buddy Cole – and me, because I am Buddy – and think, ‘You know, that guy has suffered.’ Sometimes I feel like a war vet. The younger ones are like ‘That guy has seen action.’ And you can tell that I’m wounded. My generation went to war. We all have PTSD. My scars are there. I don’t hide them. I came up in an era where being gay was the worst thing on earth you could be if you were male. And then AIDS hit. And suddenly nature said to you, ‘Yeah, you are garbage. You deserve to die.’ There was no choice for me about hiding. I thought it was immoral to stay in the closet. As a gay man in my late 50s, maybe I’m a little calloused right now, but I look around and see that things are good. That you can be openly gay. You can walk around holding hands with your significant other. That’s craziness! It’s terrific. The idea that this is a terrible time for gay people – I just don’t see it. All I see is progress being made. There have been a few steps back, but that’s life.”
So don’t expect Thompson – or Buddy Cole – to mince words or shy away from potentially offensive material.
“If anyone’s upset with me, I don’t give a fuck,” Thompson said. “I’m sorry but who cares? Big fucking deal you were offended. Who cares? Life is offensive. If you were afraid to offend someone all the time, you couldn’t leave the house. You might just use a road that was made by an anti-Semite. You might have to take a bridge that was made by a racist. Oh my God, I have to pass a statue of someone! Are you kidding me? Live your life. We can’t change history.”
Doing “The Buddy Cole Monologues” has been a joy for Thompson. “This is the funniest show that I’ve ever done,” he said. “This is the funniest that I’ve ever been, and that’s all I care about.”
As for a Kids in the Hall reunion, Thompson said the gang talks about it all the time and that they are hopeful of making it happen.
“We’re struggling to find a way to do it. We definitely want it to happen, it’s just hard right now because everyone is in different cities now and everyone’s life has changed,” he said. “Honestly, I would drop everything for The Kids in the Hall. Even if I was holding a newborn baby. I’d drop it on its head for a Kids in the Hall reunion. You’ve got to have your priorities.”