Follow GuyMacPherson on Twitter

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Dave Foley interview

Ready for another full interview? I finally completed my Kids in the Hall set by talking to Dave Foley. Over the years, I'd interviewed all the others (all the ones in the final TV iteration, anyway; the other earlier members are the comedic equivalent of Pete Best and Stuart Sutcliffe of the Beatles – interesting trivia questions to show how devoted you are as a true fan). I also got the chance to check out his standup act, first at the Best of the Fest gala and then I liked what I saw so I went out to see his full set at Lafflines Comedy Club in New Westminster.

Dave Foley
February 10, 2014

"I had a lot of fun on both shows. There was a lot less fighting on NewsRadio, so that was nice. We had a lot of fun on Kids in the Hall but definitely NewsRadio was a great, fun cast to be around." – Dave Foley

Guy MacPherson: The elusive Dave Foley.
Dave Foley: Yes.

GM: You're the last Kid in the Hall I've interviewed.
DF: Oh, really? Now you can finally rest.

GM: Now I can retire. There's no point going on. So you're down in L.A. now?
DF: I am, yes, where I've lived for about 19 years now.

GM: But you're still one of us.
DF: Yes, yes. In a culty way.

GM: I saw you doing a hosting set at the Cultch a few years back. Is that when you were starting in standup?
DF: Yeah, that was actually before I started doing standup.

GM: I know there were other financial reasons, but is that experience what gave you the impetus to start doing standup?
DF: That's when I started thinking maybe I can come up with some material. I'd also been having drinks with Tom Green in Toronto a little while before that and he'd started doing standup. We were talking about it and he was trying to talk me into it. So that helped, too. But then trying out some material for that show, I went, 'Yeah, maybe I can do this.' Take what I started here and then I started doing sets around L.A. I guess it took me about four months to get together about an hour's worth of material.

GM: That's pretty quick.
DF: Yeah, so I'm told. So I started going out on the road after about four months.

GM: I know how standups can be. Were they jealous? Were they going, 'It takes ten years to do this! What is he doing going out on the road headlining after four months?'
DF: Uh, yep. And I explained I am a dilettante and I'm skipping all the hard work because I'm already famous.

GM: That helps, doesn't it.
DF: Yeah. My recommendation to young standup comedians is get famous first. That way you don't have to ride in the car with smelly comedians.

GM: I heard you used to get offers to do Broadway and your wife at the time was actually a legit theatre performer who wasn't getting offers, and it's just because you were famous.
DF: Oh, yeah, yeah. And despite the fact that I couldn't sing or dance.

GM: So that's just good life advice in general: Get famous and things will come your way.
DF: It really opens up a lot of doors.

GM: All the authors now are just famous people; they're not writers.
DF: Yeah. The whole learning-of-skills step is skipped entirely.

GM: Did you hear from any of the comics or were they more supportive?
DF: Mostly people were pretty supportive. There's an awful lot of middle-aged sketch comedians out doing standup right now because there's not much work.

GM: Who?
DF: Michael Ian Black, David Koechner, Tim Meadows, Scott Thompson, Kevin McDonald. There's tons.

GM: Jon Lovitz, that's another one.
DF: Lovitz, that's right.

GM: Are you enjoying it?
DF: Uh, yeah. Yeah. It's been fun. It's definitely different from being out working with my troupe, you know?

GM: Some lifelong standups say standup is in their blood. They could never give it up. Is it that way for you?
DF: No. I could easily give it up.

GM(laughs) That's good.
DF: But I feel that way about almost everything.

GM: That's right. When I interviewed Bruce McCullogh, I asked him who the laziest Kid was. He said you.
DF: Yeah, I'd happily be retired right now.

GM: When you play here, is it going to be a lot of the same material from Relatively Well?
DF: It'll be mostly that. I haven't really had a chance to create a new act since that came out. I'm actually going to start trying to put together new stuff over the next few months. But for the time being it'll be mostly that material. So really, don't bother to come.

GM: I haven't seen it because I can't get my American Netflix to work and you're not on the Canadian one.
DF: Oh excellent. Good. Then no one will have seen it.

GM: Did you get advice or tips from your standup friends?
DF: I talked to Paul F. Tompkins when I was starting to put material together. That's the only guy I really talked to. He gave me good advice. I was saying I didn't want to feel like an actor pretending to be a standup. His advice was never write anything down. Like, don't write out the act. Just have point-form notes to remind you what you want to talk about. Occasionally, he said, if you have a particular turn of phrase you really like, write that out. But he never writes out his whole set.

GM: That's to make it come out more natural, I guess.
DF: Yeah, you're not reading a script; you're talking. So my entire act consists of one page of point form notes right now.

GM: Tompkins is such a natural performer. Similar to Brent Butt, who's also the same way. It's so conversational and it's like you're hearing it for the first time every time.
DF: Yeah, I love Brent, too. I've known Brent for 25 years, I guess.

GM: He used to warm up for you guys in Toronto.
DF: He did, yeah.

GM: And he did it here in Vancouver, too, he was telling me, in 1993.
DF: Oh, that's right, yeah. I'd forgotten about that.

GM: Do you know he has a new movie coming out?
DF: Yeah, I haven't seen it yet.

GM: It comes out in March and David Koechner's in it.
DF: Oh, Koechner's in it? Cool! I love Dave. He's great.

GM: I know you started standup as a teen. How long did that last?
DF: I did it for about a year. I started when I was in high school and was doing it when I met Kevin McDonald. Then shortly after that I stopped doing standup because I started forming the first version of The Kids in the Hall.

"I actually did standup for the show Thrill of a Lifetime on CTV and flew to L.A. and performed at the Improv when I was 19." – Dave Foley

GM: Were you doing it at Yuk Yuk's? Or small rooms?
DF: I did it at Yuk Yuk's and some of the rooms around Toronto at times. And I actually did standup for the show Thrill of a Lifetime on CTV and flew to L.A. and performed at the Improv when I was 19.

GM: You're kidding me! So you wrote in because it would be your thrill to perform in L.A.?
DF: Not entirely true! They actually auditioned people.

GM: They auditioned comics for that particular purpose?
DF: Yup.

GM: How did it go there?
DF: The Improv was fun. I did a set in between two episodes of Evening at the Improv. It was cool. It was my first time in L.A. The first show was hosted by Tony Curtis and the second show was hosted by Don Novello as Guido Sarducci. It was just surreal to be in Los Angeles.

GM: Did you get any feedback there?
DF: Yeah. I mean, I did well and people liked it. Bud Friedman was nice to me. It was a successful trip, I guess.

GM: You must have sounded different than you do at this point in your life.
DF: Yeah. As a teenager, I was kind of precocious and I was trying very hard to be a teenaged Lenny Bruce. Now I'm old. So if I get a little preachy, it's a little more acceptable.

GM: You dropped out of high school to do this?
DF: I guess I would have dropped out anyway but I dropped out and started doing comedy at the same time. I mean, I'd started doing comedy while I was in high school and then dropped out.

GM: Like in grade 12?
DF: No, no. I never got that far. I think I finished grade 10.

GM: How did your parents take that?
DF: They were okay with it. They weren't very good parents.

GM: You have siblings. Did they graduate?
DF(thinking) Did anyone? I think my sister... I know my older brother went back to school. He went to Ryerson and finished Ryerson. He had dropped out of high school, as well. And I think my sister did. And I can't remember if my younger brother finished or not.

GM: Are you still close to them?
DF: No. I'm still close to my older brother. He's the only one I'm really in touch with.

GM: Your parents raised you on comedy and movies. Did any of the other kids take to it like you did?
DF: Not professionally. Everyone liked it but I was the only one who made a career of it.

GM: Was everyone just funny naturally?
DF: No. (laughs) Although everyone in the family all thought my older brother was the funny one.

GM: I hear the Kids are doing a live reading of Brain Candy at the Toronto SketchFest.
DF: Yeah, we are.

GM: Did the guys guest star on your new sitcom?
DF: They did, yeah.

GM: So that was a bit of a reunion.
DF: We've done a bunch of stuff. We recently did a week of shows in Toronto. We wrote a whole new show and did it for five nights in Toronto in December.

GM: Any tours coming up?
DF: No tours planned but we're going to do a show in Austin and in Dallas. And we're hoping to find time to do another week where we write another all-new show and then combine the two shows and maybe go on tour with that.

GM: Was there a time when you just were over with that and then over time you realized you like being together?
DF: Oh, yeah. We didn't do anything for five years after Brain Candy. We weren't even talking to each other for five years.

GM: Intentionally not talking or just happened to not talk to each other?
DF: Oh, intentional. We hated each other. Yeah.

GM: It always has to be one person to start the ball rolling again. Who was it?
DF: I guess Kevin and I started hanging out again in L.A. when he was living down here. And Scott was down here, too, so we started hanging out with Scott. So once the three of us doing stuff together, then we thought we should get together with everyone. So in 2000, we decided to do a tour together. We actually made a documentary about it called Same Guys, New Dresses.

GM: Was that out? I don't remember it.
DF: It was out. It didn't get much release. It was shot on video the last year that Sundance refused to accept video submissions. So it was the usual good timing.

GM: I guess over time you choose to remember what you liked in each other in the first place rather than the negative stuff.
DF: Yeah, and if nothing else we just wanted to enjoy what we did as Kids, what we created. So it was like time to stop being mad at each other and let ourselves take some pleasure in what we spent 15 years doing. At that time it was 15 years. Now it's almost 30.

GM: That's crazy. I remember when you guys first came on.
DF: That was 25 years ago this year.

GM: I remember you were on CBC on prime time and I was telling my friends they gotta watch this show, and they were like, 'Ah, it's on CBC, how good can it be?'
DF: Yeah, that was definitely the attitude at the time. (laughs)

GM: You didn't write any of Brain Candy, did you? You left it.
DF: Well, I did, but I quit the troupe in the middle of writing Brain Candy. Or after about a year of writing Brain Candy. I quit the troupe; I didn't want to be in the movie at the time. I just wanted to get out of the group. So I didn't take a writing credit.

GM: People talk more about Kids in the Hall more than NewsRadio, correct?
DF: It depends. I think people have a more visceral connection to The Kids in the Hall, people that like The Kids in the Hall. But I hear about NewsRadio probably as much as I hear about The Kids in the Hall generally.

GM: Even though NewsRadio wasn't a ratings success, just because it was on a major network in prime time you probably had more viewers for NewsRadio.
DF: Oh, yeah, yeah. About ten times as many.

GM: Even though you were always afraid of it being cancelled and never feeling secure about it...
DF: As we were with The Kids in the Hall, we were cancelled almost every year when we were doing The Kids in the Hall. We were always almost being cancelled. Lorne Michaels would just keep fighting to keep us on the air.

GM: And over time people just think of it as this hugely popular, classic show, which it was, but you forget that it was precarious.
DF: Yeah, both shows were always on the edge.

GM: I always thought NewsRadio was overlooked. Because it was a really good show.
DF: It kind of got buried by the programming guy who was in charge of scheduling at NBC because he hated the show so he kept moving it, trying to kill it. And every time he'd move us, we'd wind up bringing up the ratings of the shows around us. We'd build an audience and then he'd move us again. He hated the show and was deliberately trying to kill it. And it took him five years to finally do it. But the press loved the show. The entertainment press loved NewsRadio and were always writing nice things about it and took it under their wing.

GM: Was it more fun than doing Kids in the Hall?
DF: They were both great. Kids in the Hall was amazing because the five of us ran everything. The five of us got to be in charge of our own show, we wrote it and were involved in every stage of production. We were there for all the pre-production, we were there in the editing room. And in NewsRadio, I was just an actor, part of this great ensemble cast. The work wasn't as hard but it was really fun playing that character on that show.

GM: What about off-camera?
DF: I had a lot of fun on both shows. There was a lot less fighting on NewsRadio, so that was nice. We had a lot of fun on Kids in the Hall but definitely NewsRadio was a great, fun cast to be around. We hung out together a lot after work. No one ever wanted to go home on NewsRadio; everyone wanted to stay and just hang out all the time.

GM: Yeah, I heard you talk about it with Joe Rogan on his podcast. I know the reasons for wanting to hang out.
DF: Yeah. I mean, we all liked each other but also everyone had shitty home lives.

GM: Somebody had to have a good home life.
DF: Not that I recall. Joe probably had the best because he was single.

GM: You couldn't play Canada for a while for fear of being arrested. Obviously that threat has passed.
DF: Well, it hasn't passed. It could come back at any time. But because I made Spun Out, I made enough money to pay the price of admission to Canada.

GM: Was it just a lump sum that if you paid, you could come back?
DF: Yeah, about $20,000 a month.

GM: When you come back, do you get to see your kids?
DF: Yeah, I see my kids. But as I said, it's not like it's gone away. Fortunately I earned enough money for a little while.

GM: But your kids must be nearing 22.
DF: My eldest is, yeah. He'll be 22 this year.

GM: And that's when the child support stops?
DF: I hope so. But then I still have to pay off the arrears.

GM: Because when you were making all that money, you weren't paying it?
DF: No, no. Whenever I had money, I was paying it. But for about ten years, I was being ordered to pay ten times my income.

GM: So you broke up after you were making that money?
DF: We broke up close to NewsRadio, so while I was making NewsRadio, I could afford to pay what I was supposed to pay. And after that, I didn't have a TV show since then so you can't really pay as though you have a TV show when you don't have one. But that's something that seems to elude the logic of the courts.

GM: Are your older kids creative in any way?
DF: Yeah, they're both creative. They're not in entertainment at all. My son's going to be 19 and he did a lot of theatre at school and actually on the improv team at his school.

GM: I saw the Mr. Heavyfoot that your daughter wrote and directed.
DF: She wrote and directed it, yeah. She storyboarded it and everything.

GM: And she's 10?
DF: Yeah.

GM: But she's a veteran in show business, though.
DF: She's been acting since she was four, yeah.

GM: That's kind of cool to do that with her.
DF: It was really fun. I was very proud of her.

GM: Did you give hints or tips?
DF: I helped her run iMovie. That's about it. Neither one of us had used it that much. But she set all her shots. As I said, she storyboarded the whole thing the night before we shot it. I've still got her storyboards here. And then we went out and shot it. And she set all her shots and picked all her edit points and trimmed the takes, picked the takes. So she really did it. I just helped her find the menu commands. That's about all I did.

GM: Was that a favourite character of hers?
DF: She'd seen a bunch of them one night. We watched Mr. Bean one night and I said to her, 'You like Mr. Bean? Let me show you something that I did on The Kids in the Hall. Maybe you'll like this.' And we looked up a bunch of them on YouTube and she really liked them. So she had to make a film for submission to a middle school she wants to go to where they have a cinematic arts program. So she decided to make a Mr. Heavyfoot film.

GM: That's awesome. You must be proud.
DF: Very. Very.

GM: You've had a lot of success in Hollywood, but do you still feel like an outsider?
DF: A little bit. It's hard, especially when I'm hanging with The Kids in the Hall I think we all still feel like we're young punks. I still feel like I should call everyone Sir. It's hard to grasp the fact I'm now, as they say in the press, a veteran funnyman.

GM: I won't write that, I promise. You're 50 now, right?
DF: I'm 51. I certainly don't feel like an adult in any meaningful way.

GM: It's just rude. That's how I feel about it.
DF: Yeah. I just go, well, why won't my body act like a teenager?

GM: How many episodes of Spun Out did you make?
DF: We shot 13 episodes.

GM: And that airs pretty soon, right?
DF: March 6th the show starts airing.

GM: And what do you think?
DF: I think it's really good. I think I've been lucky again in having a great ensemble cast. The goal was to create a show that could stand in the schedule with any American sitcom and not apologize for being Canadian. And I think we succeeded at that.

GM: Brent's Corner Gas was in something like 25 countries. Is there hope for that?
DF: Yeah, I hope so. I mean, we'll see what happens once it starts airing. But yeah I think the goal is to sell it other places as well, eventually.

GM: And Darcy Michael is in it, a local boy.
DF: He is. Brilliantly funny Darcy. He's such a good standup. I love Darcy. Hopefully I'll get to hang out with him in Vancouver while I'm there.

GM: It's good that the series worked out financially and artistically for you.
DF: I hope it's a show we get to do for a few years.

GM: People forget that while showbiz is an art, it's also just a business and you have to make money.
DF: It's very important to make money.

GM: It doesn't make it necessarily any less artistic if your intentions are to make money.
DF: No. Because you have obligations, some of them legal.

GM: Some of them imposed upon you.
DF: Yeah. Some of them unrealistic. But you have people to support and bills to pay. Show business is always 50 percent commerce.

GM: But there's that perception, among some people, that it sullies the art when you start talking about the commerce part.
DF: Those people are dumb.

GM: When you're talking politics or religion during your standup in middle America, do you face certain objections to it?
DF: For the most part, people come out to see me knowing who I am. They're not expecting me to be a conservative. Although oddly enough, I've definitely had lots of shows in the States where all I have to do is say the name Obama and people would start shouting things. Not the whole crowd but there'd always be a few staunch Republicans in the crowd who, at the mention of Obama, will go, 'He's an idiot!' And I'd be, 'Why are you here?'

GM: I guess this goes back to the advice Paul F. Tompkins gave you. If you just stuck to a script, you wouldn't be able to move on from that.
DF: I'm always very surprised when really, really conservative people come out to see my show.

GM: I guess if they didn't watch Kids in the Hall, and they just knew you from NewsRadio, your character was kind of conservative. Maybe not politically, but the look and everything.
DF: Yeah. I guess so, yeah.

GM: And it was on network TV so there was no swearing. People come out thinking they're going to see their favourite TV star.
DF: Yes. And what they get is really a filthy show.

GM: A rude awakening.
DF: Yes. Or at least rudeness. Even if they sleep through it, it's still rude.

GM: Have you heard from Uma Thurman?
DF: No, I don't think that'll ever happen. (laughs)

GM: Do you know if she's heard you talk about her?
DF: So far as I know, she's completely unaware of the bit.

GM: Maybe you'll hook up one day. Wouldn't that be cool?
DF: That would be amazing. That would be the fairy tale ending.

GM: Yes! Let's make it happen! At the comedy festival here, you're one of two Foleys. Mick Foley is also playing.
DF: That's what I've heard, yeah. That'd be interesting to see.

GM: No relation, obviously.
DF: No relation that I'm aware of.

GM: That would be cool if it was. Or if he hooked up with Uma Thurman.

DF: Less satisfying for me, but an interesting story nonetheless. 

1 comment:

Wiki said...

Just wrote an article on Mr. Foley and this interview came handy. Timeless, enlightening, this. Thank you so much for this.