Dave Foley still a Kid at heart
Dave Foley still a Kid at heart
BY HEATH MCCOY, CALGARY HERALD APRIL 24, 2012
Photo courtesy of the Laugh Shop Kids in the Hall member Dave Foley is coming to the Laugh Shop in Calgary, April 26 to 28 (2012).
With a five-season stint as the star of prime time NBC sitcom NewsRadio in the latter half of the 1990s, Dave Foley was certainly the Kids in the Hall kid who enjoyed the most post-Kids success.
Sure, ratings for NewsRadio were inconsistent, and, according to Foley, it was hamstrung from the start by at least one NBC executive who seemed determined to sink the show.
But with its quirky humour, clever writing and a knockout cast that included up-and-comers Andy Dick and Joe Rogan, as well as Saturday Night Live star Phil Hartman, NewsRadio had a sizable and devoted fan base.
The NewsRadio cast was “really tight” says Foley, who had joined the show after leaving Kids in the Hall, Canada’s most beloved troupe of comedic cross-dressers, amid considerable acrimony. On NewsRadio, Foley felt reinvigorated.
Of course, Kids had been tight too. Foley felt a bond with all of them, particularly his key writing partner Kevin McDonald. The two often performed as a sort of duo within the comedy troupe in such popular sketches as Simon and Hecubus, Sizzler Sisters and King of Empty Promises.
“Kevin’s my oldest friend,” Foley says. “To this day I think I have a better chemistry with Kevin than with anybody else.”
Indeed, he and McDonald were the original Kids. They met while taking improv classes at Toronto’s famed Second City. Foley was then an aspiring standup comic who thought he was “going to be a 17-year-old Lenny Bruce.”
“I’ll call it adorable instead of annoying,” quips the comedian, now 49, in a phone interview to advance a series of standup dates, Thursday to Saturday at the Laugh Shop in the Blackfoot Inn.
Soon, Foley and McDonald began to perform around Toronto (along with Luciano Casimiri, who later departed) as Kids in the Hall.
Eventually they joined forces with Bruce McCulloch and Mark McKinney, members of a rival comedy troupe called The Audience, which had migrated from Calgary.
Recruiting Scott Thompson a year later, the troupe — known for its gender bending and subversive, cutting edge humour that hovered between collegiate clever and absurdist — went on to huge success.
Produced by Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels, their TV show, which aired from 1988 to 1995 on CBC, HBO, and, later, CBS, won the group widespread acclaim.
But this was a team of fiery young guns, each with big personalities and their own distinct visions for the troupe, and the Kids chemistry was fuelled by much creative friction.
“We fought all the time . . . from the very first show we did together,” says Foley. “It had always been kind of emotionally draining and (by the time) the TV series ended . . . I think we just had enough of each other.”
The group planned to make movies but instead the 1996 feature film Brain Candy, seen by most critics as a misstep, led to the Kids disbanding, with Foley the first to depart. “I quit after about a year of writing (Brain Candy),” Foley says. “We were in Toronto and it was some ridiculous fight with Scott. . . . I sort of slunk off and said ‘See you guys.’ ”
While he did complete his work on the film, Foley admits his heart wasn’t in it.
“I hated doing Brain Candy,” he says. Notably he’s the only Kid to not have a writing credit for the commercially disappointing feature.
Foley didn’t talk to most of the Kids for the next five years as he worked on NewsRadio. Even he and McDonald were on the outs for a time.
Life on NewsRadio wasn’t without its struggle. According to Foley, the executive vice-president of programming planning for NBC openly hated the show and he constantly moved its time slot, which made it difficult to establish itself in the ratings.
But ultimately the show ended on a far more tragic note when Hartman was killed by his wife in a 1998 murder-suicide. NewsRadio tried to carry on, with Jon Lovitz replacing Hartman in the final season, but at that point the show seemed doomed.
Was it a mistake to continue in that final year?
Foley doesn’t think so. “It was really hard to go back and do it, but it would’ve been harder to not do it, because we would have all lost each other,” he says. “Everybody on that show hung out together all the time. . . . (After Phil) we all wanted to be together.”
Around the time NewsRadio was ending Foley and the other Kids began to approach each other again, mending fences and re-establishing their lost chemistry.
“We just decided ‘Let’s see if we can put a show together and not kill each other,’ ” Foley says, only half-jokingly.
Luckily, they could and did. In 2000 Kids in the Hall embarked on a highly successful North American tour, reviving some of the most popular characters from the show in all new sketches. A documentary and DVD followed, along with subsequent tours in 2002 and 2008. In 2010 the group starred in the CBC-TV miniseries Death Comes To Town.
Foley says the group is currently mulling over plans for a followup miniseries or even another feature film.
“Is there a next?” says Foley of future Kids in the Hall projects. “We’re hoping there’s a next.”
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