A Kid In The Hall
In the years since his run on the popular sketch comedy series The Kids in the Hall, Kevin McDonald has been busy. He’s had spots and done voice work on numerous television shows, he recently released a comedy album, and he just wrapped a pilot alongside Rob Corddry.
He also visits various places to host instructional workshops for sketch comedy — and Oahu is next on his list. He teaches a workshop from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Aug. 6, coupled with two live performances at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 5 and 6, all at Windward Community College’s Paliku Theatre.
The workshop is designed to walk students through the process of writing comedy sketches utilizing improvisation. His performances will feature original work from his stand-up routines, sketch comedy segments and TV scripts. Plus, taking the stage with him is local group On The Spot Improv.
McDonald has been sharing his knowledge through these workshops for the past few years, after he was asked to come up with an instructional session to fill a lull during a comedy festival.
He found he loved teaching. “I sort of like hearing the sound of my own voice,” he says with a laugh.
More seriously, he explains that he has a repertoire of methods of developing sketch comedy pieces that he enjoys sharing.
“I have had all these theories (for writing sketch) for years that I have bored other comedians with at parties,” he says. “My way isn’t the way, but it is a way that I think is valid. It’s so fun to see it go from my mind to paper to practice — to see it actually work.”
While McDonald has had ample career success, it didn’t come easy at first. In college, he studied acting, but was asked to leave after failing a few classes. The dean told him that he was a “one-legged actor,” that he was only good at comedy.
“I was sad. I was devastated,” he recalls.
But while leaving campus, his improv teacher ran up to him and said he might be a one-legged actor, but that that “one leg was really good.” The teacher encouraged him to pursue improv and connected him to comedy troupe The Second City (which has churned out notables like Bill Murray, Tina Fey and countless more), which is where he met the other founders of The Kids in the Hall.
McDonald’s Aug. 6 workshop focuses on the method they used in The Kids in the Hall: writing sketches through improvisation.
That strategy, he admits, came out of necessity. When they first started, they were still honing their writing skills — and they found that the easiest way to write a sketch was to start by improvising.
“You have five minutes to create your own world,” he says of the art form. “Sketch comedy, at its best, is sort of a middle — where the characters in the sketch you could tell have had a life before the scene started, and they are going to have a life after the scene ends. It is sort of a slice of life — but a funny slice of life.”
In the meantime, McDonald provided one improv secret: It works best when you help the other people on stage.
“It’s like a basketball team — I don’t always hog the ball, I want to pass it sometimes.”
Tickets cost $25 for the performances and $300 for the workshop; tickets can be purchased via Eventbrite. For more information, email On The Spot Improv at email@example.com.
A FEW OF OUR FAVORITE KIDS IN THE HALL SKETCHES FEATURING KEVIN MCDONALD —JAMES NAKAMURA
An example of physical comedy that distills all of McDonald’s talents. Panicky. Insecure. Frazzled. Angry. Mr. Pin was created as a spoof of HBO’s Mr. Bean, a silent comedy series. Posing as a Mr. Bean-esque caricature, McDonald stands in a grocery store line, and quietly grows more and more frustrated as the line stalls. Physical comedy (with air quotes) ensues. The punchline? He had nothing to buy with him at the check stand. Realizing this, he shuffles off.
King of Empty Promises
In this sketch, McDonald plays Dean, an absent-minded friend who borrows a video rental (it’s the ‘90s) from his coworker, Lex. He never returns it. As the late fees pile on, Lex’s exasperation escalates. “Did you bring the video?” he squeaks through gritted teeth. “Slipped my mind,” replies McDonald’s Dean in an uncharacteristically detached and monotone delivery. “I tell ya what I’ll do: I’ll bring the video tomorrow, plus I’ll buy ya one.” “You’d really do that?” asks Lex. “Will do,” says Dean, already forgetting.
Two friends are seated at a diner. McDonald’s character is trying to help his buddy Dave remember the name of a film he saw the night before. “Well, what was it about?” Kevin asks. Dave replies, “It’s about this newspaper tycoon and he’s dead, and everybody is telling stories about him, and —” “It’s Citizen Kane,” proclaims Kevin. “Nnnoo,” says Dave. “OK, who was in it?” asks Kevin “Orson Welles,” answers Dave. “It’s Citizen Kane!” insists Kevin. This continues until one of them stabs the other in the hand with a knife.