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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Brad Zimmerman interview

Who is Brad Zimmerman, you ask? I didn't know until I had to interview him. Then I checked out the few standup clips he has online as well as excerpts from his one-man show, My Son the Waiter, A Jewish Tragedy. Funny guy, that Zimmerman. And a guy with no quit to him. Check out his story in our interview below:

Brad Zimmerman
February 10, 2014

"I'm enormously successful. I'm just not rich or well known yet. And if I don't ever get any further than I am, I'm still enormously successful." – Brad Zimmerman

Guy MacPherson: Hello, Brad. This is Guy MacPherson in Vancouver.
Brad Zimmerman: How are you?!

GM: Good, thank you. You were expecting my call, I hope.
BZ: Not only am I expecting your call but you're four minutes late so I got worried. I said, 'Uh-oh.' But first of all, more important than that, I'm on a cellphone, I'm in Coral Springs, Florida, so hopefully we'll have the same clear connection. How long is this interview going to be?

GM: Well, we'll just see how it goes.
BZ: Okay. Well, I'm here, bubala.

GM: Okay, good. And my clock says I'm two minutes late. I thought I'd give you two minutes to get ready, you know.
BZ: It doesn't matter because you sound like a great guy. If you didn't sound like a great guy, man, I'd spend ten minutes telling you that I'm very, very prompt.

GM: I like that.
BZ: Is this radio? What is this?

GM: This is print.
BZ: Oh, cool! Oh, okay, great. What newspaper?

GM: It's called The Georgia Straight. It's a weekly in Vancouver.
BZThe Georgia Straight. Okay. So let's talk, bubala.

GM: Bubala? What is that?
BZBubala is a Jewish term of endearment. It's a beautiful word. Bubby is grandmother, and bubala... I use it to everybody. Whatever. Even to you, who is a gentile.

GM: Good. I like that. Have you been to Vancouver before?
BZ: I was there once many years ago with a group of three other comics. We just basically did comedy.

GM: Do you remember where that was?
BZ: I think it was at the Chutzpah Festival. Maybe it wasn't. I'm not exactly sure but I know we did the Vancouver JCC but I'm not sure if it was the Chutzpah Festival or not. I really don't know.

GM: Who were you with?
BZ: I know Cory Kahaney was one of them. And the other ones I don't really remember. Maybe Tom Cotter, who is a very good friend of mine and just finished second in America's Got Talent last year or two years ago. And the other one might have been Ross Bennett. He's great also. Ross was just on Letterman about four or five months ago. Did great.

GM: I've seen your clips, both standup and one-man show. What are the little tweaks you have to make from standup to one-man show?
BZ: Well, you know what's interesting is that, first of all, what you've seen – and this is what I really pride myself on; it's really what I'm about and really is what separates me from a lot of people and why I think so much is going to happen in the future, because I did sell the rights to my show so I just started a national tour – but to answer your question, my piece is a hybrid. It's part standup, part theatre. When you're doing a one-man show, you're basically saying this is a play. So there's not as much audience work between jokes or whatever. It is a play. I stick to the script, whereas if I'm opening for somebody or if I'm headlining somewhere in a comedic venue, then I can do whatever I want so it's a little bit looser. But basically when I say hybrid, I mean part standup, part theatre, so basically it's outside the box of traditional one-person shows, which are basically a story. Billy Crystal's one-man show is a story about him and his father over 700 Sundays, or whatever the title of it is. But most of them have your traditional beginning, middle and end. Mine is a little different. It is a little outside the box in the sense of there is an arc and there is a beginning, middle and an end, but part of it is standup and part of it is theatre. It's not just funny; it's very moving. So when you ask the question what is the difference, it's just kind of a mindset I have. When I go out on stage to do the one-person show, I don't feel the kind of pressure to get the laugh. Which is huge. In fact, even in the standup now, the laughter is really the byproduct. My focus is on the connection. No matter what I'm doing, when I'm connecting, that's what I'm really about. The clip that you saw, one of them was probably from 2010. In fact, probably both of them. But the reality is that in the four years I've grown so much. Because what I think what I'm really about is ultimately mastering what I'm doing and I think it's paving the way for all these possibilities for me in other mediums, whether it be TV or film. So it's been incredibly rewarding doing this one-person show because it resonates universally for not just Jews but for anybody. There's not just one message in it, but it really is about a guy who waits tables for a long, long time but doesn't give up the notion that he has a purpose on this planet, and it's to bring his humour to the world and to inspire or to make people reassess. Because it's really staying the course; it's not giving up. And that's really what ultimately the piece is. And also if you can find what you love to do, which very few people can, or you're willing to struggle... Bruce Jenner once said something. It was one of the greatest quotes of all time. He said when he won the decathlon many, many years ago – they asked him what it felt like to be the best athlete in the world. He said, "I'm not the best athlete in the world. The best athlete in the world is sitting behind a desk somewhere." So what he was really saying was, 'Who's willing to pay the price to be truly great?' You can count on your fingers how many people. Especially those who are not phenoms. I wasn't a phenom at this. I wasn't necessarily born to be a comedian or an actor but I worked my tail off and outworked other people who were much more naturally gifted. My work ethic is very strong and my attention to detail on this piece I'm doing in Florida now, I'm just tweaking. Which is maybe just adding a word or taking out two words. And that's really what it's all about is that kind of detail.

GM: And that's something you can't do with a play because you have to stick exactly to the script.
BZ: I can do anything I want. Absolutely. And that's wonderful. What's great is the producers and the people that I'm with have enormous faith. I just did it in Phoenix for six weeks and the response was tremendous. After the show, I'd go out and sell the book that I wrote as a souvenir and the bonding after the show was as enjoyable for me as doing the show. People telling me how much it meant to them and how it resonated for them. It's been a sublime experience. Although I started in 2005 and in 2013 is when the show sold. Essentially I'm really bearing the financial fruit of the piece now. So that's after nine years. It doesn't matter. It takes as long as it takes and I just stuck with it in addition to doing my comedy and all these other things and working with Joan Rivers and some of these other people and also headlining in various theatres and arts festivals. So it's been a real uphill battle but at this point, I feel like I'm warming up. And that's kind of an interesting feeling. I'm the late bloomer's late bloomer.

GM: It's got a great title that hooks you immediately.
BZ: Yes, that's a great point. That's a really good point.

GM: A Jewish Tragedy... Is it specific to Judaism?
BZ: Here's the bottom line: There is a joke that goes there's a big controversy in the Jewish view of when life begins. In Jewish tradition, the fetus is not considered viable till after it graduates from medical school. So what that means is, when you think of Jews, you think of lawyers, doctors. That's their idea of success. It's all about money. So if I'm waiting tables for 20 years and not making a dime – and a lot of that had to do with my own personal demons: fear, lack of belief in the product. It really kept me on the sidelines – so naturally that's in a sense the tragedy, that I'm not this multi-millionaire who the mother can brag about. I'm this waiter. So you feel guilty about it. My mother, of course, plays a huge role in the play. So when you grow up as a Jew, this is a generalization or stereotype or whatever, but Jews are very ambitious for whatever reason, a lot of them. They're go-getters. And if you look in show business, if you look in government, if you look in the money business, so many of them are Jews. It's a shame that people think of success in terms of how much you're worth financially. A psychiatrist once said to me if you're happy, you're successful. Now, I'm not saying I'm happy, but I have moments of happiness. Because we're not always happy and I do suffer from a certain amount of depression, like any artist. But when you love what you do, and you feel you have this enormous purpose... You know, I'm enormously successful. I'm just not rich or well known yet. And if I don't ever get any further than I am, I'm still enormously successful. I've done something that very few people can do: write a play and be able to hold an audience for an hour and twenty, to twenty-five minutes. And that's a huge accomplishment. There's not a lot of people who can do that. I think it's from being authentic. And that's part of what the goal is. I'm a huge believer in quotes, but Seth Godin, who's a big motivational guy, said we need art that is genuine, that connects, not fake that entertains. And we have so much fake that entertains that if you can get genuine that connects, we need that so desperately. Now obviously there's a huge segment of the population that just wants really dumb comedy, you know, punch, punch, punch, punch, punch. They have short attention spans and they don't have the ability to process something that is smart. But I'm not writing for that audience; I'm writing for a theatre audience. I'm writing for sophisticated people, cultured.

But anyway, getting back to what you're saying, the interesting thing about the title is that I didn't come up with it; somebody else did. The original title was something else. When I first had it produced in Florida many years ago, the director of the theatre said, "Put Jewish in the title. It's a great selling point. Especially in Florida." And some guy in the theatre came up after seeing it and said this should be the title. And I actually paid him. He didn't expect it but he deserved it because he came up with it. You're right, it's a great, great title.

GM: I would imagine the best of all the art is genuine and connects and entertains.
BZ: I would agree with you 150 percent. There's another element to that. Entertained, yes. My play's very entertaining. But it also has a tendency to make you think. People have told me that. It can make you think. And I think that really good theatre has that ability. If you just want to turn off your mind and just be entertained by something that has no depth, just surface stuff, that's fine. I have no problem with that. But mine goes deeper. Mine goes to, Can you find something that you love? When I think of all the people that I started out with in this business, there's very few left. They're priorities changed. They didn't want to struggle. They wanted security. They wanted a family. I don't have a family. I'm all by myself. I love children but the fact that I don't have any? Oy! I am so happy, you have no idea. Because this way I can devote all my time to my work. Now, that doesn't mean that some day I don't want children, but right now I'm just about the work. It would be selfish to have a kid and not be able to devote all my time. So it is entertaining – enormously entertaining. But if it's just entertaining, then it's not a one-man show. I mean in my book. I think it's gotta have an emotional undercurrent if you're doing a one-person show. I mean, loads of people do it. Jackie Mason and so many other people do one-person shows where it's just funny. But I think if you can touch people deeply, which I do – or at least some people; everybody's touched in their own way – I think they have an experience, they have something to think about, it can stay with them, they relate to it, and it may make them reassess their own lives and say, What's important to me? What am I not doing that I need to be doing? I also think being creative, even if you don't make a living, is huge. In some ways.

GM: You're playing the Chutzpah Festival but as you said, this isn't for any specific group, right?
BZ: No. In fact, Phoenix has a large gentile population. It's almost half and half. I've done it for old Jews, I've done it for old gentiles, and I've done it for a mixture. So I think again it's just for people who are willing to go with my journey and have a certain kind of, let's say, intelligence and enjoy culture. That's really what it is. It really resonates universally. The more specific you write, the more universal it is. People just relate to it. You know, a mother is a mother is a mother, whether you're Italian or Jewish or African American or Chinese. Mothers have a lot in common in terms of how they deal with their child.

GM: There are so many Jewish comedians and we love them. Watching a Woody Allen movie, we get the experience even if we haven't experienced it quite that way ourselves.
BZ: Absolutely. Absolutely. That's a very good point, why it is that there's so many Jewish comics, I'm not sure. Some of it probably has to do, for me, with survival. I felt insecure s a kid and humour was a way of feeling better about myself. First of all, the fact I make my living, that I went from being this shy, kind of aloof kid that was totally into sports and that's it to ages later opening for George Carlin, it's shocking – shocking – that that's how I ended up. I would never in a million years have imagined me as a comic. I'm not a comic; I'm really an actor who does comedy, but nonetheless.

"If you're good, you're good. I don't care if you're a truck driver during the day, if you're funny, you're funny." – Brad Zimmerman

GM: You started in 1978 trying to become an actor?
BZ: What happened was I moved to New York to become an actor – and this is part of what the play's about – but I didn't really pursue it because I never, never felt for a long time... It really boiled down to a lack of belief in the product. So I just stayed in acting class for many years. I never really did anything but wait tables and study acting. Then I sort of dropped out of acting because I was getting bitter and I felt like I had no purpose. And finally I was turned on to the right psychiatrist and blah, blah, blah and took a standup comedy class in '96 and that's when I finally went out into the world. It's so ironic that what I was afraid of was failing – because failure was always so humiliating. However good I am now, it's because I went out and failed over and over and over again and learned from it. So what I was afraid of is the reason I'm good!

GM: So those eighteen years, from '78 to '96, were spent in acting classes?
BZ: No. Anything I did outside of an acting class, it really didn't pay anything. I think I did two one-person shows but there was no money involved. I did one when my dad died in '93. And the first one I did was in '87. But other than that, nothing. Maybe a few non-union commercials, but really nothing. Truly nothing. And even once I started doing the comedy, I didn't stop waiting tables until 2007. What's interesting, Guy, we lead one life. And I think ultimately what I said to myself was I'm gonna commit to this, and I'm gonna get out into the world in whatever it is, whatever happens, happens but this is my life and I don't need to be a grandparent some day. I'm an artist. So this is my life for better or worse. And if I die poor, which I won't because I think it's all ahead of me, then that's my choice. You know what I'm saying? But the struggling, which is why so many people leave it, I just thought of it as part of the whole process. If you're on this planet to master something, which I think is why I'm here, the ultimate purpose, then struggling and insecurity and living in the unknown and not knowing when the next gig is coming, that's all part of it. So I don't think of it as anything special, like, Oh, you have so much courage or this or that; I just think of it as this is what I do. Learning to live struggling... I've lived in the same apartment forever. It's just this tiny place. And I'm fine there. That's not as important as my work. So I'm a little different than most of my contemporaries and people I'm good friends with, some of who are very successful financially and some of who are in my bracket.

GM: Did you just take to standup when you started out?
BZ: I think that, having done some of the one-person shows, I had some restaurant pieces and a couple of mother pieces so I went out into the world with five minutes of some restaurant stuff. And the restaurant stuff became at that time my signature piece. And it is still to some extent my signature piece. Because nobody's ever done the restaurant stuff the way I do it. And if you come see the show, you'll see that it's truly one of a kind what I do. So I think that what happened was I finally found something. Remember, when you're acting, you're acting with somebody else. I found that working alone, writing my own material, being my own boss, and having a certain amount of comedic chops that I got in acting class, I think it was just a great fit. The combination of all of those things. I knew I had a certain kind of sense of humour. It's like a muscle, if you do have it. If you're not funny, and there are so many people who are not funny who try to do this... But yes, I think I was different from the get-go. Tommy Smothers said something to me. When George Carlin did his last HBO special, I was opening for him. Carlin's manager had actually signed me to a deal. He said, 'I'll have HBO film you at my expense and we'll see if we can market the tape.' So HBO was there and I did 32 minutes. And Tommy Smothers came backstage, because he's friends with George, and he has a winery up in the wine country – we did it in Santa Rosa – and he said to me, "I love your air." And what he was saying was, 'I love the pauses that you take.' And if you watch comics today, very, very few work as slow as I do, or have the ability to live in silence. And that takes a lot of confidence. Tommy said, "People don't work like that anymore." So much of the laughter you can get is when you're not saying anything. And I've learned to do that. I see so many of my contemporaries who, if they would employ some of that and not rush... People are afraid of silence. They're afraid they'll bore the audience. They gotta bombard them. And as my therapist says, an audience needs time to process. If you can make them just feel relaxed so they can enjoy you because you're not bombarding them, they love it. Especially if you're interesting.

GM: I would say as an audience member, as long as the pause is purposeful, it's good, not when we get the sense you're struggling to figure out what to say next.
BZ: Oh, absolutely. All my pauses are purposeful. In fact, the more I do the show – I did eight shows a week in Phoenix – the best thing about it was having a chance to repeat over and over again, like coming up to bat in baseball, and to make adjustments on those pauses. Getting comfortable on stage as a comedian is so hard. Louis C.K. said it takes 15 to 20 years. He's so on the money. When he's talking about comfort, he's just talking about that there's no pressure. The audience is there to see you; they're not going anywhere. So get into that mode where I don't have to rush. I'm gonna make them laugh. I've done my work. And even if you don't, sometimes it's not your fault. All you can do is what you can do. I have so many different responses. The hardest thing for a comic is one night a line will just blow the roof off and they applaud and the next night they don't get it. So learning to play with that wide range of response on each line, if you took it personally it'd be like you're in a heavyweight fight getting sucker-punched every two seconds.

GM: When you're doing 30+ minutes of standup, you weren't just doing restaurant material, were you?
BZ: No, I do a lot of topical stuff. Not political because I'm not smart enough. Not religious because I'm not smart enough. You think about it as a guy who's waited tables, we all see the world differently. We're all wired differently. I do restaurant stuff. That sets the table for who I am, for a guy who's struggled. And then I talk about the world the way I see it, whether it be reality television, whether it be the world today versus the world I grew up in where everything was simple and there was no technology, or my social life, which has been almost non-existant, or the Jewish mother. Just loads of different things. Or some of the comedy stories that I have. Some of the bombs where somebody will say, three minutes into my act, "Get to the punchline." That's what separates me from comedians and why I don't work clubs, is that comedians have to have, like, six punchlines a minute. I don't work that way. When I write, I never worry about the punchline. I know there's going to be one and you have to get there, but sometimes you gotta wait for it. So that's why I don't do clubs. Because I'm not a comedian in the purest sense of the word.

GM: The clip I saw of your standup was from Caroline's Comedy Club.
BZ: Now that was interestingly enough in 2002 and that was a bringer show. I started in '96. A bringer show is the most important, probably, event that you can do as a beginning comic, where you bring ten people, you get ten minutes, and they hire a videographer. Now, I did 30 bringer shows and six years after I started that tape that you saw from 2002 is the reason that I work. Because I sent it out and I started getting booked on that tape. And I used it for eight more years until I edited my one-man show, which I did in 2010, and started using eight minutes from that. And started to really slow down in 2010. Really slowed down.

GM: You got booked from that into other clubs or did you just say no to clubs right away?
BZ: I started doing clubs, I started opening for Joan Rivers, Brad Garrett, then George Carlin, all on the tape. All on that tape. Country clubs, Jewish country clubs, synagogues, casinos, all different kinds of places. All based on that tape.

GM: Did your stories of exchanges with customers all happen to you or are they an amalgamation of other stories you heard?
BZ: Some of them definitely happened. The whole waiter thing started when I was working on a one-man show the year my father was ill, in acting class. The teacher said to me what's missing from the play – I've never taken a writing class so I didn't know anything other than whatever it is I knew from not taking classes – she said, "You need stories. You need anecdotes." And I went back home and I thought about what she said and I wrote a restaurant piece. It was basically based, very simply, on something a woman said to me at a table. I was bitter at this time. I was not a happy person. I was waiting on this party and a woman said to me at one point, "My sister doesn't think you like us." And I said, "It's not that; I'm very busy." She said, "I understand that. That doesn't mean you can't smile." And that was in one of the pieces that I wrote initially – it's not in my act anymore. It started me off on writing a lot of waiter stuff. Remember, when you've waited tables for 29 years, you have a lot of stories. And yes, the amalgam or whatever you want to call it, the woman who can't make up her mind or all of those kinds of things or there's this one bit in my one-man show where we're about to close and there's nobody in the restaurant. I'm already doing my side work and a customer comes in. If I were doing a sitcom, the opening scene would be her coming in and me going to my locker and getting a rifle and you see the dot on that person's head. You don't fire the gun but you just see the dot. It's like the rage that you feel about a person that comes in right before you're closing and has the audacity to sit down. And the manager who seats the person. So it's a combination of so many things. Humour starts with the truth but then you can stretch it. And that what you do sometimes. And then sometimes it's totally not stretched. My thing about reality television, my thing about a lot of things, is pure. There's no stretching because the truth is what's funny.

GM: When you were doing standup and talking about being a waiter, that's brave because my sense is that some comedians are embarrassed if they have a day job. They wouldn't want to admit that. They'd want the audience to think that this is what they do professionally.
BZ: That's a great point. There were people who told me that I should say that I was a waiter. And I decided no. No, that's not what I'm going to do. I'm going to tell them that I still wait tables because that's the truth of the matter. And that's a great point on your part. I wasn't concerned about people thinking I'm not professional. That never bothered me. It probably bothered other comics who advised me more than me. It never bothered me. If you're good, you're good. I don't care if you're a truck driver during the day, if you're funny, you're funny. So that's the way I saw it more than anything else.

GM: Who did you sell the rights to?
BZ: I'll tell you what happened. I signed with a manager in 2013, in February or March. The first thing he did was he got me three weeks at a theatre called the Stage Door Theater in Coral Springs. And the show kept getting extended because of word of mouth. The owner of the theatre knew these two producers who produce a number of different shows, one of which – and I'm sure he's been up in the area; do you know Steve Solomon?

GM: No.
BZ: His play is called My Mother's Italian, My Father's Jewish, I'm in Therapy. He now has a whole bunch of them that he's written. He has other people playing them now. And after three years, I can do that, too, if I agree on who they cast as me. I don't have to do the show for seven years. They have the rights for seven years, but just the touring rights. One of them is a guy named Dana Matthau. He's Walter Matthau's nephew. The other is Phil Roger Roy. They're great producers. They're wonderful guys. It's a great fit for me. They came down and saw the show and made an offer the next day. So I just finished six weeks in Phoenix. When I finish Vancouver – and they didn't book me; Cory Kahaney might have recommended me – but after Vancouver I'll be in Maryland, I'll be in Boston for five weeks, I'll be in San Diego for the whole summer and then another part of California. It's an amazingly gratifying thing to have this kind of situation where a comic only lives in the unknown and I'm not really living in the unknown because they have to book me a certain amount of times to make a certain amount of money each year. So that's great. It's the first time in my life that I've never not worried about money. I can't even tell you what that's like. It's beyond heavenly. It's amazing. It's an amazing feeling not to be juggling bills.

GM: This could be like Defending the Caveman.
BZ: I never saw it but I know it's the biggest-selling one-man show ever. Did you ever see it?

GM: Yeah, I saw it in Vegas.
BZ: It has its own theatre. That's how the guy made millions, by doing it and then farming it out to other actors but he still gets paid every time anybody does it. Did you like it?

GM: Yeah, it was fun.
BZ: I never saw it. Quite frankly, I don't know if you'll get a chance to see mine but without even having seen his, I'm very competitive so I can tell you I'm sure mine's better. (laughs)

GM: I'm sure yours if funnier.
BZ: I'm sure it's funnier and it's very, very moving. Defending the Caveman I'm sure doesn't talk about the death of his father. That's part of it, is that my father never saw me become successful; he only saw me as a waiter. I have a brother who worked for him. That was another thing. I have two other brothers and they worked for him for a time and both eventually quit and the youngest one eventually sold a kayak business for millions of dollars and my father never saw that. That's life. That's part of life and that's what I'm presenting in the show. It's not funny; it's sad, it's touching, it's poignant, it's this, it's that. It's such a variety of emotions. It takes you on such a journey. That's really what it does.

GM: But Brad, it's not a competition.
BZ: What's not a competition?

GM: You don't need to compete with the Caveman.
BZ: Oh, I'm not. Can I tell you something? I'm not competing with the Caveman but when I was a kid, and the first piece talks about this, I was very competitive. I was a great athlete. And being competitive in my life is something that's never really left. And part of that you can say is healthy; part is unhealthy. It is what it is. When Dustin Hoffman's acting teacher said, "You don't have it," he said he was always motivated by revenge. Even to this day. He said it on Inside the Actor's Studio. And my therapist would say whatever does it for you, as long as you can maintain a certain amount of humility. We always know who we're better than. I'm exactly where I should be. I don't think I should have my own sitcom, even though if I was out there doing that, I think I'd be landing roles all the time but that's not the way I wanted to go. I'm very content doing this and seeing how far it takes me. It's kind of a challenge and it's kind of thrilling in its own way.

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.