Comic Stripped: Bruce McCulloch turns one-man gig into cool new TV show

It’s a good start, but sometimes seems a little safe for this Kids in the Hall alumnus

Of all the Kids in the Hall, I’ve always found Bruce McCulloch the hardest to pin down. So it’s ironic that his one-man shows are so candid about his life and personality.

The first, Two-Headed Roommate, contains one of my favourite lines ever: “No, I’m not tired, this is the way I look now.”

You could hardly call McCulloch a stage hog. His onscreen output has been minimal compared to some of his Kids colleagues.

Even he admits, “I’m really kind of a reluctant performer.”

McCulloch was the only Kid actively pursuing standup while taping the iconic series, which is how I got to know him. He did some great, innovative routines, including a jazz comedian who would snap his fingers and murmur, “Jokes … jokes,” while a tape of bass riffs would play.

I also helped buy him his first good suit. Seems he had an awards show to attend and needed to look the part. Knowing I had sartorial interests, he asked me to help him pick out an outfit. I took him to the nicest men’s shop on Bloor Street and chose a fine navy worsted. I’ll never forget the look on his boho face as he peeled off 11 one-hundred-dollar bills, each one exacting a further grimace.

He looked great in the suit, incidentally.

Beginning in the late ’90s, he directed a series of less than successful flicks and then seemed to disappear. But his one-man shows brought back his visibility, most prominently his latest, Young Drunk Punk, a saga of growing up alienated in Alberta.

The show has been turned into a TV series on Citytv and has Bruce playing his own father.

Calling Dr. Freud!

The title might be a bit misleading. The main character, a pre-college version of McCulloch, is less punk and more new wave — the cuter, less angry version of punk. There’s not a lot of danger here, but you will find a lot of skinny ties, shoulder pads and silly haircuts on these kids.

This unexpected sweetness does not ruin the show but enhances it. The ’80s milieu is funny in itself, an innocent decade ripe for lampooning.

The actor playing the young McCulloch, Tim Carlson, nails his role. The show is suffused with pop colours, and I can’t say enough good things about the period music. I loved when the Diodes’ chestnut “Tired (Of Waking Up Tired)” showed up on the soundtrack and upped the ante on the coolness of the show.

McCulloch is funny enough. He’s playing the straight man but has some good lines. There’s a funny extended sequence of young McCulloch and his best friend Shakey trying to get a job without a high school diploma — that dead-end world has rarely been captured better or funnier. The rest of the plot involves some shenanigans at a house party, but it’s all just an excuse for McCulloch and company to get some shots in at teen alienation, ’80s style — not a cellphone or computer in sight.

Sometimes the show feels like an edgier version of a Disney comedy. I spent some time hoping it would get darker and crazier like the Bruce McCulloch we all know.

A good start — definitely young, a bit drunk. Now let’s have some more punk, please.

Post City Magazines’ humour columnist, Mark Breslin, is the founder of Yuk Yuk’s comedy clubs and the author of several books, including Control Freaked.