What I learned from Scott Thompson

Last weekend I had the pleasure of opening for one of my comedic heroes, Scott Thompson from The Kids in the Hall. It was an amazing experience that I will never forget, and I’m not even sure what could top it. Just getting to see him on stage was enough, but I also got to spend some time with him back stage.

On Friday, the night of the first show, Scott arrived by Amtrak and his train wasn’t going to arrive until 30 minutes before show time so we were very nervous about him arriving on time. And his train was running late, but someone from the club was able to pick him up at a different stop and get to the club just minutes before he was supposed to go on. He made it right before I went up, but he was freshening up back stage so he didn’t get to see me perform and we only got to exchange hellos after the show.

On stage, Scott is a fantastic storyteller and is very animated. He didn’t talk about KITH at all and he didn’t perform any of his characters, so I got to see a different side of him. He did tell a story about working on the set of “Hannibal” and hanging out with Laurence Fishburne.  Despite not having eaten since breakfast, and literally arriving late and having to go right up on stage, he immediately “turned on” and you could tell he was giving it his all.

On Saturday, the club owner asked if I could pick Scott up from his hotel about 30 minutes before the first show. Of course, I said yes! Scott actually thought we’d met or worked together before. I wish! But I took advantage of the time and told him how much of a hero he was to me back in the day when I was in high school, not out of the closet, and he was the only gay character on TV. He was very appreciative of the compliment. We chatted a bit about TV shows, comedians, and actors that we both liked and I could tell he was a very genuine down-to-earth person.

During the show, he came out and watched me and the opening comic perform. When I came off stage, the first thing he said to me was, “Wow! That was hilarious. Great show!” That made me feel awesome. I felt like I had a good set but validation from Scott made it feel even better.

Between shows, he invited me to sit with him in the green room and we talked about how there were no gay people, or even black people, in the audience. I agreed with him that gay men don’t go to see other gay men perform, and about how gay men are kind of treated like puppets or don’t shine at all in the industry. Scott said men follow women because they don’t feel like there’s competition! Look at Kathy Griffin and how big of a gay male following she has.  There are no gay male comedians at her level!

We talked about how the KITH were discovered by Lorne Michaels, and what they were doing before that. Lorne also discovered Mike Myers on the same night he went to see KITH perform.  Hearing that story about how they got started was so cool. Scott lives in L.A. now, and though I already knew this, he said you definitely have to go where comedy is happening if you want to move up or be a part of something bigger. That being California, Chicago, or New York.

We talked about which comedians we enjoyed on Netflix, and how Netflix is really shining the light on stand up right now. Stand up is new to Scott, but he’s really enjoying doing it and he told me he’s even working on a Buddy Cole show. On and off stage, he had his journal with him and was constantly making notes in it. I remembered to bring my own journal and have him sign it.

At 58 years of age, Scott is doing something different and still making people laugh.  He’s done sketch. He’s done characters. He’s done movies. He’s done TV. He’s done serious roles. And now he’s doing stand up. For someone like me who wishes they’d run off and discovered their true self back in their twenties, it was nice seeing Scott doing something different but still doing what he loves. Sure, his career hasn’t been front and center, but the list of credits is still long. Just listening to fans line up to meet him and tell him how much he’s meant to them was really something.

I’ve only been doing comedy seriously for just over a year now. It’s still a light that burns deep inside my creative consciousness, one that I don’t think will go out anytime soon. Sure, I get frustrated. I want to progress quickly. I beat myself up for not sticking with it all those years ago, but it’s easy for the head to swell and I think you lose focus when that happens.  Or some people give up and move on to something else. And being older now and wiser, I think I’m right where I should be. I can’t change the past. But I can focus on this moment I’m in and absorb it and make it my own.

When it was all over, before we left Scott said, “I hope to see you in L.A. doing your thing some day.” Me too, Scott. Me too.

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