A man is woken in the middle of the night by a rummaging sound in the alley outside his apartment. He opens his window, sees three men dressed in monocles, top hats and suits digging through trashcans and yells, “Hey, you millionaires! Get out of my garbage.” The men scurry away into the night. With that 30-second sketch, The Kids in the Hall comedy troupe kicked off its very first episode 20 years ago. The skit, with its brevity, irreverence and social commentary, sums up nicely what Dave Foley, Kevin McDonald, Bruce McCulloch, Mark McKinney and Scott Thompson did in their six-year television run.
A man is woken in the middle of the night by a rummaging sound in the alley outside his apartment. He opens his window, sees three men dressed in monocles, top hats and suits digging through trashcans and yells, “Hey, you millionaires! Get out of my garbage.” The men scurry away into the night.
With that 30-second sketch, The Kids in the Hall comedy troupe kicked off its very first episode 20 years ago. The skit, with its brevity, irreverence and social commentary, sums up nicely what Dave Foley, Kevin McDonald, Bruce McCulloch, Mark McKinney and Scott Thompson did in their six-year television run.
They were rabble-rousers and trendsetters, and most importantly, they were hysterical.
Now halfway through their North American (and beyond) tour, called “Live as We’ll Ever Be”–where they are premiering new material featuring classic characters–the reunited troupe is showing the world why they still matter and continuing to brutally slaughter any sacred cows that get in their way.
The Kids in the Hall (KITH if you’re nasty) will hit Portland’s Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall on May 11, and even though tickets have been on sale for some time, they are not sold out. Do the Kids not have the drawing power they once had? Has the public forgotten the greatness of Buddy Cole? The Chicken Lady? Gavin? Probably.
Will their receding hairlines and expanding 40-year-old guts affect their humor? Not likely.
In the dismal sketch comedy world of the late 1980s and early 1990s, the sometimes cross-dressing troupe of Canadians was a spark of hope. Just as they were inspired by Monty Python and their wacky Brit ways, The Kids in the Hall have inspired scores of sketch comedy shows like the deceased Mr. Show, the surreal Human Giant and the disturbingly manic Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! (A live version of that show hits Portland this Saturday, but it is sold out. Too bad, slackers!)
Classic KITH sketches show the risks the group loved to take with their content. Sketches like “Love or Sausages,” a seven-minute-long epic skit about a man slaving in an industrial wasteland to bring sausages home to his demented father, and “Trappers,” which featured colonial French trappers riding a canoe through an office building and hunting businesspeople for their designer suits, showcase the troupe’s signature style. You won’t ever see the Kids lower themselves to doing banal celebrity impressions.
It’s been six years since KITH has toured the country, so what can you expect? Live comedy shows can be a mixed bag. They can meander on with boringly recited versions of skits you’ve already seen 10 times, or they can utilize the live format to improve and build on established characters in exciting ways. KITH’s roots are in live performance, and judging from the acclaim they have received on previous reunion tours, their latest outings will not let you down.
The real question still remains. The Kids may still have talent and an ear for comedy dialogue, but do they have that extra spark that will set them apart from other funny, yet routine, sketch comedy troupes like the crew behind Reno 911? The spark–which incorporated equal parts madness, rebellion and shocks into their jokes–was what made them great. Well, check out a new skit they filmed called “Car Fuckers,” on www.funnyordie.com/videos/41f325e282. The spark still remains.
I won’t ruin any surprises about “Car Fuckers,” but sometimes you can judge a book by its cover, or a skit by its name.
The Kids have been going strong for over 20 years now, and their impact on comedy is impossible to ignore. Sure, some would take points away from them for their confrontational humor (some skits practically beg you to change the channel before hitting you with an anti-punch line). Some might even say the troupe died around the time their 1996 film, Brain Candy, dive-bombed. (That film will always remain immortal to me for the victorious line uttered by a drug company exec, “We kicked penicillin’s sorry ass!”)
Those small-minded assholes would be wrong. The Kids in the Hall did, and still do, matter. A lot. Every time you turn on Tim and Eric or Human Giant, remember who did it first. Now go pay your debt to the masters when they come through town. That’s an order.
The Kids in the Hall, “Live as We’ll Ever Be”Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall8 p.m., Sunday, May 11$39.75 plus service charges