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April 20, 2009 3:36 PM   Subscribe

Buddy Cole on (1) Love at First Sight, (2) Racism, (3) Dinosaurs, (4) Being Canadian, (5) Finding Love and (6) Outing Celebrities.
posted by ericb (34 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

Scott Thompson also does a good job playing the Queen and a senile old man.
posted by furtive at 4:06 PM on April 20, 2009

Being Canadian

I don't know how many times I've done that speech verbatim sitting at the bar. That bastard Thompson stole it from me.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 4:07 PM on April 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

Am I the only one who never got what was funny about these? I loved Kids in the Hall, but I guess my irony gland isn't sufficiently developed because it all just played like a gay minstrel show to me and yet many people I know, gay or straight, thought of them as the highlights of those episodes.
posted by Riki tiki at 4:08 PM on April 20, 2009

I found Buddy funny, but I always thought Scott Thompson was best in straight drag, especially his characters who had furrowed brows and big mustaches. Of course, in the KITH movie, it turned out that character was actually gay.

You're gay. Your family knows it. I know it. Hell, even your dog knows it. The only person who doesn't seem to know it is ... YOU.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:13 PM on April 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

a gay minstrel show

Scott is the gay one. (Also: Bellini)
posted by Sys Rq at 4:19 PM on April 20, 2009

Oscar Wilde? He'd never make it on TV!
posted by maryh at 4:23 PM on April 20, 2009

I know Scott is gay. Minstrel shows can be performed by members of the group they're portraying.
posted by Riki tiki at 4:34 PM on April 20, 2009

Which, don't mistake me, I'd love to be proven wrong. I really feel like there must've been some key thing I was missing that would make it funny. But if I was right about the nature of those sketches then it doesn't change my opinion of them whether they were written or performed by gay people.
posted by Riki tiki at 4:40 PM on April 20, 2009

I've always thought that Buddy Cole was so extreme that he was a parody of gay stereotypes, not gay people. But in the end, Buddy is a character unto himself, and likeable on his own merits. I'm always laughing with him, not at him.
posted by heathkit at 4:59 PM on April 20, 2009

Kids in the Hall was very spotty-- 20% brilliant, 30% okay, 50% awful. The 20% that was brilliant was SO good that it makes KITH one of the best sketch comedy series ever-- it probably justified the price of an HBO subscription at the time. Buddy Cole, however, was in the bottom 10% of the bottom 50%.

I can understand how if you were involved in gay culture in the late 80s and early 90s it was awesome to see an outspoken gay character on TV. I'm just saying that Buddy Cole was an ordeal that the rest of us had to sit through to get back to the funny stuff. (Scott Thompson was awesome in a lot of his roles. I'm dismissing the character, not him.)
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:00 PM on April 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Fine Ham Abounds.
posted by sixswitch at 5:15 PM on April 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

What I find about old KITH episodes is they usually have a great deal of affection for the people they're poking fun at, even if it's just by the close observation and acting out of quirks. And that insight into the characters in the skits is sometimes what made it so great even when it wasn't gut bustingly funny. The sketches with the Kathys were like that.

Scott's portrayal of Buddy was never mean spirited. And there is something to be learned, I think, from comparing KITH to Tim and Eric. Compare Gavin to Casey Tatum. There's no affection in what Tim and Eric do, not much insight into the characters, and sometimes barely any humanity. It's mean, contemptuous humor. And I laugh, and feel bad for laughing. Sign of the times.

Watch out sixswitch, some of that ham can be salty.
posted by fleetmouse at 5:24 PM on April 20, 2009 [4 favorites]

Thanks, ericb!

Anybody got a video link of the farting Queen Elizabeth sketch? I tried to re-enact it for a friend recently after we watched Helen Mirren in The Queen. Searching "kids in the hall" and "Queen" and "fart" on youtube didn't bring up anything likely.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 5:24 PM on April 20, 2009

Well, see, the thing is, the point, more or less, is, "Why yess, I am a homossexual. Doess that bother you?" The very openly gay shtick carried over into CODCO. On state-sponsored network television. Uncensored.

Scott Thompson and Tommy Sexton used fag and homo like certain other comedians use certain other slurs. It was a reclamation. It was, "Yeah, so what?"

And it all came from the very long queer tradition of camp.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:40 PM on April 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Fair enough... maybe it's just that I watched it years later, when having a stereotypical flamingly gay character on TV was neither unusual nor played for irony or "reclamation" or anything. However, rewatching these clips, I wonder how much of the out-loud laughter from the audience is "haha that's an ironic portrayal of gay stereotypes" and how much is "haha lookit the wacky homo". Maybe I'm cynical, but subversive irony doesn't usually get a lot of belly laughs.
posted by Riki tiki at 6:01 PM on April 20, 2009

Buddy's all right, not my favourite but had some good moments. I love him on the desert island with Oscar Wilde, as linked above.

The best/worst point of Kids In the Hall has to be Chalet 2000, where Thompson plays both Cole and the Queen. (Look out for Degrassi's BLT as one of his sexy servants!) It's sublimely awful. I can't believe they let him do a whole Buddy Cole episode. Of course, they can't either, as discussed in this awesome AV Club interview from last year.
posted by yellowbinder at 6:31 PM on April 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

If anything, I think Buddy Cole normalised gayness to some extent for Canadians. He was over the top, sure, but he was also portrayed as smart, capable and completely self-aware. Compare him to the gay film critics of In Living Color and I think it's obvious that Buddy is a three-dimensional character while the other two are just unflattering, mean-spirited caricatures.

Kids in the Hall was a miracle. It still fills me with amazement, joy and not a little national pride to know that the CBC, the govt.-run television station, picked up the show and ran with it for so long. How the hell did they get away with being so frank, so weird and so open in the late 80's/early 90's?
posted by picea at 6:40 PM on April 20, 2009 [3 favorites]

Don't forget about Buddy Cole's appearance in Bruce Labruce's Super 8-1/2, an old favorite of mine.
posted by troybob at 7:35 PM on April 20, 2009

Were there many gay people offended by the Buddy Cole thing at the time? I was just coming out back then, and his stuff is part of the landscape of that time for me. I loved what he did, but I do generally find gay stereotypes funny. (The only exception I can recall is Eddie Murphy, whose gay stuff I always viewed as kinda hostile.) Gays at least have the fun stereotypes; other minority stereotypes are dull, dull, dull. It's like gay stereotypes are a really neat brochure for being gay--and a useful one; learn to laugh at yourself and you don't really give a crap about what anyone else thinks of you.
posted by troybob at 7:51 PM on April 20, 2009

I have hoped to bump into Scott Thompson randomly in public for a long time, so I could thank him for single-handedly demonstrating the stupidity of my adolescent homophobia. I have visceral memories of watching the first seasons when they aired on HBO; and they were often jarring in the best, most liberating way.

The Buddy Cole character was brilliant. For my part, he dared me not to like him, and I couldn't do it. The interior monologue of a straight kid in an evangelical household in the burbs went something like:

> he's totally gay
> wait, he's not ashamed of it
> wait, he's pretty damned smart and funny
> but he's not ashamed - shouldn't he be?

I had to answer that question, and the answer was crystal fucking clear. I'm very grateful to Thompson for having put himself out there in that way.
posted by Dr. Boom at 8:02 PM on April 20, 2009 [11 favorites]

I always like Scott best as a frumpy housewife.. preferably with Bruce McCullough as the irascible husband. Buddy was, of course, over the top, but he was so smooth about it.
posted by Mael Oui at 8:23 PM on April 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Minstrel shows degrade their subjects and make the audience feel superior. The original minstrel shows depicted blacks as lazy and scheming, or at best as simple, happy idiots. Buddy Cole was observant, intelligent, funny, and always seemed to get the better of whatever situation he was in. I think it's because Buddy was Scott Thompson -- just an exaggerated version, kind of like a stand-up comic's stage persona. I could easily see him delivering the "Racism" piece without the Buddy persona at all.
posted by PlusDistance at 9:40 PM on April 20, 2009

That's great to hear about, Dr. Boom. I liked the Buddy character just for his verve, but wondered just how much was stereotype or parody or camp...and it also occurred to me that maybe being all that with verve (not to mention being funny) could possibly break down some barriers. Now I know it did!
posted by bonefish at 9:42 PM on April 20, 2009

it probably justified the price of an HBO subscription at the time.

Oh dear. Our National Broadcaster in the Great White North gave it to us for free. That must be why you, our darling southern neighbours, are so dyspeptic at times.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 11:33 PM on April 20, 2009

Our National Broadcaster in the Great White North gave it to us for free.

And they will, again.

Bonus photo of Sir Simon Milligan and Hecubus sharing a happy moment in the pit of penultimate darkness.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:47 PM on April 20, 2009

I love Buddy. I've got his autobiography. I have to wonder how Buddy handled Scott quitting smoking.
posted by crataegus at 1:22 AM on April 21, 2009

Scott did a very Buddy-Colesque bit in a sketch on Tim and Eric's Awesome Show Great Job! recently, but it was kind of painful.

I recently watched the whole Kids in the Hall series, never actually have seen a lot of it, and although there was a bad patch there towards the late middle of the run, it's still some great stuff.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:34 AM on April 21, 2009

I wonder how much of the out-loud laughter from the audience is "haha that's an ironic portrayal of gay stereotypes" and how much is "haha lookit the wacky homo". Maybe I'm cynical, but subversive irony doesn't usually get a lot of belly laughs.

Zero of the later and maybe some of the former. The audience would've been downtown Torontonians, a very hip crowd. People loved Buddy Cole because he was funny mainly, and also outrageous. You never knew what he might actually say. If it was all about the mannerisms and so on, it wouldn't matter what Buddy was actually saying - but it most certainly does & that should tell you something right there.

I imagine it's vaguely like watching BET comedy. A white person might get caught up thinking: is this comedian playing up a stereotype? Is the audience laughing at the stereotype? With the stereotype? For the audience though, it's much simpler - they're watching somebody tell jokes, and laughing at them.
posted by stinkycheese at 6:07 AM on April 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

Put another way, I'd say Scott Thompson doing Buddy Cole is akin to Rick Mercer doing his '22 Minutes' rants - it was a persona that allowed him to say things he might otherwise not get away with saying.
posted by stinkycheese at 6:09 AM on April 21, 2009

Ahh, as someone in the Toronto Gay scene in the late eighties/early nineties there were many "Buddy Cole"'s running around throwing the best parties and hanging out on the Steps. It was good to see this again. Watching this however made me realise how much my children's school principal echoes his speech and mannerisms.
posted by saucysault at 7:21 AM on April 21, 2009

Thank you for the collection! I love Buddy Cole, it's still the only mainstream comedy I've ever seen that was about gays and for gays. Scott's not compromising up there at all, not pandering in any way to people who might be offended or straight folks who aren't going to get all the in-jokes. He's just being hysterical, and campy, and right on queer.

I have a very fond memory of watching that Dinosaur sketch in 1990 or so. I was 18, just came home for Christmas from college for the first time. And came out to my mom, which went badly. Late one night I was sitting at home, feeling sorry for myself and lonely, and then I turned on the TV and there was Buddy Cole going on about Tyrannosaurus Rex and his faggy little hands. It was shocking to see that on US broadcast TV, they didn't even bleep the word "fag". And it was hysterical. I felt less lonely then.
posted by Nelson at 9:12 AM on April 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

Aww, Buddy Cole. So much awesome.

Years ago when Thompson was doing one of his tours he ended up drinking at the bar I worked at. Fucking hilarious guy, and would flip into the Cole character from time to time for shits and giggles. The character is pretty much the opposite of a minstrel show; he's simultaneously skewering the shit out of gay stereotypes while also saying "but hey, if that's you, then that's you and shine on you crazy diamond."

Refreshing thing to see on mainstream TV, when every other gay character is either a mean-spirited stereotype (Jack and clones) or a whitewashed, sanitised-for-Middle-America yuppie sweaterfag.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:57 AM on April 21, 2009

Ahh, as someone in the Toronto Gay scene in the late eighties/early nineties there were many "Buddy Cole"'s running around throwing the best parties and hanging out on the Steps.

Wait, Steps? What Steps? The KITH also occasionally did sketches framed as short episodes of a sitcom called "Steps", with Thompson playing the burly, stupid one. They were funny little character pieces, but I never got what the deal was with them sitting on those steps. Is this a late-eighties Toronto gay scene thing?
posted by heathkit at 3:07 AM on April 22, 2009

The Second Cup at Church and Wellesley had steps out front that were THE place to hang out if you were a young gay man in the late eighties in Toronto. It was an interesting microcosism of society happening there with nary a dull moment.
posted by saucysault at 10:49 AM on April 22, 2009

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