Somewhere in the Hollywood hills, a middle age dad discusses the viral Internet video “What Does the Fox Say” with his seven and nine-year-old kids. His son is enthralled with the carnivorous dance piece, while his daughter is more interested in deconstructing its comic appeal – a conversation which amuses their comedian father.
This is a snapshot in the life of Bruce McCulloch – comic, writer, actor, director, Kid in the Hall and creator of Young Drunk Punk, a solo performance exploring his often funny, and always true, journey from being an angry young punk in Alberta, to an L.A.-based husband and father relatively late in life.
“A punk isn’t a literal punk,” says McCulloch, on the phone from his home. “A punk is a questioning spirit, which is all of us, be we old or young. ‘Where do I fit in?’ has never changed. All the people I know, unsuccessful or very successful, either personally or professionally, are all the same.”
Via standup, storytelling and live music from Odds’ Craig Northey, Young Drunk Punk draws on tales from McCulloch’s as-yet unreleased book by the same name as he grapples with those bigger questions. The project comes at a time when McCulloch – despite having been behind a long list of comic television and big screen writing and directing successes – felt the weight of several failed network pilots and was hungry for the departure.
“Part of the impulse to do this show, is that I want to connect with people and have my ideas connect,” he says.
McCulloch performed an earlier version of the show with Brian Connelly last winter and more recently played to select L.A. audiences with Northey, who he calls on stage proof of the punk themes, having lived through similar experiences in the 1980s, before the two began working together in the early ‘90s.
“It’s a lot to take on, but it’s more rewarding than anything else you could do. Of course, I’m obsessive. ... I really want it to go well, but I’m not like I was when I was a young man. I want to have an honest experience.”
Part of that honest experience is in accepting what the young punk version of McCulloch would think of the man he has become.
He would be partially proud and partially ashamed, McCulloch says.
“It’s more about ‘Am I following my artistic spirit?’ which I think I am, mostly. I marvel at my former self and I’m bemused by my current self. As you get older, hopefully, you think more about the world than you do about yourself, which is where I would hope that I am.”
McCulloch, like his collaborator Northey, doesn’t place rigid expectations on his next endeavour. He does, however, foresee a change in locale. After 11 years in California, McCulloch hopes to bring his family home to Canada.
It’s natural for the Canadians to wander back at a certain point, he says, before confessing his daughter may possess the gene that will inevitably drive her on teenaged jaunts to the Viper Room.
Though able to joke with and about his children, the legendary comic hopes they choose a different path for themselves.
“It’s hard. Truly, almost all comedians come from a place of damage. All the ones I know have weird upbringings. Hopefully, I’m furnishing them with one where they don’t need to be comedians.”
McCulloch plays UVic at 8pm Jan. 24. Tickets, $28/35, at tickets.uvic.ca.