To describe Dave Foley as a utilitarian humorist would be reductive—but not disingenuous. As part of Kids in the Hall, Foley has been a significant figure in sketch comedy since the '80s. In the '90s, he led a cast on NewsRadio that included Phil Hartman and Stephen Root. And now, while keeping a foot in both the sketch-comedy and sitcom worlds, the L.A. resident has also returned to standup, and he'll be at Helium Comedy Club this weekend.
On stage, Foley is as self-assured and smarmy as with any monologue he delivered on KITH, just more personal and occasionally political. Ahead of his Portland appearance, the Canadian-born Foley talked to WW about how to fondle a famous boob and how he transformed from a neo-hippie to a punk.
WW: This might not be the best question to ask first, but what was it like groping Julia Louis Dreyfus on Veep?
Dave Foley: It's very important. And it was a little weird. We spent about a half an hour—Julia, the director and myself—saying, "Well, what's the funniest way to grab your boob?" Even before shooting it, I just stood around grabbing her boob in different ways. She had lovely breasts, Julia.
You were also on Marc Maron's TV show last year. Did you know him from the comedy clubs?
I've known Marc from around L.A.'s comedy scene for about 15 years. We were never close friends or anything, but I did his podcast a couple of years ago. We sort of hit it off, and he asked me if I'd do the first episode.
On Maron's podcast, you display a sort of openness that's become part of your standup set.
The podcast came about as I was thinking about going out and doing standup again. The podcast for me was cathartic. But I started doing standup when I was about 17 and did it for a couple years, then quit when I met Kevin McDonald from Kids in the Hall.
You're also starring as Dave Lyons, a liquor-sipping PR maven, on Spun Out.
I love doing multi-camera sitcoms. They just called me up and offered me the gig and figured out a way for me to do it. We're gonna go up in September and shoot the second season.
All the Kids in the Hall guys made it onto an episode during the first season.
I just had the idea for them to come onto the show, because my [on-screen] daughter gets them to come for my 50th birthday. But she doesn't know that I've been trying to avoid them, because we have a suicide pact—when the youngest one turns 50, we get together and kill ourselves.
Unsurprisingly, they're all dressed as goths.
We like playing characters. Most of the time, when you stop doing sketch comedy, all you get to do is play yourself. People hire you to play yourself. For us, it's fun to slip into weird characters like that.
Were you a goth in high school?
No, I guess I was more a new waver or punk. And before that, I was a neo-hippie. I went to a hippie high school and we had long hair and patched jeans, smoked a lot of pot and drank a lot of red wine and listened to the Rolling Stones and the Kinks.
Your character on Spun Out has a daughter. You also have one in real life. Does one role ever feed into the other?
It's different, because on the show, I play a very bad father. I hope I'm a better dad than that to my actual kids. They'll be the ultimate judges of that.
I heard your daughter did a short-film version of your Kids in the Hall sketch "Mr. Heavyfoot."
She was applying to middle school—they have a cinematic arts academy. She had to make a short film, and she'd seen some of the old Mr. Heavyfoot films on YouTube. She wrote, edited and directed a Mr. Heavyfoot—did the storyboards and everything.
Why do you think that sketch connected with her?
I don't really know. It's just stupid. Mr. Heavyfoot started out with Norm Hitchcock, who was a writer on Kids in the Hall—he did all the Super 8 stuff. Between sketches, we were out shooting, and it just started out as me making fun of recurring characters. "Hey, Norm, look at my new hit character, Mr. Heavyfoot." A day later, Norm called me and said, "That Heavyfoot thing, that could actually be something."
One more thing and I'll let you go, unless you have some profound insight to pass on.
Is there a single comedic thread that unites all the different stuff you've done?
It's all in English. That's one thing.
SEE IT: Dave Foley performs at Helium Comedy Club, 1510 SE 9th Ave., 888-643-8669. 8 pm Thursday and 7:30 and 10 pm Friday-Saturday, Aug. 21-23. $15-$32. Tickets here.