Dave Foley returned recently to stand-up after a 30-year hiatus. He’d done a lot of funny stuff in the interim, but the last time he’d actually told jokes onstage was as a teenager—after he dropped out of high school to attend Toronto’s Second City Training Center. His solo career lasted for about a year; he met Kevin McDonald at the school and by 1984 the two had formed the core of the Kids in the Hall sketch group, along with Bruce McCulloch and Mark McKinney, adding Scott Thompson about two years later.
Foley’s strength is character work. With Kids in the Hall, he could be a fur trapper hunting businessmen in broad daylight, a melancholy Quebecois hooker, or a squirmy minion of Satan. The role of Dave Nelson on the lamentably underrated NewsRadio was written specifically for him, capitalizing on the high-strung weirdo lurking under Foley’s friendly Canadian facade.
Let’s get this out of the way: Foley’s remarkable comic talent doesn’t fully extend to stand-up. The Laugh Factory has done him no favors by posting a borderline-Islamophobic bit on YouTube; it’s one of the top hits when you look for examples of his work. Without hair and makeup, without the supporting cast, without a story or scene, the nervous energy can build into awkwardness—but on the other hand, that’s what he thrives on. He can pick back up. And who cares? If nobody likes him, he can just go eat worms and remain the comedy legend he already is.