Flyer: Can you tell me a little bit about the path that leads a Kid in the Hall to a live production of Scooby-Doo?
Mark McKinney: It was a fairly direct path. Jim Millan, who was the director and who wrote the script, was an old friend of ours who we got to direct the Kids in the Hall tour "Same Guys, Different Dresses." And it was a very successful tour. When they were looking for a collaborator to help with the writing and the comedy they thought of me.
Did you have a close personal relationship with Scooby before you started working on Stage Fright?
Coincidentally, a few years before all this started happening my son started watching it. And I started watching it with him because I wanted to be a good parent, you know? I didn't want him to get lost in the tube. I grew up abroad, so I discovered Scooby-Doo through him. And he loved it. He was passionate about it. And he got me hooked on it.
It's certainly been an enduring cartoon. Others have come and gone but it sticks around in some form. What has made it so special?
I think for one it's a really great introduction to the idea of "scary." Also, as adults we like watching sitcoms, shows that have a regular cast of characters. We enjoy identifying with and watching the writers capitalize on the obsessions of any given character. Like Norm on Cheers or Archie Bunker. It's the regular cast of characters that becomes the crucible the comedy comes out of. For kids, Scooby-Doo is a neat intro to that kind of comedy because Scooby and Shaggy are both kind of cowards but are obsessed by food, Velma's the smart one, Daphne is the attractive one who is always tumbling down stairs.
But it's also got monsters. And it's made for kids who are probably afraid of the monster under their bed or the ghost in their closet.
It's spooky and there're ghosts and it's frightening, sure, but at the end of the day it's all so, so manageable. And I think that is very reassuring. If Scooby and Shaggy can handle it, so can they.
So who is this version of Scooby-Doo for? Is it for the kids or is it for the grown-ups who grew up with Scooby-Doo?
I think it's mostly for the kids. There's no sort of post-modern tweaking to sort of wink at the audience. We didn't do this to get laughs so much. There may be a few jokes but not the kind of winking at the audience that happens in some productions of things that get updated and de-con-struct-ed. The original episodes were very sincere and straightforward. What you will see is kind of a classic Scooby-Doo episode live on the stage.
But that has to be hard. There are things you can do in cartoons that make the cartoons so appealing that you can't do live on stage.
Narratively, there wasn't much we wanted to do that we couldn't do. You can't get that forced perspective you can get when you are doodling on a pad. A lot of it is on [the director's] shoulders to figure out how to make it work. Like we have this sort of lunatic introduction where Scooby stumbles in rolling on top of a tire, which took us forever to get right. You just have to work it. And you have to maintain the right atmosphere of spooky. But [working on stage] also offers opportunities. Without much guile, Scooby and Shaggy stumble into the audience, and it may be the most electric moment in the show. When they wade into this audience of 6- and 8-year-olds, they go kind of ape.
Let me guess: The show ends with the line "And I might have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for those pesky kids."
You have to put that in. It's the centerpiece of the show.
Scooby-Doo in Stage Fright is at the Orpheum through February 3rd.