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Tim Carlson on Bruce McCulloch’s Young Drunk Punk

Tim Carlson

Tim Carlson plays Bruce McCulloch’s teenage alter ego in Young Drunk Punk.

Interview – Tim Carlson

– by Connor Fingler

Last week, I got to talk with BC’s own Tim Carlson.

Carlson plays the leading character, Ian McKay, in City TV‘s new series Young Drunk Punk. The 13-episode series follows two high school grads and the search for their destiny amongst the back alleys of Calgary circa 1980. It’s based on the one man stage show of the same name from Kids in the Hall member Bruce McCulloch.

Carlson, who was born in Victoria and lives in Vancouver, is a member of the improv troupe Lorax. Young Drunk Punk airs Wednesday nights on City-TV.

Connor Fingler: So let’s get right to it and talk about Young Drunk Punk. Why don’t you tell me a little bit about the show?

Tim Carlson: It’s a coming-of-age comedy that centres around two guys (Ian and his friend Shinky, played by Atticus Mitchell) after they just finished high school.

CF: How did you manage to get this role?

TC: I auditioned for it back in July and I knew I was going to be getting a call-back at some point early on. I wasn’t quite sure when I would hear back and was on tour with Lorax at the time. We went to Detroit and then were at the Edmonton Fringe and while I was there I got a call back. I had to fly back to Vancouver and audition the next day, then fly back to Edmonton and do another show for Lorax. Then they flew me out to Toronto the following day and I tested for the show there and then flew me back to Edmonton to finish up the Fringe. It was a pretty wild ride with four flights in four days! It was a lot of fun.

CF: Seeing as you’re a young actor from B.C. , how are you preparing for a role that’s surrounded by the culture of 1980s Calgary?

TC: That was part of the fun of prepping for the show. I got to look back into 1980s culture, specifically music, and that was sort of my jumping-off point.

I grew up in a time of pop/punk, which was really big when I was a young guy in my formative years so it was fun to sort of look back to Canadian punk, where it came from and how it all started.

Even further before that was the American punk movement and punk in the UK, but it was cool to see how it blossomed in Canada. My uncle was in a punk band in Winnipeg in the eighties so it was great to get some insight from him about the scene at the time.

CF: Does the show revolve around the punk music scene then?

TC: Yeah, it follows these two guys trying to figure out what they want to do next in life. They’re tired of being in Calgary and they want to get out of what they feel is a small town and they’re both huge music lovers. That’s definitely a common ground for them and what they bond over. It’s a lot of fire but not a lot of direction and they can’t really figure out how to take that next step because they don’t really have any life experience.

CF: How has your improv background come in handy for the TV show?

TC: The show is really well-written and some of the writers have a background in improv as well. There was a very open dialogue with them if we wanted to change something or if we had an idea. Also, Bruce (McCulloch)was fantastic about that! He’s an improviser himself so there were a lot of times where he would come up with an alternate punch line at the end of a scene. It was quite playful on set, which was a lot of fun, and we did get to improvise a fair amount as well.

CF: The character you’re playing, Ian McKay, appears to be this impulsive, funny, and spirited individual with attitude. Can you relate to Ian’s character from personal experience?

TC: Definitely. I think what really got me about Ian, and why I really love playing him, is that he really does believe in everything that he’s saying. He believes that he has all these really groundbreaking ideas, and if people were to listen to him, he really could change the world.

I remember feeling like that at 18 as well. I moved to Vancouver and was in university for a bit just getting a taste of the real world, learning a bit more, and feeling like I had a lot of great ideas. I thought if people would only listen to me, I could really make a difference.

But in reality you get older, and realize that you didn’t have a lot of life experience and didn’t really know what you were talking about. So that’s where I draw my inspiration from and where I have a lot of fun with Ian.

CF: What has it been like working with Bruce McCulloch? The show seems to be almost an autobiography of his youth. Has he offered lots of insight into his past that has helped with the role?

TC: He did offer insight and that was the fun part about the show. It’s loosely autobiographical, with a collection of things that had happened to him but are pretty heavily fictionalized through some of the other writers and their experiences as well.

It was fun getting filled in on his background of growing up in Calgary and what his experience was like. Even little details like how he used to put fake wood wallpaper on the ends of his shoes cause he thought it was cool. Little details will pop up here and there and he was so open about that.

He had a great idea from the beginning by not making the character a young version of him but where a young version of him and a young version of myself meet. That’s sort of where Ian lives, and Bruce got me to bring a lot of myself into the role, which was really a lot of fun.

CF: He also plays your father in the show right?

TC: Yes, he play’s Ian’s dad!

Young Drunk Punk

CF: The idea behind Young Drunk Punk seems to be similar to another show you are doing, School of Fish. Both shows appear to focus around young adults trying to find direction in life. Do you feel there is some crossover between shows in a sense?

TC: Yeah, it’s that same kind of feeling about being a little bit lost and knowing you want to go somewhere, but not sure where you want to go. I shot that (School of Fish) back in June which was a lot of fun.

CF: You were also in Gracepoint. What was that like?

TC: It was a lot of fun and quite sweet as well because it was in Victoria, which is where I grew up. So it kind of came full circle for me. It was fun to go back to my hometown to do my first big television gig. It was a very cool set to be on and it was nice because my parents still live there and they were really excited about it.

CF: Was it entirely different than what you had done in the past?

TC: Definitely. I’d done a lot of improv comedy and trained at Studio 58 in Vancouver doing theatre, so getting into television and film was different. I didn’t quite realize how much I would enjoy it until I started doing it.

CF: Along with the series, are you staying involved in theatre and improv comedy as well?

TC: Yeah I definitely am. Lorax is in the midst of planning a summer tour. We’re look at going out to Toronto, Montreal, and probably some shows in Vancouver as well. We may be going down and checking out some shows in the states as well. It’s going to fun.

CF: Lastly, since we are fresh into the New Year, any resolutions for 2015?

TC: Hmmm, good question! I don’t know, that’s a tough one. Aside from the cliché’s of going to the gym more and eating better, not a whole lot!

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