Kevin McDonald shares comedic words of wisdom
Courtesy The Gateway
Kevin McDonald’s comedy workshop and improv jam
WORKSHOPS:Tuesday, Feb. 28 Wednesday, Feb. 29 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
SHOW:Tuesday, Feb. 28 at 10 p.m.
WHERE:Varscona Theatre (10329 83 Ave.)
TICKETS FOR SHOW:$20 at tixonthesquare.ca
Registration is open
Who knew you could find love through improv? It’s all about taking risks by getting up on stage and saying the first thing that comes to mind. Kevin McDonald, star of the former television comedy show The Kids in the Hall, has seen great success in his love life through performing — even though he only seems to attract a certain type. This might not be by choice, but those are the hazards that come from participating in the improvised stage games known as theatresports.
McDonald jokes that when it comes to warming up for an improv performance, he’s all about showing the love — regardless of who ends up falling for him.
“I used to love the ‘I Love You Game.’ ” McDonald says with chuckle. “It’s you and someone else, and you have to love that other person and they have to love you, and you can pretty much do anything and everything, but you just can’t actually say ‘I love you.’
“I was always with some dumpy, bald guy. And I’ve actually had many dumpy, bald men fall in love with me.”
McDonald will be bringing his knowledge of love, improv and performing to the Varscona Theatre this month in hopes of helping local performers learn how to use improv skills to become better writers. The public will also get a chance to see him onstage with Rapid Fire Theatre on Tuesday night, accompanied by local stand-up comedians Jon Mick and Mike Robertson. McDonald hopes to teach some of his own comedy theories he’s developed over the years about how to shape scripted material through improv.
With decades of experience and a long list of film, TV and stage credits, McDonald could easily be considered an expert in comedy. A founding member of The Kids in The Hall troupe, he established his comedy credentials during 28 years with them. Through his experience of making people laugh, he’s seen the evolution of his own comedy writing, starting with improv and flourishing into scripted ideas.
“In my journey — and yes, I just used the word journey — I learned comedy through improv first. So for me, I learned to do scripted comedy through performance.”
The process of turning spontaneous ideas into scripted work from McDonald’s stage days also carried over to Kids in the Hall’s TV show, helping to define the group’s humour. Originally a stage troupe that performed every Monday at the Rivoli in Toronto, the group went on to a successful five-season run on CBC that wrapped up in 1995, followed by a feature film. The troupe’s sketches often parodied topics then considered risky — like sex, gay culture and the corporate world.
McDonald remembers that during their time as a stage troupe, the writing was done in a group, with an off-the-cuff style. But after the jump to television, the group faced new challenges as their creative process became a little more formulaic and isolated. He sarcastically laments that his solo writing was not always well-received by the other members.
“We would bring ideas that people had into the room, and the ideas we liked we would start acting on scene, improvising over and over,” McDonald says of the early days of KITH. “When we got the TV show, we were forced to sit down in front of these things they called ‘computers,’ and then it became a little less communal.”
While McDonald also has experience doing solo writing and stand-up, he’s adamant that he feels most comfortable creating and performing in an ensemble. He and KITHcastmate Scott Thompson recently wrapped up a short US stand-up tour, which helped make the solo performance process a little less lonely for McDonald.
“I like being able to blame somebody,” he jokes about his preference for collaboration. “I always thought my comedy was better when I was reacting to something that somebody else did. Stand-up is a lonely thing and I’m not technically very good at it. When I do stand-up, I’m more of a character: a guy that’s trying to do stand-up.
“Back in the TV show days (Thompson and I) thought we were lousy writers because a lot of the sketches bombed — a lot of them didn’t make it to air,” McDonald continues. “But we actually are good writing together. We find that if we try to sit down and write it, we can’t do that — we’re in trouble. But if we get an idea, put it up on scene and then rehearse it a few times, it usually turns out pretty good.”
With the combination of McDonald’s comedic expertise and love for creative teamwork, this self-described “boring old comedy guy” has plenty of valuable advice to offer budding comedians and writers. He promises his stop in Edmonton will be an experience full of laughs and hopefully a little education.
“It’s going to be fun. I might do stand-up there, and then you can see me do my sad stand-up on purpose,” he laughs. “So hopefully it’s funny bad stand-up. And hopefully you will learn something.
“And I love you,” he quickly adds, proving the theatre really does inspire affection.