Kevin McDonald has stories.
That shouldn’t come as a surprise; the comedian, actor and co-founder of The Kids in the Hall has been working in entertainment for more than 30 years. And even just those first few years — when he toured with a sketch group that reached rock-star levels of fame among comedy fans — could fill a book with anecdotes.
Instead, McDonald compiled many of those stories, added a few songs and saw a theme develop that carries his upcoming Off-Broadway show, “Kevin McDonald Alive on 42nd Street.”
“It’s a guy talking about his past who’s in a new, weird future,” he says. “Because I talk about that I moved from Los Angeles just a few years ago. I’m still here now in Winnipeg because of a woman. And so, it cuts back from the past, being a Kid in the Hall, to an uncertain future in a weird city for a comedian to be.”
amNewYork caught up with McDonald to talk about everything from Broadway memories to how to properly end a sketch.
What does that word Broadway mean to you?
If I close my eyes now, my very first image is the 1933 “King Kong” [movie] when the guy, Carl Denham, comes off the boat to look for someone to be in his movie. And you see Times Square and the lights, even the ‘30s [it] seemed crazy. That to me, that was the best introduction any kid could have to New York, when I saw it. I didn’t see it though, when it first came out. It was 40 years later and it had repeats. And I still think of that exciting thing. And then later, when Kong is destroying New York, the, “Oh, my God. How can he destroy such a wonderful thing?” So, I also feel sorry for King Kong. Sorry that I’m talking about “King Kong,” but that to me, is what Broadway is.
You’ve been basically writing a full variety show for each episode of your podcast, “Kevin McDonald’s Kevin McDonald Show.” Has the creation of that podcast influenced this show in any way?
Absolutely. It has been a crazy creative writing thing where I write a whole new show. I mean, I have a whole month so it’s not that crazy. The crazy thing is I’m doing so many other things. But it’s been so much fun, and I think it’s improved my writing. And I’m developing a skill now where I can take an old story, honor the story part of it, honor the truth part of it, but make it a comedy story. … Except for making great sketches with The Kids in the Hall, which I was lucky to be part of, this is the most exciting writing I’ve been doing lately.
When The Kids in the Hall was first huge, every other show on Comedy Central seemed to be a sketch show. Now, stand-up seems to be more in fashion.
There are so many good sketch troupes, it’s hard to make it as a sketch troupe now, I think. There weren’t that many good sketch shows on TV when we were on. Of course, there’s “Saturday Night Live,” which always has its ups and downs, but that’s its charm. “In Living Color,” when it was great, was great. “Mr. Show” was great. “Chappelle’s Show” revolutionized sketch comedy, I really think it did. It’s one of my favorite sketch comedy shows ever. … And in the 10 years after that, there was a good sketch boom, like “[Inside] Amy Schumer” and “Key and Peele” — which, I think, they do almost everything perfectly. The performances are amazing. They always have a twist, a good story with a premise. And they seem to, for some reason, always have great endings.
That seems to be the toughest part, sticking the landing. Was that true on the Kids’ “Citizen Kane” sketch?
Coming up with an ending sometimes is math. Two plus two equals four. The first two is the premise, and the second two is where the premise goes. So, follow that path. Follow that story and it’ll lead you to an ending. And sometimes it’s a crazy left turn like me stabbing Dave Foley’s hand. But sometimes that’s exactly right for that particular sketch.
‘Kevin McDonald Alive on 42nd Street’ runs August 25-31 at various times at Theatre Row’s Studio Theatre, 410 W. 42nd St., theatrerow.org