It’s a free-for-all as Kids in the Hall’s Scott Thompson and Orange Is the New Black’s Lea Delaria talk comedy, gay rights and the importance of giving offense.
Metrosource caught up with Kids In the Hall alumnus Scott Thompson at the historic Stonewall Inn on tour to promote a new edition of his book, Buddy Babylon: The Autobiography of Buddy Cole.
For Scott and Lea, there’s no place like Stonewall — the birthplace of Pride. And in terms of gay characters, there’s no one like Buddy Cole, Scott’s character from Kids in the Hall. In a Metrosource exclusive, he wanted to share his Pride message with our readers:
Joining the merriment at Stonewall: Thompson’s longtime collaborator Paul Bellini.
Metrosource: It’s anarchy in here with you three…
Lea: You have three comedians talking. You have to go with it.
Scott: So here’s how we all know each other: Paul and I went to university together in Toronto. He was in film and I was in theater, and we worked on the school newspaper together, and we were also in a punk band, then we later wrote for Kids in the Hall together. Lea and I met in Montreal in 1993. Paul and I had recently seen her on Arsenio, I remember we were blown away because . . . it was like, 1993 and she was so … out there.
Lea: Yup! It’s the 1990s, it’s hip to be queer and I’m a BIG DYKE! I was the first . . . ‘openly gay’ — that’s the way they like to put it — the first queer comic on television in America. And that kind of exploded, and of course Scott was on Kids, so naturally I was watching them.
Scott: Then we met at the Just for Laughs Festival because we were both there.
Paul: There were so few gay comedians around then that we all met each other.
Lea: Meeting you, Scott, was such a thrill because I’d been watching you for years.
Scott: And then after that, Lea went to Edinborough for a festival and I thought, “I have nothing to do. I’ll just go there.’’ And I spent two-
Lea: THREE weeks, son!
Scott: Three weeks sharing an apartment, drinking and having sex with Scottish boys. We became instant friends, and since then we’ve done a bunch of things together.
Lea: And Paul and I are a very specific kind of Italian.
Paul: Right. Our ancestors are from the same province, so we have a deep and real connection.
Lea: Without a doubt.
Scott: And Lea is kind of an honorary Canadian.
Lea: I’m a huge Canadaphile.
Metrosource: That’s how all of you met. But Scott, how did you meet your Kids In the Hall character, Buddy Cole?
Scott: Buddy Cole was born in Paul’s basement right after university. Paul had just bought a video camera — in the early days of people actually having those. So we were at his place, and I’d met this guy I’d fallen for quite hard. He was quite effeminate, and I’d never really fallen for an effeminate guy before. But he was very sexy, physical, beautiful and aggressive. He was an Alpha Queen and I was so full of shame at the time. He died early in the epidemic, really fast. And then Paul had a friend who he used to imitate, too. So one day we were in Paul’s basement and we just turned the camera on. And Paul asked if I could do that voice. And I was a gay man so full of shame that I’d never even tried to do a voice like that. I always thought that if I started lisping, I’d never be able to stop. And I remember there were all these blue paintings, so the fist thing I remember saying was, “This is my blue period. You’re in my Blue Room. I’m a vampire.” I feel very comfortable and safe in his skin now.
Metrosource: Do you have a trigger that brings him out of you?
Scott: I guess the trigger would be, “Could you do Buddy Cole for us?” And I always say, “Of course I would, darling.”
Metrosource: Speaking of triggers, I’m such a fan of Kids in the Hall that if someone was to rush up to me and yell, “It’s Fact!” I’d say, “The Queen of England doesn’t know her ABCs!” And then you’d say:
Scott: (singing as Queen Elizabeth) A,B,C,D … X…P… Q. Oh, Hello!
Metrosource: I was sure that when Claire Foy left The Crown, they would turn to you.
Scott: That’s my big dream, to be the Queen from 46 on. I mean they want this show to go on for a long time, and I could do it. I’m available. And men have played women before on stage. I would love that. And I think I look better than Helen Mirren as the Queen.
Lea: Seriously. That’s your quote: “Better than Helen Mirren!”
Metrosource: Give me a moment to ask something serious, okay? When it comes to political issues Scott, you’ve had your home firebombed for creating a show satirizing Saddam Hussein; you’ve been close to school shootings. As a Canadian looking at the States from outside, what’s your perspective?
Scott: I have to be honest: I’m very worried about this country right now. Both sides are digging their heels in, and that’s not good for democracy or any kind of functioning society. I feel very much — as an outsider, as a comedian, and as a Canadian — that it’s more important than ever to serve comedy, because it’s a medium that can bridge the gap. Canada is doing well, but I am worried about this country; it’s taken a bad turn.
Paul: You know what we don’t have in Canada? Religious nuts.
Scott: Oh, it’s very frowned upon. You never get anywhere there using religion to win an argument.
Paul: We also don’t have guns.
Scott: And we don’t have your history, either. We share certain things, but we don’t share slavery. We share the genocide of Native Americans, for sure. But our West was not settled the way yours was.
Paul: We had the Mild West.
Scott: Right. Where you had the Wild West and all that, we had the Mounties go in to establish order and the rule of law. It’s very baked into the Canadian mindset that the state might know what’s better for you. That’s not a great thing, really. In fact, it might be a really bad thing. But it’s like multiculturalism; it’s just in our bones, from Day One: that we are a people of all kinds. And that, I think, sets us up for the future in a good way. I worry about America because it’s very difficult to fall from number one. If you fall from ten to eleven or move up to nine, it’s not as big a deal. So I think it’s going to be a very difficult transition for America. When England lost its position, they had a very rough time in the ’60s.
Metrosource: Well, we all have a significant vantage point, since none of us is under 30. So we’ve seen a lot. And all of the men here made it through the plague.
Lea: I made it through the plague too, thank you very much.
Metrosource: And that doesn’t get said enough.
Lea: It wasn’t just about the men. I lost too many friends for people to act like I wasn’t there.
Metrosource: How is it to live with the legacy of Kids In the Hall?
Scott: I’ve had my battles with it. Right now, I’m extremely content with it. And I know I’ll always be seen as a “Kid in the Hall,” and I’m okay with that. How can I be upset with being part of one of the greatest comedy troupes ever? So I’m very proud of it, and it’ll be on my gravestone, no question.
Metrosource: Four years ago, you brought Buddy Cole to The Colbert Report to offer commentary on the Sochi Olympics. I think he’d have loved how gay-inclusive the Pyeongchang games were.
Scott: Oh, I think Buddy would have loved this Olympics — especially the Canadian ice dancers.
Metrosource: When you see so many out-and-proud athletes, do you really think that it’s getting better for the LGBT community?
Lea: The pendulum has swung back and forth my entire life, and I’m constantly waiting for things to swing back the other way. Remember that when I came out, it was illegal to be queer in every state of the union. And I have spent the night in jail in two states for “open and notorious homosexuality.” In Illinois and Missouri — one for holding hands with a girl, and the second one for… a whole lot more. It’s always been four steps forward and two steps back.
Scott: And I’m like Lea, I’ve seen a lot of cycles and I’m waiting for it to swing back.
Metrosource: Lea, you’re one of the most visible lesbian faces on the planet. Do you feel like, even though Orange Is the New Black is a scripted show, that a big part of you comes through in it? Do you feel like you have something like a pulpit?
Lea: Sure. It projects who I am, I because the part was written for me. It didn’t exist in the original script. I mean, I said to my manager that if they’re making a show about women in prison and there isn’t a part for me, I’m gonna quit show business and move back to London. So that’s where I went. Then my manager calls me and says, “They agree with you and they’ve written you a part.” So I had to come back.
Metrosource: In terms of it being a platform, how does it feel to be considered by many to be the Lord of the Lesbians?
Lea: Well, look: Thank God for Scott and people like him, because we didn’t mince words. We didn’t shyly come out of the closet, when we were the first gay faces on television. We took a hand grenade to that closet door and it was never going to get closed again. And you know what? I am not a liberal. I am a radical. So I can argue equally with the right and the left. When people on the left go to some ludicrous place, I say to them, you should be down on your hands and knees kissing my toes and Scott Thompson’s, because we put you in a place where you can bitch at us. But to have this platform to spout my radical views? It’s a fabulous gift from God, and I’m running with it.
Scott: To Lea’s point, “being safe” and “worrying about offending people” has screwed up comedy in a lot of ways too, because comedy has always been to some degree about offending people and challenging them. And no matter how innocuous you are, you’re going to offend someone.
Lea: I always say that if I offended you, you probably needed it.
Last modified: August 8, 2018