Canadian actor-comedian Mark McKinney is well-known for his work on Saturday Night Live and the hilariously irreverent hit sketch show The Kids in the Hall (for which he’s best known for his “Chicken Lady” and “Mr. Tyzik the Headcrusher”). He also has a serious side — sort of — as evidenced by his involvement as series showrunner of Less Than Kind, the Toronto comedy-drama about an overweight 15-year-old boy dealing with his significantly dysfunctional family. The show’s third season premieres at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday on DirecTV’s Audience Channel.
What attracted you to "Less Than Kind"?
Coming from Saturday Night Live and Kids in the Hall and shows like that, I was kind of into the idea of “dramedy,” like the kind of stuff that Modern Family brought to the screen — comedy that was rooted in a true-life thing. Stuff that you think about when you’re 40, as opposed to 20. It was the real deal, and it was based on the life of one of the young writers who brought the pilot to me. He’d actually grown up in Winnipeg with an insane father and a crazy mother who ran a driving school.
Did you sense early on how special "The Kids in the Hall" was?
Yeah. First within the Loose Moose Theatre where Bruce [McCulloch] and I started in Calgary. We thought we were darker and edgier. And then when we moved to Toronto, that kind of confirmed it, that we were on to something. We left Calgary because it’s one of those great Western towns where people are always on the hunt for something good and interesting, so with late-night comedy, as we called it then, it didn’t take us long to be selling out [venues].
Are you still close with all the guys — Scott [Thompson], Bruce, Kevin [McDonald] and Dave [Foley]?
In the way that you are when you’ve gone through combat, you know? I feel like we’re Marines, and we see each other and go, “Semper Fi!” It’s a much more comfortable and easy intimacy now than it was when we were young, sort of angry men together.
Do people on the street ask you to do the Chicken Lady or crush their heads?
They don’t ask me to do it. The great thing about Kids in the Hall fans is that they’re passionate in the same way that I was about Monty Python or SCTV or any of these shows that I absolutely worshipped. So they tend to be really polite. It’s not like I’m Gilligan.
How was your experience on “SNL?”
I was there twice. I was there as a writer when Anthony Michael Hall and Robert Downey Jr. and Joan Cusack were there, so it was very eclectic. And it was really hard because it was a critically slammed year. I learned a lot about writing at 4 in the morning as the deadline loomed — a lot. When I went back as a cast member . . . I sort of think if you’re gonna go to SNL it should be your first TV show, and there were a bunch of us who came through after having cult-y success with shows elsewhere, with me with Kids and Chris Elliott as Letterman’s sidekick, and Janeane Garofalo from Mr. Show. I mean, you kind of wanna keep doing what you’re doing, and that’s not what SNL is doing. So, I had a really great time, and it was so thrilling every 11:30 on Saturday night, and I made some great friends. But I sort of got back later to whatever else it is I’m up to in this career — writing and producing.