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Roses Are Read
NN ARBOR, Mich., April 11,
2006 - Went back to the
alma mater today, back to
chool. Went back, way back, all the
ay back to my freshman dorm room.
knocked on the door, and out came
ome kid wearing a "Pearl Jam
Reunion Tour" T-shirt. I asked him if
e saw the band in concert, and he
said he hadn't - his parents did, and
hey bought him the shirt. He said he
d Pearl Jam. He said he was only
wearing the shirt because he was
Ilmost out of clothes, he needed to do
aundry, and who was I, anyway? I
ust walked away
I took a stroll on the Diag, stood on
he 'M,' stared at the buildings. Some
f the buildings looked familiar, some
I swear I've never seen before. I
remember when I was a student here,
half the place was under construction:
rhe construction was finished long
i* Now students walk to class
without any concept of what was here
before. Not that they care, or should.
I passed by the kiosks, which, as
always, were filled with fliers of
every color. I stepped closer and read
the fliers, which touted MSA'parties I
had never heard of, bands I had never
heard of, even bars I had never heard
*surprisingly, 1 actually saw
& ebody I recognized. A friend who
graduated with me. Kind of a slacker,
as I recall. He looked the same as I
remembered, with a young female
student next to him - except that he
was wearing a tie and teaching the
student history. He's a professor now.
He was holding office hours.
The University has changed since it
was an odd mixture of flannel shirts
and strange accents and textbooks and
*ail and beer - none of which I
really enjoyed enough at the time,
except the beer. None of them are a
part of my life anymore, except the
In time, we chose our majors,
settled in with our own groups of
friends - we "found ourselves," as
they used to say. But despite our
separate paths, mutual experiences
nected us. Most of us still
ember where we were when Chris
Webber called timeout, or what we
thought of Hash Bash or where our
favorite spots to study were. We still
remember certain moments, and we
still remember who was with us at
those moments. Those friendships
were unlike any before or since,
friendships we knew would last
don't keep in touch with my
c ege friends much anymore. The
inevitable factors of time and space
have wedged between us, whittled
away at the connections. It isn't
anybody's fault. It just happened.
That's why I came back here, I
guess. I haven't been back much
lately - not enough, anyway. The
more time passed, the fewer reasons I
had to come back here. And the more
So here I am, wandering around the
few square blocks where my days
once unfolded. I walked along the
same streets - State Street,
Washtenaw, Tappan, South U. I
almost got lost on South U., if you
can believe that.
This town has evolved since the
days when we couldn't have enough
coffee shops or pizza places. In a
erate attempt to find something
t hadn't changed, I went up to
Michigan Stadium. I remember
walking there on crisp autumn
Saturdays, when the old stadium was
filled with seemingly everyone I
knew. Today the stadium was locked,
of course - they don't play football
in April. I knew it would be locked. A
cool breeze blew, affecting me and
me alone as I stood against the chain-
fence. It felt weird, eerie, so I left
the stadium. Feeling hungry, I went
back to my favorite sandwich place.
It's a store now.
I almost gave up, almost gave up
on salvaging anything from my visit.
This is somebody else's school now, I
By Neal C. Carruth, Daily Arts Writer
he Canadian comedy troupe, the Kids in the Hall,
recently made its first foray onto the big screen with
"Brain Candy," a feature-length film to be released
nationwide tomorrow. The film stars veteran Kids David
Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney
and Scott Thompson. Thompson, with the Kids since 1984,
has been doing publicity work for "Brain Candy" for several
months, and he spoke with me during his recent visit to Ann
Most striking was Thompson's relaxed manner. He wore a
comfortable sweater and appeared to be quite reflective on
this particular day, taking long pauses punctuated by sips of
coffee. The impish, unshaven face that was normally
adorned, on the series, with wigs, prostheses and a silly
voice, was somewhat startling, at first.
Thompson conveyed a mixture of energy and exhaustion,
surely a function of the seemingly endless stream of inter-
views and conference calls. He spoke with surprising
seriousness, though this was often animated by bursts of the
disarming irreverence that set "Kids in the Hall" apart from
other programs of the sketch comedy ilk.
Foremost on Thompson's mind was "Brain Candy," a
project with which he has been involved for most of the past
year. Thompson described the film as the story of "a scientist
who discovers an instant cure to depression. His drug is taken
out of his hands by a ruthless pharmaceutical corporation and
disseminated to the world with comic consequences." As was
the norm in their work on television, each.of the Kids takes
multiple roles, playing both male and female characters.
Thompson, himself, plays eight roles. They range from
Wally, an uptight business executive, who refuses to come to
grips with his homosexuality, to Mrs. Hurdicure, a kindly old
woman who is a subject in the drug experiment. Thompson
was elated by the opportunity that a feature film presented for
deepening his characterizations. "You can do so much more
subtle work," he said. "There's a richness to film that makes
life seem so much more exciting."
For Thompson, the film was a great learning experience. "I
grew as an actor. I learned a lot about how the system
works," he said. As well as augmenting his acting abilities,
the film also sharpened Thompson's writing: "I learned a lot
about what people need in a movie; how they need some sort
of emotional resolution."
Despite these positive lessons, Thompson also spoke of the
more unsavory side of show business. "I'm dazzled and
freaked out by the publicity," he said, in reference to the
unparalleled level of self-promotion in Hollywood. Addition-
ally, he was bothered by the extent to which film is a
collaborative process. "The fewer cooks the better. Leave the
artist alone. Not all films need to be blockbusters." In a
similar, but more lighthearted vein, he added, "And some
actors need to be slapped around. They make too much ...
money. They're not that smart anyway."
While growing up in Canada, Thompson aspired to be an
actor. He attended York University for two years, studying
drama. He first saw the Kids in the Hall perform in Toronto
in 1984. The group then consisted of Thompson's four fellow
members and Luciano Casimeri. At the time, Thompson
"wanted to be a comedian, but I didn't know how to do it.
Every time I would do stand-up, I would lose my temper."
When he saw the "raw, wild" midnight shows put on by
the Kids, he became an ardent follower. Thompson said he
threw donuts at the group until they gave him a chance to
n ic Il sof 4Kid
__- _- r
perform with them, at which point, "I made myself indispens-
able. I just never left. I was like a planter's wart that never
left." For the next five years, the Kids in the Hall did exten-
sive stage improvisation and skit work at the Rivoli in
Their break came when their "show biz daddy," fellow
Canadian Lorne Michaels, creator and producer of "Saturday
Night Live," saw them perform in 1987 and began to groom
them for television. Their television show premiered in 1989,
as a co-production of HBO and the Canadian Broadcasting
Company. From 1992-94 they were co-produced by CBC and
CBS and, most recently, by cable television's Comedy
Central. The final episode of "Kids in the Hall" aired on
Comedy Central in December 1994.
Thompson said that the co-production was a beneficial
arrangement. "We needed an American partner. Canadian
television was always famous for looking cheap. We needed
to look better." But this financial support opened the often
unbridled comics up to the imposition of American standards.
Thompson didn't like "the time slot or censorship" of the
CBS relationship. "We were ruthlessly cut on CBS. And I'm
against it. It's the parents' responsibility." He added that even
at HBO "there were limits" to what could be said and done.
Despite these constraints, Thompson believed that the
show's devoted following stemmed from that fact that as
actors, "we were true to ourselves. We never pandered to
anyone's intelligence." And as the show became more
popular, Thompson said that the level of censorship dimin-
ished. "By the end of our third season on CBC, we were
getting away with everything. We just wore them down. As a
group," he added, "we're like a hopped-up pit bull."
After the dissolution of the Kids and before their work on
"Brain Candy," Thompson joined the cast of HBO's "Larry
Sanders Show," starring Gary Shandling. Shandling tracked
down Thompson, who was on vacation in Istanbul, and asked
him to take the part of Brian, a production assistant on
Shandling's fictional show. Thompson was enthusiastic about
the chance to play "a real character, a real person" and also
pleased to return to the "immediacy of television." He enjoyed
working with Shandling, rising up and indulging in an
impersonation of him: "Is my ass fat? Are my lips too big?" he
intoned in Shandling's whiny voice.
Thompson recently completed "Hijacking Hollywood," an
independent production filmed for $200,000 with Henry
Thomas ("E.T."). In addition, Thompson has been auditioning
for other roles, but his enthusiasm is slight because, "they're
just not great parts." And he's not getting the parts he is
interested in: "I wanted to play a real thug in the new 'Aliens.'
There was this other part playing a thug in a Jessica Lange
movie. Then there's another part of another, well, smart thug.
But they're not letting me play thugs and I wanna play that."
When the publicity duties for "Brain Candy" subside,
Thompson hopes to write another film and would like to see
the Kids make more films together, although he does not
anticipate more work on television by the Kids. And unlike
other actors, he has no interest in following the well-worn path
from acting to directing. "Look what happens when actors
direct. Look at 'Braveheart.' You direct a mediocre movie and
you win Oscars."
Peering into the distant future, Thompson would like to have a
television variety show. "That would be great," he said. "Carol
Burnett was a huge influence on me. She was my goddess when I
was a child. I could certainly see myself doing that."
For now, Thompson is guarded about the future of the Kids
and is optimistic that "Brain Candy" will be a success. "I hope
that it becomes like 'Spinal Tap.' That would be great," he
enthused. He even proposed an equation which yields the essence
of the film:"'This is Spinal Tap' +'Network' + 'Blue Velvet' +
'Lair of the White Worm' - 'Black Sheep' = 'Brain Candy."'
Thompson believes that "Brain Candy" is a worthwhile
product of the Kids' labors; at least three of the films in his
"equation" share the dark undercurrents of their movie. "Some
parts are very painful. There are certain hings-in the film that
reflect the truth of us. You'll have to figure that part out."