the lowest show on earth written by Scott Thompson and Paul Bellini, with Thompson. Opens Wednesday (January 23) and runs at the New Yorker Theatre (651 Yonge) to February 3, Wednesday-Friday and Sunday 8 pm, Saturday 7:30 and 10 pm. $34.50-$39.50. 416-870-8000.
scott thompson remembers his first taste of celebrity, and it had nothing to do with the Kids in the Hall, the cult sketch comedy troupe he helped found in the late 80s.Twenty-five years ago, in his Brampton high school, a fellow student -- a guy Thompson actually had a secret crush on -- shot and murdered 17 students and teachers.
"We were huge, we were everywhere," he says of the ensuing media blitz. "We were like those Columbine kids, all caught up in the drama, wearing black arm bands. It was my first time on TV. I spoke to these camera crews outside a funeral, then walked into a tree and my glasses fell off. I'd love to see the footage."
Murder, media, men and a bit of slapstick -- what better recipe for creating a dark, twisted comic sensibility like Thompson's?
The high-school shooting episode forms the backbone of The Lowest Show On Earth, his one-person, multi-character comic play that includes such signature Thompson characters as aging femme Buddy Cole and that ultimate queen, Elizabeth.
"For years I wondered when I was going to deal with it," says Thompson, the oldest Kid, though you wouldn't know it with his full head of hair and svelte bod. "I wanted a metaphor for society's great fears."
Thompson's used to making us face fears. Consider his dildo-waving routine, which got him ousted at the prestigious Griffin Poetry Prize awards ceremony (see sidebar). Or the fact that his show's original marketing material featured a photo of the comic looking ecstatic, a wad of semen dribbling down his face. The image was sanitized -- no cum shot -- for Toronto.
"What's wrong with semen? Everybody's seen it. It's the end of every porn film. How can it be degrading? I could have been photographed with my throat cut and face covered in blood and they would have run it. We can handle blood, but not cum. What does that say about society?"
Out on TV long before Ellen DeGeneres, Thompson's pretty tired of playing the nice, sexless gay next-door, like his recent recurring role in the prime time series Providence.
"That character was a paycheque," he quips. "There's only so far you can go at 8 pm on CBS on a Friday night. Characters like that are tools of the liberal agenda, trying to teach tolerance. Well, you know what? If you want to teach, get some literature, rent a bus and visit schools. Do it on your own time. Let me be an artist.
"I'd rather play a gay serial killer than a nice gay guy again."
As far as the gay movement goes, he's happy that some queer students come out in high school ("I'd have been so much healthier if I'd sowed my wild oats when I was at that age and not in my 30s") but disgusted by trends like barebacking -- unprotected anal sex.
"If you bareback, you're a criminal," he shouts. "Why are we so cavalier? Oh, because we don't want to make people who are HIV-positive feel bad. I see. So, let's make those who are negative feel guilty!"
Then, like a good comic, he channels the anger and bitterness into comedy.
"Here's an idea," he says, lighting up. "Let's put guys who bareback into stockades at Church and Wellesley, with a sign that says "Barebacker' and a supply of tomatoes for people to throw at them.
"The thing is, the barebackers would love it. "It was the best bondage scene I've ever had!'" he acts out. ""When those manacles went on, I thought I was going to cum on the spot. It was like being in a Genet novel!'"firstname.lastname@example.org's
You gotta love Thompson for spewing freely on any subject under the sun, regardless of the career consequences.
-- On Queer As Folk: "I auditioned for them recently, not even for the lead, and part of me was going, 'Fuck you.' I don't care that they have these straight guys playing gay. But they should put a Canadian in a lead. It also bugs me that they think Toronto's less interesting than Pittsburgh. I'm sick of Toronto being disguised. We've given up everything for the dollar."
-- On the Taliban: "They're a bunch of wicked, evil queens. Did you see the tape? One guy spent all this time readjusting his little hat. It's natural they'd go after the towers, two penises in the sky. They didn't want them to fall down. They wanted one to topple and touch the other."
-- On hate crimes: "Murder is murder. If my mother's murdered, do we have to claim she's a lesbian for the murderer to get a steeper penalty?"
-- On the Griffin Prize debacle: "Here's my hope. Maybe I'll be a thinly disguised character in someone's book -- Michael Ondaatje's next novel, say. Or Tiff Findley's. Tiff, are you listening?"
-- On gays in Hollywood: "Most gay directors are self-loathing. They hire straight guys to play gays because they want gays to appear more masculine. They have an anorexia of the soul. They look in the mirror and see a fat girl, when they're really 80 pounds."