Published Apr 24, 2015A proud son of Brampton, ON, Scott Thompson is an Emmy-nominated actor, writer and comedian who appears on the NBC crime show, Hannibal, and was also a featured performer on the groundbreaking HBO sitcom The Larry Sanders Show. Though he's venturing into stand-up and working on a graphic novel trilogy/animated series called The Hollow Planet, Thompson remains an active member of the beloved and fearless comedy troupe, the Kids in the Hall.
Though they broke up between 1995 and 2000, KITH have otherwise been active since 1984. Yet, as they gear up for an extensive North American spring tour featuring brand new and classic bits, some are still calling it a "comeback."
"Yeah, every time!" Thompson exclaims. "People are like, 'Oh, what's it like to be with the boys again?' as if we haven't seen each other in 20 years. We're always talking. There are always two or three in the group doing something. We all have our own careers and there will be long periods where we don't see each other, but there'll be an email or group call or something. We made that decision in 2000, when we really did come back together, that this is it; we're here for life. You don't get out."
Before we begin, please state your name, your hometown, your current HQ, and any of your upcoming activities, especially Canadian tour dates and new releases.
My full name is John Scott Thompson. My hometown is Brampton, Ontario and I live in Toronto. The Kids in the Hall tour is coming up. We start the tour on April 23 in Toronto and we finish June 6 in Denver. I think it's 32 cities; it's a big tour. A year ago we did a show at the Isabel Bader [Theatre in Toronto] and we did all new material for a week and work-shopped a lot of stuff. So we're using some of that material, some from other tours we've done, and some classics from television. So it's a mix of everything.
What are you up to?
Working on the Danny Husk animation series, The Hollow Planet, and my podcast. It's called the Scott Free Podcast. I'm working on Hannibal; I play Jimmy Price on Hannibal. I'm getting ready for the Kids in the Hall tour, and I'm working on doing a stand-up comedy special in the fall. After the Kids in the Hall tour is done, I'm working on doing a stand-up tour and then, hopefully in the fall, I'll do a stand-up special. That's my next big goal.
What are your current fixations?
Musically, I would say Lana Del Ray. The book I'm reading right now is The Buried Giant and I'm loving it. It's by Kazuo Ishiguro. He wrote The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go. This book is about an old couple in England in the 14th century. It's a fantastical book and he doesn't really do fantasy but he's a really great writer. It's basically an old couple in England where a mist is taking people's memories away and this old couple leave their village to visit their son, whom they've forgotten about, and it's their journey to find him. I'm just loving it. I love fantasy when it's literature. Like Game of Thrones, I'm obsessed with — the books and the series. Oh, and House of Cards; I love that. It's about the most supportive couple on television who are awful but then in season three, they stop being supportive, and it's very ugly.
Why do you live where you do?
I live in Toronto. I was living in L.A. up until five-and-a-half years ago. I came home because I got cancer and I never went back. I was living in L.A. and I got sick and I didn't have health care and so I had to come home. I intended to go back, but it ended up taking a lot longer to get better than I thought it would take. By then, we had Death Comes to Town right away and then I got other work and then I got Hannibal three years ago, and I stayed. Now, I don't know what to do. I'm thinking about getting an apartment in L.A. again because it's very difficult to have a career here.
The problem with Canada is that they don't build on success. They say, "Oh, you've had some success. Move away. Let someone else have that." It's very difficult. I was never really in love with Los Angeles until I had to come home. By the time I left, I was really starting to like it. It took me a hell of a long time, and now I look back on it very fondly.
It didn't give me cancer. What gave me cancer was a black widow spider. That's what triggered it. I thought a lot about why I got cancer. I don't come from a cancer family. Every family has their fault lines and ours is heart and stroke on both sides. I've been trying to figure it out. I do know that I was bitten by a black widow spider and within a week I had pains in my stomach. I don't think it gave me cancer. I do believe though that things are triggered and that might have been one of the things that triggered it. But I beat it. I had lymphoma of the stomach and I'm five years clean.
Name something you consider a mind-altering work of art:
"Piss Christ." I never saw it but it certainly did change things. It was a crucifix, a rosary — a large one — with Jesus on it, submerged in a jar of urine called "Piss Christ." There's also "Piss Mohammed," which is just an empty jar of urine. I love that joke! Will that get me killed? I like "Piss Mohammed," an empty jar of urine.
What has been your most memorable or inspirational gig and why?
I'm going to go way back to high school and going to see a production of The Trojan Women with Martha Henry. That blew my mind. Her performance was just mind-boggling. I'd never seen anyone so alive and so in the moment in my life. I'd never really seen acting like that. Stratford, grade 10, yeah, that was a big one.
What have been your career highs and lows?
A year ago I did a cruise in the Mediterranean. I did stand-up on an all-gay cruise. That would absolutely be the low point. No one came to see me. They had to move me into a smaller theatre, they eventually cancelled all of my shows — it was a disaster. Thousands of gay men — not one of them came to see me, and yet Kathy Griffin was aboard and they all flocked to her. It was a very distressing ten days. Gay men won't go see other gay men so it was a very sad trip for me. They only go see women, as a group, generally. I'm stereotyping. But yeah, 1,800 seats with maybe 30 people on a boat full of thousands of gay men. That was rough.
Another great low was when the Kids in the Hall did Comic Relief and we bombed. We bombed on Letterman. "Reg," yeah we did "Reg" — wrong sketch.
And high points? The Larry Sanders Show, there were lots of high points there. Being called "a hockey puck" by Don Rickles — that was fabulous. Improvising a scene with kd lang about Chatelaine magazine and curling. We had this scene they'd written for us with all of these Canadian jokes that we thought were lame and kd and I said, "Let us just make this up. We're gonna talk about curling," and it worked really, really well. Winning the Rose of Montreux, which is an international television prize given to the best television series in the world, and we won it in 1993. Number one; they called it the most innovative show on television in the world. That was pretty amazing. That made up for our lack of Geminis.
What's the meanest thing ever said to you before, during or after a gig?
"Die, AIDS faggots, die."
What should everyone shut up about?
Whatever offends them. People need to stop it. Here's what's worrying me about the age of outrage; it's like The Boy Who Cried Wolf. When something really terrible happens, are we ever going to be able to recognize it? How are we going to recognize really egregious offenses when we're upset about so many stupid little things? Like the faux outrage over Trevor Noah — what nonsense. So, I would just say "everything." I'm at the point now where I refuse to be outraged. Even if someone said to me today, "Die, you AIDS faggot, die," I'd go, "Oh well, that's his opinion." I would just go, "He has a right to his opinion. His opinion, that I should get AIDS and die. That's an opinion."
What traits do you most like and most dislike about yourself?
I hate my temper. That's my worst quality. My best quality I guess would be my energy? My energy.
What's your idea of a perfect Sunday?
Breakfast in bed, leisurely sex, a pot brownie, and all the newspapers. All of them. Today I had a distressing thing; I went to one of my stores where I usually get magazines and they've stopped selling magazines. She just said it's not worth it. All magazines. All. I think we're going to have a reckoning [about the internet]. Just because we can do something doesn't mean we should. I'm a little worried that we've taken a wrong turn.
What advice should you have taken, but did not?
Smoking. I should never have started smoking. Should never have had a cigarette when I was young. That's definitely a regret.
What would make you kick someone out of your band and/or bed, and have you?
I have never kicked anyone out of a group or a band, no. I have never kicked anyone out of bed. If someone is willing to have sex with me, I'm not going to kick them out of bed. I usually try to be a good sport and finish it off. Bad breath is a deal-breaker. Also, people who refuse to cut their toenails. Are they resistors or pacifists? How could anyone look down and think, "Oh, it's alright for my toenails to extend half an inch." That's a decision; that's not just laziness. You can't have that in a barefoot band. See, I have a foot fetish so that would be huge for me. That would not stand.
What do you think of when you think of Canada?
Lakes and compromise.
What was the first LP/cassette/CD/eight track you ever bought with your own money?
Oh, Alice Cooper, Killer. I liked Alice Cooper and I never had an album before. It had a scary cover; I think there was a snake on it? It was either that or Cat Stevens, Catch Bull at Four. Very different. Honestly, as a kid, we were not a music family, we weren't allowed to listen to music really, and so none of us had records and stuff. So, all through high school, I only had two records: Catch Bull Four and Killer. Oh, the other album I owned was the soundtrack to Mary Poppins.
What was your most memorable day job?
I was a rickshaw driver in Toronto. I only lasted one day because, on my second day, I hit a car with the rickshaw and the guy got out and yelled at me and I realized I'd damaged the car, so I just dropped the rickshaw and ran away and never answered my phone for the next three days. I abandoned the rickshaw and just never went back to work. It was hard; you're an animal. You have to be strong for that. It's a good workout, I'll tell you.
How do you spoil yourself?
I don't spoil myself near enough. Clothes; I love clothes. Shoes. [I have] 16 pairs; that's not that many is it? Also, a lot of exotic travel; I don't go to five-star hotels or anything. I like to go to developing countries and I find that very interesting. When I was a teenager, I lived in the Philippines for a year on an exchange program and it changed my life. So yeah, my last big trip was Nicaragua, before that it was Tanzania, and before that it was Egypt. I don't really do a lot of planning. I just go and plop myself down and figure it out when I'm there. I go by myself. It's the only way to meet people. It's lonely and it can be very difficult in those first few days but it forces you out of your shell; you have to talk to people or you go crazy.
If I wasn't acting or performing comedy, I would be…
Writing science fiction.
What do you fear most?
Snakes and heights. I don't mind a tall snake but I wouldn't want to have a snake dropped on me from a cliff or I wouldn't want to jump off of a cliff and land on a snake. If I fell off a cliff and was dangling from a root and someone sent in a snake for me to grab on to, I'd probably just let go and fall. I'd rather die than be rescued by a snake.
What makes you want to take it off and get it on?
You mean what makes me horny? That is what you're asking. That's weird. I don't know that I want to answer this. A hairy chest, I'll just say that. I love hairy guys, hairy men. Manscaping is over, it's done. No one's doing that anymore. Maybe straight people are still, but gay people aren't. The young ones? No. The young ones are letting it all grow. I love beards. Ok, that's what really turns me on: a beard. This is why I really love the hipster era — because beards make me crazy. Like, not a ZZ Top beard but yeah. Here's what makes me crazy: a really thick, luxurious black beard. That makes me nuts. Especially if the guy's bald. Like a bald guy with a black beard. Or a black bald guy with a beard — ok, you've teased it out of me.
What has been your strangest celebrity encounter?
Well, going to see a UFC fight with Laurence Fishburne certainly is up there. That was definitely one of my great celebrity evenings. I was there for all the wrong reasons. And he knew; he liked it. He asked me to go! When Laurence Fishburne asks you to go see a UFC championship fight, you go! And you sit in the front row — my God, I was so close I could smell them. It was crazy. There was a splash guard — for me. Yeah, that was an evening I'll never forget. It was in Toronto. The best part was that, at the end of the evening, they put up Laurence and me on the Jumbotron. And underneath Laurence it said like, 'Laurence Fishburne — Matrix star' and then underneath me, nothing. Nothing. As if I was just his unidentified companion. In my own town; that's pretty humiliating. Canada, really? Nothing?
Who would be your ideal dinner guest, living or dead, and what would you serve them?
Jesus and I would serve him Shake'n'Bake. He'd love it. He's a Shake'n'Bake kind of guy. That would be a pretty interesting character to meet. Yeah, I'd love to have a dinner with Buddha, Mohammed, Jesus, Krishna — I'd love to have all the gods. I find religion fascinating and I really think it's sad that kids don't learn religion anymore. You have to know about religion. All of our art is based on it. You need to know about archetypes. This is why I think they threw the baby out with the bath water in terms of religion in schools. I'm not saying you teach religion, like an official religion, but kids need to know the stories of religion. Those stories from the sacred texts are reflected in books, movies, and songs. It's the basis of our culture and archetypes.
It worries me that in our urge to be secular and move away from religion, we're gonna throw out stuff that we need. I really think they need to teach religion in school again. I'm not saying this is a Christian world but you need to know those stories. These are archetypes that have been around for thousands of years that we need to know. People need to know that Buddha abandoned his family. They need to know that Jesus fed the multitudes with loaves of bread. These are just stories but they're important.
Like, I wish I knew the story of Mohammed. I wish I knew what happened in Medina, know what I mean? I wish I knew these stories, especially in the pluralistic society that we live in, I think it would be very good for Christians to know Hindu and Buddhist myths and vice versa. I really do. I'm not saying any one is better but you need to know that. Like, if you're talking about a book or a painting and you say, "Well, of course this is reminiscent of the Virgin Mary holding Jesus as a baby," and someone says "Well, what's that?" If people don't know those stories, how can they analyze things? It's part of critical thinking. There's no harm in talking about the differences [between us] and to pretend that there aren't differences is disingenuous.
What does your mom wish you were doing instead?
Oh, she wishes I was lawyer. She thought I spoke well and was good in debates so she thought I should be a lawyer.
What song would you like to have played at your funeral?
How about Macy Gray's "I Try." It's all about never giving up. Dead isn't dead.
Listen to Scott Thompson answer these questions as well as more conversation about the Kids in the Hall reunion and much more below: