Recognized all over North America for his work with Kids in the Hall and NewsRadio, Toronto-grown comedian Dave Foley is known for his understated style. He's also managed to follow a remarkably varied career path, from speaking for insects in A Bug's Life to hosting Bravo's Celebrity Poker Showdown on Bravo, and now co-writing and directing Dead Diva, aka The Tribute. The play, which runs Friday and Saturday (June 8 and 9) at 7:00 pm (doors at 6.30) at the Rivoli (332 Queen West), is a musical tragicomedy about the price of fame starring, among others, Foley's wife, Crissy Guerrero. Check out www.nxne.com or call 416-596-1908 for details.
You once said you'd never go back to sketch comedy. How does The Tribute fit into that?
The Tribute is a longer-form narrative, and it's broken up by songs, by standards. There are aspects of sketch, but the characters are the same all the way through. There are some little video clips that are kinda sketchy.
Have you always been into musical theatre?
Y'know, I've always loved musical movies, but my wife has a background in musical theatre. I co-wrote this with her and the other cast members using pre-existing songs to underscore the narrative. Crissy and two of her friends were doing some session work as backup singers and liked singing together so much that they decided to create a show that'd give them an excuse to perform. When they started assembling the songs they wanted a narrative to tie it all together, so they brought me in to help write it. It's sorta this dark but funny story about how fame can be really destructive -- having it or wanting it.
Is that something you've witnessed first-hand in Hollywood?
Oh yeah, over and over again. I've always found that anyone who does anything cuz they want to be famous, they're never happy. If you get fame, you find out it isn't satisfying in and of itself, and if you never get fame, you don't actually enjoy what you're doing cuz it all feels like a failure. It's a dead end either way.
Did doing drag as part of Kids in the Hall prepare you to write for a female cast?
It's presumptuous to think dressing up as a woman gives you any real insight, but we always tried to play women as real people and not just caricatures, so maybe that helped. Probably not. I could help pick out clothes, though. I know a lot about women's fashion.
You're behind the scenes now directing, but even in your Kids in the Hall days you seemed to go for an understated approach. Where did that come from?
The comedians who influenced me: I love Bob Newhart; Buster Keaton's probably my favourite; and Michael Palin's the Monty Python member I like best. I tend to like nuanced comic performances. I mean, I can enjoy people like Kevin McDonald or Joe Flaherty, who's probably best at the subtle over-the-top. And then you've got, y'know, Jim Carrey, who's over the top over-the-top.
Rumour has it you drink a lot of coffee. For the record, how much is "a lot"?
When I'm working I drink a lot. When I'm not, I probably drink as much as a normal person. Today I've had maybe five cups, but when I'm working it can get up to 50. I'll drink a 10-cup pot of coffee for breakfast when I'm working -- before I even get to work!
Have you been following your former NewsRadio castmate Joe Rogan's feud with comedian Carlos Mencia?
I've heard about it kinda second-hand. I think Joe and George Lopez are both going after Mencia. It's a weird alliance. Joe's brutally honest, and he doesn't put up with people he thinks are phony or assholes very well.
Seeing any shows at NXNE?
I'm gonna try to see as many as possible. Our show ends early, so we're gonna try to get out right away and see as much stuff as we can. I love the indie music. Y'know, it's wonderful.