Some jokes never get old, except if they are racist, distasteful, and delivered by Bruce McCulloch. The now grown older (but not quite grown up) former Kid in the Hall McCulloch performed his one-man comedic show as part of Canada’s Magnetic North Theatre Festival. From the moment McCulloch struts on stage with his cocky grin, we know we are in for a bumpy ride. Had he not started the show with an off-colour joke about Jian Ghomeshi and consent, the audience might have been more willingly up for the ride, instead of eyeing up the emergency exits.
In the autobiographical show, McCulloch tells us about the messy world of a young punk growing up in Alberta, through to his personal perils of fatherhood and marriage. With a minimalist set and musical accompaniment by long-time friend Brian Connelly, McCulloch dances around a desk onstage as his dark bildungsroman unwinds. Growing up has never been easy or glamorous, and this piece is a humorous reminder of both. McCulloch recalls having had an intense desire as a teenager in the ‘80s to one day assert himself as a man by beating up his dad. Although he could not speak personally to the female equivalent of this urge, he assumed it was wearing your mother’s cocktail dress and looking better then her. And then throwing some Chardonnay in her face. Whether we have ever dreamed of having our old man pinned to the ground with the heel of our boot, or our mother soaked in white wine, the over-passionate and sensationalized teenage angst is something most audience members can relate to.
The McCulloch that we see on stage is no longer a wild punk from his younger years listening to eardrum-busting music and wearing pyjamas ironically. He has swapped his interest in punk for talking about his kids and now he just wears pyjamas without the ironic statement (though during the show he opts for jeans).
Although McCulloch delves into the more tender moments of his life, including his marriage and the decision to have a second child, this is difficult to follow due to the racy and gritty humour used early on in the show. The play begins with a song-like number and then segues into a slew of topical jokes and issues, which fell right off into the deep end of distasteful.
From his prairie roots to The Kids in the Hall, Bruce McCulloch is no doubt a Canadian icon. But how this piece fits into the Magnetic North Theatre Festival is still a little fuzzy. The festival promotes the evolution of Canadian theatre and one-of-a-kind experiences. While McCulloch and Connelly kept the audience entertained and laughing, this performance felt better suited to a late night bar, or even a stand up comedy event, not a theatre festival.
Coming out of the theatre we are made to wonder whether McCulloch’s coming of age story has really come to an end, or whether he still has a lot of growing up to do.
Young Drunk Punk
By Franziska M. Glen