Before “Key & Peele” and “Tim & Eric,” there was “Kids in the Hall” – the five-man Canadian sketch-comedy series that ran in the U.S. from 1988 to 1995 and introduced immortal characters like Chicken Lady and Mr. Tyzik the Headcrusher.
Cast member Kevin McDonald may not have had the most indelible lead characters (he’s often joked about being the least popular member), but with his dark, wild curls and expressive features, he always stood out.
“Mark (McKinney’s) characters are way more popular, but if we’re walking through the airport people will come up to me,” says McDonald, whose characters included the King of Empty Promises and Nutty Bunny No. 3.
These days, McDonald is conducting sketch comedy workshops and trying his hand at standup for the first time. Both endeavors bring him to Salisbury’s Lee Street Theatre Friday and Saturday: He’ll headline the 2014 Comedy Fest as well as lead a workshop focusing on comedy techniques and demonstrating the sketch writing process via improv.
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Improv can be daunting, he says.
“I use the improv more as a tool,” he says. “It’s about writing sketches, and improv is the best way to learn how. That’s scared a few people. I’ve had two or three people leave.”
As for standup, “I’d never done it when I was a young guy,” McDonald says. “People knew that wasn’t my forte. I knew it was comedy acting, specifically sketch comedy. A few years ago, the ‘Kids’ tour got canceled and Scott Thompson suggested (he and I) go on a tour and do standup. I wrote a standup act. It’s me doing Kevin McDonald doing it as a sketch. That’s the way I was able to write it and do it. I see myself as a character. A lot of my standup is me doing me doing standup.”
Since “Kids in the Hall,” McDonald has voiced characters on TV’s “Lilo & Stitch” and “Fishhooks” and has guest starred on sitcoms like “That ’70s Show,” but “Kids” remains his most beloved series. Earlier this year, the cast regrouped for a tour of new material, which they’ll revisit in 2015.
McDonald is currently shooting a Canadian TV show titled “Delmar & Marta” in which he plays the boss (“I’m at the age where I play bosses now”) and he’s written a pilot.
“It’s nice to not call the shots sometimes and just get the scripts and go to work,” he says of his guest stints and voice work.
He also did a two-week stint guest writing for “Saturday Night Live” during Melissa McCarthy and Jonah Hill’s episodes last season.
“That was amazing,” says McDonald, who grew up watching “SNL,” “SCTV” and “Monty Python.” “It was like the most fun I’ve ever had (outside of ‘Kids’). ... There was no pressure. I wasn’t going to get fired.”