TV Draft Round 9 – Pick 5 – Liam Selects – The Kids In The Hall

Welcome to the Hanspostcard TV Draft. I hope you will enjoy it! Today’s post was written by Liam at https://othemts.wordpress.com/

The Kids in the Hall

CBC Television (1988-1995)

HBO (1988-1992)

CBS (1993-1995)

Amazon Prime Video (2022)

The Kids in the Hall are a sketch comedy troupe based out of Toronto, Canada.  You could say they are the Canadian Monty Python.  Or perhaps, the Canadian Saturday Night Live? Like Monty Python, they are an all-male group of 5 writer/performers (the Pythons had six) who create edgy sketch comedy often bordering on the absurdist, and frequently don wigs and dresses to portray female characters.  Like Saturday Night Live, their show was produced by Lorne Michaels and performed in front of a live audience (albeit, it was not broadcast live).  But at the heart of things, The Kids in the Hall are their own thing, creators of something outside the mainstream of comedy of the 1980s and 1990s and capturing the ethos of Generation X, paralleling the rise of alternative rock at the same time. A recently released documentary about the Kids calls them Comedy Punks.

Let’s meet the Kids!

Dave Foley (b. 1963) is the member of the troupe who feels most mainstream in his comedy approach, but that is on a relative scale.  His boyish good looks were often contrasted with antisocial behavior, such as a surgeon who kills all his patients or an axe murderer, both of whom get away with it because of their charm.  He was also considered the “hottest” of the Kids when dressed as woman. Not surprisingly, later in his career he starred in the American sitcom NewsRadio, and provided voices for the Pixar movies A Bug’s Life and Monsters University.

Bruce McCulloch (b. 1961) is probably the weirdest of the Kids in his comedy approach.  Inspired by art movies, his surreal monologues and filmed pieces evoked a mood of absurdity rather than just telling jokes.  Outside of the Kids in the Hall he has recorded music and directed several movies and tv shows.

Kevin McDonald (b. 1961) is probably a lovely person in real life, but has a talent for playing really annoying characters.  A lot of his self-deprecating humor contains a dark undercurrent of the volatility of his childhood growing up with an alcoholic father.  McDonald has provided his voice for the Disney movie Lilo & Stitch and its spinoffs and had a recurring role on That 70s Show.

Mark McKinney (b. 1959) specialized in creating characters and is probably the Kid most similar in comedy style to Saturday Night Live (and he did in fact join the cast of SNL from 1995 to 1997).  His most notable characters include Mr. Tyzik the Headcrusher and the Chicken Lady. Outside of his work with the Kids he’s appeared in numerous movies and tv shows, the strangest of which is Guy Maddin’s The Saddest Music in the World.

Scott Thompson (b. 1959) performs comedy informed by his gay identity with a definite emphasis on using comedy to advance LGBTQ equality, which was very bold in the 1980s and 1990s.  Most notably, he reclaimed the effeminate gay man stereotype through his character Buddy Cole who delivered hilarious monologues.  He also frequently portrayed Queen Elizabeth II, one of the rare celebrity impersonations on The Kids in the Hall.  His other work includes appearances in many movies and tv shows, including a regular role on The Larry Sanders Show.

Foley and McDonald met in the early 1980s in the Toronto comedy scene and became a writing and performing team.  Their partnership is the strongest among all the Kids and has remained so throughout the troupe’s history.  Meanwhile, McCulloch and McKinney met in Calgary where they performed with a group called The Audience.  Moving to Toronto to expand their opportunities, McCulloch and McKinney met Foley and McDonald and in 1984 they formed The Kids in the Hall.  The name came from an old Sid Caesar gag blaming bad jokes on the young writers who hung around the studio. Their shows in Toronto’s comedy clubs became a big attraction.  Thompson saw them perform and pretty much willed himself into a spot in the group. Early sketches like “Reg” showcased their humor style at its most sick and twisted.

Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels saw the Kids perform in 1985 and hired McKinney and McCulloch to come to New York to be writers.  Eventually, Michaels determined that it would be better to keep the Kids together as a group and worked to get them their own show.  The pilot for The Kids in the Hall broadcast on CBC Television in Canada and on HBO in the United States in 1988, followed by a full series of 20 episodes in 1989-1990.  Enhancing the Gen X zeitgeist, the Toronto alternative rock band Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet provided the theme song, “Having an Average Weekend,” as well as the music to interstitials between sketches and performing live for the studio audience.  The band’s music is described as instrumental surf rock, however since the Shadowy Men recorded a track called “We’re Not a F*****g Surf Band,” so we’ll have discover a new genre for them.

The Kids and the Hall had several recurring characters, but carefully avoided the SNL habit of overexposing them to please the fans.  Characters appeared when they had a very good and very funny reason to be there.  A number of sketches revolved around the company A.T. & Love with characters ranging from an incompetent boss (Foley), hard-pressed businessman Danny Husk (Thompson), and the secretaries Kathie (McCulloch) and Cathy (Thompson). These characters had the versatility to appear in sketches together, on their own, or with a completely different group of characters. Another series of sketches focused on rebellious Gen X teen Bobby Terrance (McCulloh), his more conservative parents (McKinney and Foley), and his best friend, the stoner Bauer (Thompson).

While Thompson was the only gay member of the troupe, sketches with LGBTQ characters were common, including scenes of men kissing men when that was taboo on American TV (one of the many things that got edited between CBC and CBS transmissions).  The recurring sketch “Steps” featured three gay men discussing the issues of the day where the audience was laughing with them not at them. Despite the Kids being all men, they never saw dressing up in wigs and dresses as funny in of itself, unlike say Milton Berle. Instead they did their best to portray women as fully-formed characters and offer an honest female perspective.  Dave Foley even has a good attitude toward menstruation.

After five seasons and 101 episodes, the Kids were ready to pack it in, physically exhausted and drained of ideas. The final episode broadcast on April 15, 1995 showed them being buried alive in a shared grave.  The next step naturally appeared to be making movies, and in April 1996 they released Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy. The making of the film was a miserable experience for everyone involved and tensions ran high, especially toward Foley who everyone resented for signing a contract to star in NewsRadio while they were working on the film. The movie bombed although some fans consider it a cult classic (I am not one of them).  The Kids went their own ways for a few years but with reruns of the show in constant rotation on Comedy Central, the troupe’s fan base grew bigger than ever.

By 2000, tensions had eased enough to bring the Kids back together, this time returning to the stage for a North American Tour.  Performing in front of live audiences again energized the Kids creatively, and they were able to resume their close personal relationships as well.  The Kids went on the road for more tours, introducing new sketches.  In 2010, they returned to TV, stepping beyond sketch comedy for the first time in the darkly comic 8-part miniseries Death Comes to Town which aired on CBC.  I hadn’t heard of this series until recently so I haven’t watched it yet but I hear it’s good.  Just this May, seemingly out of nowhere, the Kids in the Hall TV series returned for season 6, with 8-episodes streaming on Amazon Prime.  While the Kids have physically aged, they haven’t lost a step and the new episodes are as funny as ever.  The final episode ends with the Kids getting buried again, but I think we’ll see the Kids in the Hall again soon! Until then, here’s one of my favorite sketches, “The Night of the Cow”

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

8 thoughts on “TV Draft Round 9 – Pick 5 – Liam Selects – The Kids In The Hall”

  1. Canadian Monty Python is a good description. I always kind of had a love/hate relation with them… the scattered ones I caught in the 90s all had a few funny bits, but for the most part I didn’t really get them (I was a huge Monty Python fan as a kid and teen but found their skit stuff induced fewer laughs as I got older though I hugely respect how ground-breaking they are) …but I loved that they were local and becoming well-loved around the world. I also caught the first couple of the new reboots, had about the same reaction… the things that made me laugh most actually were tiny bits of local color that absolutely rang true, like the older guy who became a stripper because he was from Oshawa and “after the plant closed” what else was there to do, besides autoworkers and strippers were already the same union… I think you really had to grow up there to get how spot-on that is! Great writeup.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think the Kids willingness to be unabashedly Canadian was a strong part of their show. Instead of pandering to US tastes they figured that people would either be smart enough to get the Canadian references or would just have to deal with them amidst all the other funny stuff.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Right! I mean CN Tower in every third bit, Blue Jays shirts, references to the DVP , Oshawa…I think we Canucks love that & it adds a bit to the show, a sense of place even if you don’t know that place

        Liked by 2 people

  2. I watched this some in the 80s… I could have sworn Anne Beatts was a writer but she wasn’t… I started to watch them on youtube again and I quite like this. I didn’t watch it as much as I did SNL and SCTV but I wish I would have.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t remember exactly how I stumbled on this show, but I was glad I did. I love the Canadian Monty Python description. They were unique for sure. I really laughed out loud at so any of their sketches. I have yet to watch the Prime episodes, but plan on it. Great show and great write up Liam!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Not sure exactly when and on what channel I watched it but I consider it a notch above Saturday Night Live and on a par with Monty Python, and that’s saying a lot. The humor is dark and cutting and original. Every one of those guys are creative geniuses. Hard to choose a favorite skit out of their stuff but you chose some good ones. There is only one I remember not liking and that’s the chicken woman. That one was just too creepy for me. I do hope you do get a chance to see Death Comes to Town. Good choice and great write-up, Liam.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I used to watch this show on Comedy Central. One of my favorites. Unfortunately I don’t know a lot of people (in real life, at least) who’ve ever heard of it. Whenever I’ve tried to describe it to friends, I’ve always said it’s like Canadian S.N.L., but I think Canadian Monty Python is a far more apt description.

    Liked by 1 person

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