On NBC’s Silence of The Lambs prequel Hannibal, which airs Thursdays at 10 p.m., Scott Thompson plays a forensic investigator who says creepy things like “supplication is the most common form of prayer,” while standing over a gutted cadaver. Thompson is best known, of course, as a troupe member of the Canadian cult sketch-comedy show The Kids in the Hall, which ran on HBO from 1989 to 1995. Portraying characters like Buddy Cole, the lisping gay bar owner, Thompson wasn’t just the only gay guy in the village, he was one of the first gay men out on television, period. And what a cool gay he was. Vulture met Thompson for a coffee and spoke to him about Anthony Hopkins’s Hannibal, Kids memories, and why being a gay man today is sort of boring.
With Anthony Hopkins’s Lecter, you could imagine him being a psychiatrist one would go to. But Mads Mikkelsen’s is like Nosferatu crossed with a Nazi; I like him on the show, but he’s such a creep, no one would ever see him as a shrink.
I think he’s amazing, better than Hopkins.
Well, Hopkins became so ingrained in popular culture: “I can smell your cunt.”
You’re not talking to me? Because I douched today.
How did you get involved with the show?
I auditioned! I was thinking my career is over. After Kids in the Hall and The Larry Sanders Show, I got stereotyped and couldn’t do anything but the boring gay character and I didn’t want to do that. And then the world changed. It drastically changed. It’s bewildering to me. It’s breathtaking.
Growing up, you were really the only gay man I saw on TV. Now that’s not the case. It seems like there is nothing to rebel against anymore. The seediness and subculture element of being gay is receding.
This whole marriage thing, I mean I understand it and I’m for it, but my heart isn’t in it. For my generation, it was just staying alive. Gay marriage never crossed my mind! Lesbians hoisted it upon us. I don’t know how a young gay guy can rebel any longer. When I was young, homosexuals were interesting and flawed. They were artists and hung out in cafés and were like Jean Genet, Gore Vidal, and James Baldwin. They were underground and shaping culture. The ones you heard about were the very gifted. The ones who were regular folks were married and in the closet and had their sex in parks. Now all the regular folks are gay and we don’t seem as interesting any longer. I guess that’s progress. I wouldn’t want to have to go back to the time where I had to hide everything.
But you never did!
I didn’t, but I paid a very high price. Physical, psychic, spiritual. I’ve had a great career, but not for the last ten years. I didn’t want to do it anymore. I didn’t want to play these neutered gay guys. I’m an actor — I can play anybody. On Kids in the Hall I played everybody. But people forgot about that. The great gay parts I wasn’t allowed to have. I couldn’t be in To Wong Foo or Jeffrey. I almost got cast in As Good As It Gets and it went to Greg Kinnear and he was nominated for an Oscar. They never would have given that to a gay person. Now they would. I think. I hope.
How did you get involved with Kids in the Hall?
I wanted to be a dramatic actor and be funny on talk shows. One night a friend took me to a midnight show of Kids in the Hall in Toronto … I told my friend, “I’m going to be in that group.” I knew. I said, “They need me.” I had no idea how I knew that. I threw doughnuts at them. They taped doughnuts under the seats for some reason — I don’t remember why — so I whipped doughnuts at them. I had to be noticed. Later that night I introduced myself to them. I was doing theater for improvisation and they came and saw me perform. I used to be nutty and wear pearls and pantsuits and glue cigarettes to my ear and have spiked hair. I would wear overalls with no underwear and you could see everything. They were intrigued and asked me to do a guest spot with them and I never left. I arrived with tons of wigs and dresses. My advice to anybody is: Make yourself indispensable. I made myself useful and I wouldn’t let go; they couldn’t get rid of me. The moment I was in, I swallowed the key. It was love at first sight and it was my path and what I was supposed to do. I married four straight men. For five years we never spoke after the disaster that was Brain Candy [the Kids’ notorious 1996 flop].
I liked Brain Candy!
Me too! But our lives fell apart. There was a lot of tragedy around that movie, marriages broke up and my brother committed suicide. It was ugly. It took a long time to heal.
Where do you live now?
I lived in L.A. for years, but I got sick with cancer and returned to Toronto in 2009.
Oh god. Was it karma for making fun of cancer in Brain Candy?
It was karma for something. I had non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
Did you go back to Toronto for the free health care?
Yeah. One day I was fine, the next day I had pain. They fixed me. I had chemo and radiation and all that shit and it took a while to recover. That’s when I started to really concentrate on standup. I was like, I’m really not afraid of anything any more. Cancer resets everything if you’re lucky to make it. I went, If I come back I’m going to attack this career in a different way and be grateful and joyful. I’m going to get onstage and be who I am, a performer, and not worry about people stereotyping me or not getting my due. Let go of all that bullshit.
Where is Hannibal filmed? In Canada?
I wanna go to Montreal.
Montreal is wonderful. It is so sexy. There are sex clubs and bath houses and French-Canadians have kilometers of foreskin.