YOUNG DRUNK PUNK written and performed by Bruce McCulloch, accompanied by Brian Connelly, as part of the Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival, Monday (March 11), 8 pm. Randolph Theatre (736 Bathurst). $32-$40. torontosketchfest.com. See listings.
In a third-season episode of The Kids In The Hall, Bruce McCulloch - blousy flannel untucked over faded blue jeans like a pint-sized construction worker - offers his advice for young people looking to break into showbiz. Stuff like: "Instead of studying, listen to tragically loud music daily," and "Let liquor be the wind beneath your wings," all underlined by the bold green caption NO ONE UNDERSTANDS YOU.
It's a definitive image of McCulloch, at once the silliest and most intensely cynical of the Kids, and that sensibility is reflected in his new solo show, Young Drunk Punk, premiering at the Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival this week.
"It's really what I've evolved from," says McCulloch about the title, over the phone from his house in the Hollywood Hills. "I was an angry young punk in Calgary, getting beaten up because I looked like a fag, before I found comedy. It's who I was, and of course I pulled that into my comedy."
Young Drunk Punk combines stand-up, poetry, monologues and other loosely assorted autobiographical bits culled from a book he's currently working on. It's all accompanied by guitarist Brian Connelly of Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet - who provided the iconic sketch show with its jangly surf rock score.
"Even before Kids in the Hall, I was doing stand-up," says McCulloch. "The theatrical thing of communicating with an audience has always been enjoyable. I don't want to act in somebody's show so much. Being able to say my own weird stuff feels more connected to my creative spirit."
Young Drunk Punk loosely chronicles McCulloch's progress from scowling teenager to father of two living in Hollywood.
"My life's a mystery to me," he says. "I've mostly followed creative impulses in terms of writing. As a young man, I never thought I'd move to Los Angeles."
After the dissolution of the Kids following the release of their feature film Brain Candy in 1996, McCulloch found himself getting more offers in the U.S. than in Canada. Between Kids reunion stints, he cobbled together a lucrative career writing and directing film comedies like Superstar, Dog Park and Stealing Harvard.
Age, the responsibilities of parenthood and a measure of fame have a way of undermining anyone's viable repute as snarky young cynic. But while McCulloch's angry young man act may have softened, the attitude behind it remains intact.
"The view of the world never changes," he says. "I think the world is a really sad and beautiful place. And it's strange. And that's the stuff I love. I was walking in the park I live by, and someone had posted a picture of a lost teapot, offering a reward. I took a picture of it. It fucking drove me crazy, it was so funny: that someone would lose a teapot and post a reward for it.
"That weird thing about humanity never stops driving me crazy."