Danny Husk awakens from a nightmare in Scott Thompson’s new comic adventure. Still courtesy IDW Press.
Given how comic book conventions—which used to be about, you know, comic books—have ballooned into all-inclusive geek culture (that is, pop culture) flea markets, it might not be surprising that you’d see Scott Thompson at this weekend’s second annual Wizard World Toronto, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Billy Dee Williams (The Empire Strikes Back, Fear City), Hulk artist Dale Keown, the guy who played the Chief on the Battlestar Galactica re-do, and frickin’ Screech. But Thompson isn’t just there to sign autographs and pimp his own celebrity. He’s got his own comic.
Scripted by Thompson and illustrated by Kyle Morton, Danny Husk: The Hollow Planet, published late last fall by IDW Press, sees Thompson returning to one of his most beloved characters from The Kids in the Hall. Though the Kids basically made their name sending up the tightly-wound ticks of shirt-and-tie businessmen they knew nothing about, there was no businessman character better than Danny Husk.
A recurring favourite, Husk was a terminally dopey nine-to-fiver who lived his life pretty much heedless to the world around him. He’d botch anecdotes, languidly submit to a cockamamie kidnapping plot, and one time he even had his own scent harvested as cologne (the intoxicating Husk Musk). Danny was a nice guy, but he was clueless; shuffling along obliviously as jokes played against his deer-in-the-headlights expression. He was the classic straight man. And in this sense, Danny was the polar opposite of Buddy Cole, the flamboyantly campy raconteur Thompson was best known for.
Not only could Buddy nimbly work his way through an anecdote, he crafted sweeping monologues, exhaustively detailed in their stories of far-out homoeroticism. He was also exceptionally confident, unflappable, and eventually became so associated with Thompson that the character and performer became conflated. (It didn’t help that, with writing partner Paul Bellini, Thompson penned a faux-Buddy autobiography, Buddy Babylon, in 1998.) Buddy became a blessing and a curse for Thompson. The role gave him steady work, allowing him to parlay his certified “gay icon” credibility into roles as Jeffrey Tambor’s gay assistant, Brian, on The Larry Sanders Show, gay chef Elliot Anderman on Providence, host of Global reality show My Big Fat Gay Wedding and, well, you get the idea.
For Thompson, returning to the archetypal straight man offers a relief from the decade-plus of typecasting he’s been subjected to since the first Kids in the Hall series went off the air. It’s also a chance to indulge his long-gestating desires to write a fantasy story. A bizarre fish-out-water story, Hollow Planet frees Danny Husk from the rhythms of his nine-to-five only to cast him into a bizarre, hyper-sexualized fantasy world that recognizably evinces the sheen of Thompson’s sensibility.
We chatted with him about the comic, his experience at these kinds of geeky conventions, and bear culture. He even got onto Hosini Mubarak. Somehow. So if you plan on stopping by Scott Thompson’s booth at Wizard World to chat with him this weekend, be warned: you might be wise to leave a trail of breadcrumbs.
It seemed like in the ‘90s you were doing a lot of Buddy Cole and now you switch to something that couldn’t be more different. Why, of all characters, did you return to Danny Husk?
I got so identified with Buddy over the years that people confused me with him. And that’s all I got were those kinds of parts. And I can play all kinds of people. So I figured Danny would be my way to write myself out of the box I’d been put into. I chose him because, for an adventure like this he’s the perfect guy. Nothing phases him. I could do whatever I wanted and he’d just go, [in Danny Husk voice] “Well, that’s life!” People can identify with him. He’s an everyman. And with Buddy you can’t identify with him because you have to feel inferior to him. That’s the whole shtick.
When did you start working on Hollow Planet?
I think it was about ten years ago. After Kids in the Hall and after Larry Sanders people only saw me as “the gay guy.” It’s still pretty much that way. But Danny is my attempt to write my way out.
There couldn’t be a straighter character. In every sense.
I think things have changed so much in the world. Twenty years ago when we were starting off our careers, the archetype of the straight, white male business man was a stereotype that lorded over the culture. But in the last twenty years that character has fallen from grace and is now on the outside. So it’s perfect. Twenty years ago, I never would have predicted that the straight, white male would be the underdog.
Comedian-cum-comic scribe Scott Thompson. Photo courtesy Andrea Grau, Touchwood PR.
Now the standard businessman is like a thirty-something metrosexual or some kid who made all his money on the internet.
Going to work in flip-flops on casual Friday! Or a forty-year old woman with an adopted Chinese baby in a Pilates class! That’s the way things are today. The idea of the straight, white male as the bogeyman is very, very, outdated. I think a case could be made that there’s sort of a crisis of masculinity in the West. Particularly with white males.
How do you mean?
I just think that straight white men have it rough right now. I think that in many ways they’ve given up their mojo. [Laughs]
Like they’re not seen as being potent anymore?
That’s right. They’re not potent. The Alpha Male has taken such a hit. And I think the straight, white male particularly has, in many ways, shot themselves in the balls in an attempt to apologize for their past. And all the people who have risen up—and I’m one of them, I’m a homosexual—well…everyone uses power. Right? That’s a truism of people. Everyone when they get power will abuse it. So I look at Danny and I’m like, “Wow, here’s this guy who can’t assert his manhood.” He lost his son. He works with all these young kids and doesn’t understand the culture. He still thinks you have to wear a suit to work. He’s the kind of guy where, if he could, he’d still wear a hat. But inside he’s a very decent guy. But he’s become, in many ways, a slave: a wage slave and a slave to his wife and daughter. He has no control anymore. I wanted to take everything away from him and see how he survives. It’s like pulling all the limbs off a bug.
Well if you’re thinking of all these real, contemporary themes, why set it in a high fantasy realm? Why not the business realm?
I just wanted to write something that nobody wanted. I wanted to write something I loved. When I was a kid, I was never a comedy nerd. I was a fantasy and sci-fi nerd. I thought I’d grow up to be John Wyndham or J.G. Ballard. But I ended up being a comedian. Because I was funny. So I figured I’d take my two favourite things, comedy and fantasy, and combine them. I always loved fantasy, but it’s always lacking in humour. And when there is humour, it’s the kind I’m not into. It’s campy or silly. I wanted something character-driven.
I also wanted to make it sexy. That’s another thing about fantasy is it’s not that sexy. And it’s not inclusive. So I made something polymorphous-perverse, where everyone has sex with whoever they want to. And I made it funny. And I made it an adventure. I was writing something for the boy in me. I wanted to write something for a kid who shouldn’t be reading it. Like you find it stashed under a bridge and think, “Wow, this is so cool!”
How do you feel about doing these comic conventions? They seem to have grown over the years where it’s not just about comics or Star Trek but anything having to do with some larger concept of “nerd culture.”
I think they’ve kind of jumped the shark, to be honest. I think they’ve gotten too big. But that’s the tendency with everything, right? It’s like nerds, the whole nerd culture, it’s now in danger of becoming what it was mocking.
Well it’s hit that point. Nerd culture has now been totally mainstreamed.
Well absolutely. The real geek now is a Danny Husk! A straight guy in a suit! That’s the new geek. Geeks rule the world now. Jesse Eisenberg is the ultimate! What’s that show called, that one show with all the guys and they’re scientists and geeks?
Big Bang Theory?
Number one show in Canada! Number one! And the one guy’s gay and autistic! Who’d have thought that would be the number one comedy icon? Nerds and bears have gone too far. In gay culture, bears have gone from being the fat guys people picked on to now being like the new bullies.
Wasn’t there some big indie documentary about bears that came out a while ago?
Is that right? Yeah, bear culture is fascinating. It’s a fascinating study in how the underdog can…it’s just fascinating to me to see how everybody blows it. I’m sure Mubarak thought he was doing the right thing years ago. Or Castro. They think they’re doing the right thing. But power corrupts. It’s just natural.
Scott Thompson is appearing at Wizard World Toronto Comic Con, being held March 18–20 at the Direct Energy Centre (100 Princes’ Boulevard) and boasting plenty of other great guests. Like Screech.