Kevin McDonald realizes that you probably only know him as one-fifth of The Kids in the Hall, but that’s just part of the joke in his podcast “Kevin McDonald’s Kevin McDonald Show.”
The comedian leans into his place in the pantheon of comedy history during a song or monologue at the top of the monthly variety show, as he cracks that nothing ever happened to him but the cult-classic Canadian sketch show, which ran on television from 1989 to 1995. But the self-deprecating self-referential bits are just a small part of a winning podcast concept.
Inspired by both “WTF with Marc Maron” and “The Jack Benny Program,” McDonald uses his podcast to showcase original music, perform sketches, interview comedians, and bring on bands each episode. In keeping with the tradition of Benny’s format, McDonald records his show live in front of an audience.
When he comes to Brooklyn’s Union Hall July 8 and 9 his guests will include New York favorites Sasheer Zamata (“Saturday Night Live”) and Jo Firestone (“The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon”), as well as T.J. Miller (formerly of “Silicon Valley”).
Before the shows, amNewYork caught up with McDonald to hear about how the show is going so far.
Is it challenging creating a live staged show that also has to work in an audio format?
In a way, but I sort of cheated and what has become part of the show is that I have an announcer and whenever I do something physically funny he’ll step in and say, “Kevin McDonald just made a face.” It makes me laugh. I don’t know if the audience has ever laughed, but maybe in podcast land they laugh.
How much of your show is pre-written and how much is improvised?
It’s all pre-written. I have two minds in my head and I can go both ways. I can improvise for an hour or I can do sketch for an hour, but it’s impossible for me, because I’m anal, to script a little bit and write, “go off book here.” I know Marc Maron, he’s such a brilliant comic, he doesn’t write hard-core jokes. He has a few jokes, he brings his paper out, and he has enough confidence he can spritz for awhile and find the beats onstage. I wish I could do both. My favorite kind of comic can do that, so I am not my favorite kind of comic.
You’ve had a few great guests that don’t normally appear on podcasts like Bob Saget and Mike Myers. Did they take some convincing?
Bob Saget just said yes because I think he was a fan of “Kids in the Hall.” I think the only reason Mike Myers said yes was because we’re old friends. We started off together as teenagers in Second City workshops. But I think he had a good time. I don’t know if that will encourage him to say yes more. Canadians like to say no, I don’t know why that is.
I’m surprised that you say Canadians love to say no, since there are so many Canadian comedians that are great at improv, which is all about saying yes.
Well, when we do say no we are very polite about it! The Kids in the Hall and I like to say no to jobs. In ’89 our show was just starting and the Gap was just starting Gap ads and they asked us to do it, because they didn’t want conventionally attractive people. They wanted a hip thing. And we said “No!” You’re probably too young to remember, but then in the ’90s Gap ads became a big thing, and we said no. And I still think about that.
You’ve brought your live recording to several cities. Would you like to continue to take this on the road, or do you want a home base?
Well one of the home bases I would like to have is Union Hall, it’s our third time. But I would also like the show to be so wildly successful, not for the making money part, but to spend it on the tour. I’m on the road all the time, because I live in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. My dad was a traveling salesman so it’s in my blood.
IF YOU GO: Catch Kevin McDonald’s Kevin McDonald Show 8 p.m., July 7 & 8, $20, Union Hall, 702 Union St., Brooklyn, unionhallny.com