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August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26

Tall, Erect And Proud

Craig Silliphant
Published Thursday January 21, 04:54 pm
Scott Thompson stands up to a world that’s finally ready

Scott Thompson
Louis’ Pub
Thursday 21

When The Kids In The Hall was on television in the ’90s, there was an absurd rumour that used to persist — that some, or all, of the Canadian comedy troupe and cult hit TV stars were gay.

In truth, Scott Thompson was the only homosexual in the group. But thanks to edgy comedy, some gay themes and performers playing women, the homophobic rumours persisted in a pre-Internet world.

“Yes, and [the rest of the Kids In The Hall] paid for that,” Thompson says over the phone from Toronto. “They all paid the price of homophobia. And it’s sad, because I think if you look at our careers, post-television… they’re not at all like the careers of SNL, or SCTV, or Mad TV. It’s totally different. We all paid the price. And it’s sad, because I deserve to pay the price, but they didn’t. But I love them for it.”

Thompson is refreshingly candid about his career, his sexuality, and how they are intertwined. While he’s by no means maudlin, his comments seem to hit a note of sadness. He’s coming through town to do a stand-up show, so we talk about his strained relationship with that type of stage performance.

Thompson started out doing some stand-up but he never liked it, primarily because it was a homophobic experience.

“In those days, stand-up in those days, they’d pick out a guy in the audience who looked weak or effeminate, or alone, or nerdy, whatever and he’d be focused on,” says Thompson. “They’d call him Lance or Bruce, gay names. And they would mock him throughout the show. That happened all the time. I looked at it and went, there’s no place for me here.”

In the late ’80s, that all changed for Thompson as he met the other Kids In The Hall and became an icon of sketch comedy. This not only ended his obligation to do stand-up, but disappearing into a legion of wacky characters also freed him in other ways.

“I met the Kids In The Hall and I realized that I could be other people,” he says. “And that had never crossed my mind before.”

Ironically, being other people allowed Thompson to be himself — to express ideas he could never vocalize alone on a stage. He fought stereotyping and homophobia through the creation of several Kids In The Hall characters like fan favourite Buddy Cole, a character he still uses in his act today (including doing some bits on The Colbert Report).  Cole is a boisterous nightclub owner who shares monologues about his life and the gay community.

Some people got Cole all wrong, and accused Thompson of perpetrating an offensive stereotype.

“That accent — the gay accent, makes people think, ‘oh, this person’s a pushover. This person’s weak’,” says Thompson.

“Buddy’s not weak. He’s an alpha queen,” he says. “So that’s what allowed me to say things I’d never have been able to say if I’d taken on a different kind of persona. It was an attempt to give that stereotype teeth. And bite.”

Buddy Cole was able to say and do things that Thompson himself wouldn’t be comfortable doing or that an audience might not accept. While Scott Thompson, like anyone else, can be embarrassed if a joke bombs, Buddy doesn’t care what the audience thinks.

“Absolutely!” says Thompson. “Buddy doesn’t give a shit. He could care less if he bombed or did well. He’s still the smartest person in the room, so what does he have to prove?”

After the end of Kids In The Hall, Thompson had great roles on shows like The Larry Sanders Show. However, those increasingly dried up and once again, he was forced to return to stand-up while trying to figure out what the hell was going on with his career.

“I always kind of resented [stand-up] and thought, why do I have to do it?” Thompson muses. “Why am I not in TV shows? Why am I not in movies? Why is it so hard for me post-Kids In The Hall?

“After Larry Sanders and Kids In The Hall, I kind of assumed that my career will be set,” he says. “Oh, I’ll be in movies… just like SCTV, SNL, you know. But it just never happened. I really underestimated the depth of homophobia, honestly. I really had no idea it was that bad.

“So I would do [stand-up], but I never liked it.”

Thompson says that he could feel an audience tighten up anytime he started talking about something “remotely gay.” When he used to appear on The Conan O’Brian Show doing bits, the censor would have to come and watch him every time he performed.

“As if I had to be controlled,” Thompson says. “The last five years, things changed. The tipping point happened. But back then, even seven years ago — five, six years ago, it was just obvious that society was anti-gay. Do you know what I mean? It was just the way it was and there was no questioning it. There might be lots of people on the other side, but the major thinking was that this is not good. This is bad, this is immoral. These are bad people.”

About six years ago, Thompson got cancer and had to return from LA to Canada because he had no health care in the U.S.

He beat the cancer, but it also put things into such perspective.

“While I was really ill, I decided that when I got better, I would take on stand-up,” Thompson says. “And really try to get good at it. Stop fighting it. Embrace it. I felt like I didn’t really have anything to be afraid of anymore. So once I got better, I started performing.”

“I thought, why do I have to do this?” he continues. “I’m a Kid In The Hall, for fuck’s sake. I know that sounds arrogant, but it’s really the truth. So I went about crafting an act and getting comfortable. In the last year, I’ve felt I’ve made a kind of a leap, where I’m comfortable. Now I want to do it, because I’m doing stuff that no one else is doing. 

“The world doesn’t reflexively hate me now, so I’m not standing on stage for the first 20 minutes getting them used to being entertained by a gay man, you know?” 

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