2018 Moontower Comedy SeriesValerie Lopez Richard Goodwin Photo credit Bruce Smith
After a long, exciting, daring, incomparable weekend experiencing the 2018 Moontower Comedy Festival, you’d certainly be excused if you found yourself a little drained and down in the dumps that it won’t come again for another year. And when life gets you down, remember, GLeeMONEX gets you up and going, and there were “only a couple of flipper babies”!
If the ground- (and law-)breaking antidepressant GLeeMONEX means anything to you, then you must know the movie Brain Candy. And if you know Brain Candy, you know its creators: the brilliant comedy troupe The Kids in the Hall (KITH). Even if you somehow aren’t familiar with either, there’s still an excellent chance you know this week’s guest: KITH star, and all around fabulous, Scott Thompson. If for some inexplicable reason you haven’t experienced The Kids in the Hall, get thee to the internets now and bone up, pronto. Either way, becoming a key member in KITH was just the beginning of a path that would take Thompson from an inarguably dark place in his life, to the bright lights of stages and countless movies and TV shows like The Larry Sanders Show, Reno 911, and even Star Trek: Voyager.
A native Canadian, Thompson had early aspirations of performing, but comedy wasn’t in his sights at the beginning. His first memories of taking the stage took shape as a dream of being a ballet dancer. Alas, he figured out soon it wasn’t to be, but there was one thing he knew for sure. “My number one ambition was to have an exciting life,” says Thompson.
Armed with that attitude, he took off after high school to spend a year in the Philippines, returning to pursue a university course in theatre. It was an ambition he had to continue to hold close to his chest; it wasn’t yet the time to come out to the world, in either his career choice or his lifestyle. As his confidence in form grew, this duality of the truth of performance paired with secrecy posed a daunting challenge: Thompson believes talking about your life is the best kind of comedy, and it was the one thing he simply could not do. Yet.
Angry, feeling isolated, and facing the separation between his art and his life, Thompson had one of those critical sliding door moments when he accompanied a friend to see a The Kids in the Hall show. He was immediately smitten, as so many of us were, at the dynamic magic the team brought to the stage. Instantly, he knew that he had to become a part of the team, and true to his persistent, deliberative nature, he devised a simple, yet very effective strategy to get their attention. I won’t spoil it here; you’ll want to hear him tell it in the interview, but it involved donuts, and not in the way you’re thinking. (Or your second guess either.) What matters is that it worked, and he soon joined and started plying what was to become his lifelong trade.
Thompson’s time with KITH was a proving ground, filled with the ambiance and ambition he yearned for, but an enormous professional challenge all the same. “I was very much a show pony. I didn’t know how to listen. I didn’t know how to write. I didn’t know how to subvert myself into the group”, says Thompson. Observing, learning, adapting; these were traits that didn’t come easily to a man who for so long had ensured that he kept a death grip on control. Nevertheless, time indeed loosened the grip, and Thompson, ironically, became more and more the self he had so long been afraid to cultivate. It was also with KITH that he birthed the lounge lizard character Buddy Cole, who would later become the eponymous voice of his Moontower Festival (and nationally touring) show, Après Le Déluge: The Buddy Cole Monologues.
After KITH came to an end, as all good things must, Thompson found himself–as did all of the troupe–looking for a way to take the next step in life, establish himself in his own brand, find his own style of performance, all to be done his way. (No one ever really gives up control, of course.) When the opportunity to join The Larry Sanders Show arose, he jumped at the chance…with some conditions of course. His character Brian–assistant to Hank Kingsley (Jeffrey Tambour)–had to be “Openly Canadian”, and could play as gay, but not the flamboyant caricature that was becoming seemingly de rigueur as audiences had begun to accept and embrace what they should have all along: the right of any person to their own identity.
As he played and created more and more fictional roles, Thompson continued to uncover more about the very real truth at his core. He was firmly established in comedy (and says that if he were to try to make his start today, stand-up is likely where he would have embarked), but knew he had much more to explore, more characters to bring to life, more varied performances to challenge himself with. When it comes down to it, Thompson, for all of the early rough and tumble anger that accompanied him for so long, now knows that his work, and his life, are about love, expressed both inward and outward. “When you’re performing, it’s an act of love for people…for the audience…the stand-in for humanity,” Thompson muses.
Through Buddy Cole, Thompson emotes a character who understands that, but weaves it through a narrative that seems anything but tender. Cole lives to push the boundaries of topics, his stories drawn from the viewpoint of someone with very strong opinions, and seemingly zero encumbrance with appeasing anyone who sees things differently. It’s a delicately orchestrated balance, and indeed Thompson views it as “the most beautiful dance I’ve ever choreographed.” Cole is Thompson, and Thompson is Cole, a monologue delivered by two halves of a man that is now, more than ever, whole.
And he’s loving it.