Day 6

How surviving cancer helped former Kid in The Hall Scott Thompson confront his fear of standup

Former Kids In The Hall cast member Scott Thompson was always "terrified" of doing standup. Now, after years of cancer treatment, he is no longer afraid.

'I thought, what have I got to be afraid of?'

Canadian comedian Scott Thompson (Mindy Tucker)

Finally, Scott Thompson feels free to do standup comedy.

The former Kids In The Hall cast member and comic says that growing up, sharing his life on stage wasn't an option.

"I've always been terrified by it," he told Day 6 guest host Nana aba Duncan. "I come from a time when it wasn't really possible for a person like me to be a standup comedian."

"If I'd been young today, I think that there's quite a good possibility that's where I would have gone into, but you certainly couldn't have done it in the '80s or '90s."

Being gay, he says, limited what he could perform.

Cast of The Kids in the Hall, from left: Kevin McDonald, Scott Thompson, Bruce McCulloch, Dave Foley and Mark McKinney. (CBC Still Photo Collection)

On Friday, Thompson released his debut standup comedy album, Not a Fan. His decision to put out the set comes from not only broader acceptance for LGBTQ people, but also from being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

"It gave me the courage to tackle standup," he said. "I would play with it, but I was terrified of it."

"Then after cancer I thought, 'Well what have I got to be afraid of?'"

Becoming a 'war comic'

From fighting cancer to being gay to living in President Donald Trump's America, Thompson pulled from his own experiences for his debut recording.

"Turns out I'm a bit of a war comic," he jokes during his set. When asked what he means, he explained: "I thrive in chaos and violence and pain."

In Not a Fan, his set bounces from poignant to crude, and he pulls no punches on touchy subjects. The 59-year-old doesn't believe in banning words or avoiding controversial topics. At one point, he jokes about having sex with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Scott Thompson's debut standup comedy album 'Not A Fan' was released on July 6, 2018. (Mandee Johnson)

Ultimately he wants to make people uncomfortable — not through vulnerability, which Thompson says is in vogue among comedians, but by exploring the line of what is considered acceptable today and what isn't.

"You bury something — it's like nuclear waste. You're not going to get rid of it. It's best to bring it into the light and look at it," he said.

Still, he makes the best of it by never showing his anger on stage.

"When you're a young person, it's great to be the angry young man, but when you get older it can be a little bit embarrassing," he said.

"If people can sense the anger, or the pain, underneath the comedy, it makes them uncomfortable."

'To be myself is … glorious'

Thompson's brand of humour is clear when he jokes about his diagnosis.

"My cancer was called large B-cell non-Hodgkin's gastric lymphoma, which is, ironically, my drag name," he jokes in Not a Fan.

"It's treated with chemotherapy and radiation," he continues. "I had 30 major side effects: 29 were terrible, one was amazing. That is, now I don't give a f--k."

From left: actors Scott Thompson, Bruce McCulloch, Dave Foley, Kevin McDonald and Mark McKinney of 'The Kids In The Hall' attend the 2008 Canada's Walk of Fame celebration in Toronto. (Jag Gundu/Getty Images)

It has let him open up. He's unabashedly honest about his cancer recovery, his aversion to political correctness and — of course — his sexuality.

"I think to be myself on stage is quite glorious … I don't feel the tension that I used to feel. I don't feel the open — let's call it what it is — hatred," he said.

So now that he's made the transition to film and TV comic to standup comic, what's the next level?

"Maybe," he said laughing, "I'll be discovered finally."

To hear the full interview with Scott Thompson, download our podcast or click the 'Listen' button at the top of the page.