One of Earth’s greatest sketch comedy teams gets a production-values boost
Television | Jorge Ignacio Castillo | May 12, 2022
The Kids In The Hall
In times when studios, networks and streamers are desperate for content, pre-existing IPs are gold. This has led to some unfortunate reboots (nobody needed another Saved by the Bell?), but once in a while they find something good.
Cut to May 2022. The sixth season of The Kids in the Hall arrives on Prime Video 27 years after the last one. The fact The Kids have been resurrected by, of all companies, Amazon is worth a skit and yup, there’s an extended one that includes some of the group’s deeper cuts — their ill-fated feature Brain Candy (a classic, in my books) and a towel-clad Paul Bellini. There’s also a Bezos-like bigwig and an origin story (a pact between the devil and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation).
Based on the first five episodes of the new season made available to the press, KITH hasn’t missed a beat. If nothing else, the rampant absurdity has gained poignancy. The Kids don’t skip subjects too close for comfort like aging or obsolescence. In fact, they embrace it. Classic characters like Scott Thompson’s lounge lizard Buddy, Mark McKinney’s head-crusher and Bruce McCulloch’s Gavin (the chatterbox prepubescent kid) make an appearance, but their returns aren’t what you might expect.
Particularly noticeable are the superior cinematography and production values compared to season five (in fairness, in the “old days” they only had TV cameras and 16mm film to work with). Some notable names (mostly SNLers, no doubt roped in by executive producer Lorne Michaels) have cameos as KITH “fans”, the kind of weirdos that would get excited about their return.
The eight-episode season kicks off on Friday May 13, followed by the two-part documentary Kids on the Hall: Comedy Punks on May 20 (also on Prime Video).
I had the chance to talk to two of the five Kids, Mark McKinney and Dave Foley, the latter clad in a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey. Having consumed a fair share of KITH content in college, some geeking-out took place. Also, a context-free discussion about how “landed immigrant” (me, many years ago) sounds so much nicer than “resident alien” (Foley, right now, in the U.S.). The conversation had been going on before I joined in.
Dave Foley: Saskatoon is a beautiful city. The landscape around it looks like the Teletubbies’.
It truly does. Having seen five of the eight episodes of season six, it feels like a continuation of season five despite being 27 years later. How did you manage that?
DF: I think it’s organic. Once we made the decision to get back together and write a sketch show, everything was about generating as much material [as possible] that the other guys would like.
Mark McKinney: The dynamic between the five of us has not changed. We did tours year after year — the last one in 2015 — and eventually we wanted to stop doing the “Best of…” hits and write new material. The stuff was good and it was evidence that we could still do it and have fun while at it. I wish I could say that I strategize or that The Kids have a brain, but we don’t. We just perform and write. Everything else turns to shit.
Do you have a rule preventing you from being topical?
MM: Kind of. I don’t know if it’s a hard and fast rule, but if you want to do a sketch and you come with something that’s married to a headline… we’ve never been interested in that. We’re about characters and weird human dynamics. It’s hard to say “we’re going to make a living newspaper show” when Saturday Night Live is hitting on all cylinders.
DF: Scott may occasionally be inspired by something in the news, like with the Buddy monologues, but he would turn it into something more universal. More than rules, we have guidelines. Parody? SCTV did it better than anyone is ever going to. By and large, we veer away from those elements and that approach has made our stuff not feel dated over the years.
Your old shows hold up impressively.
DF: If you’re just making fun of people as opposed to celebrities or news stories, they haven’t changed much since Plato was writing.
MM: I’m a little concerned we may have to deal with cyborgs. I’m not sure what’s the handle there, but that’s a few years away.
DF: We still have some time. We may not even live that long.
I liked the way you bring your older characters back, some almost like an afterthought. Is there any character you wouldn’t revisit?
DF: We didn’t bring back a lot of our most popular characters because we couldn’t come up with a good idea for them. We’ll always follow a good idea and if we don’t have one, we won’t pretend we do.
When people approach you, do they do it with a specific sketch in mind? If I were to do it, I would bring up “Girl-Drink Drunk” (an office drone’s life comes crashing down after he falls in love with fruity, ornated drinks). I felt seen by that skit.
DF: The character is based on Kevin McDonald. I play Kevin and Kevin plays Mark in the sketch. It’s based on a night we were on the road after a really bad show.
MM: It was in Calgary. Kevin had never drunk before because his dad was such a terrible alcoholic, but he wanted to get over it and drink like everyone else. I think it was the same night we dropped Scott at a gay bar and he was the only person there.
Is there a movie or a TV show of yours you wish had done better than it did?
DF: I would have loved if my movie The Wrong Guy had ever been released. A few good reviews for Brain Candy would have been nice.
MM: Almost everything we’ve done since the series. I remember the critic for The Globe and Mail calling our show Kids in the Hall: Death Comes to Town (2010) “the worst thing that has ever happened to the CBC” or something like that.
Dave, I was at the premiere of Postal (the infamous 9/11 comedy directed by schlockmeister Uwe Boll).
DF: Oh, God! I’m sorry.
I thought it was a risky move for you to make that movie.
DF: There were major changes between when I signed on and when we started shooting. Once I agreed to do it, I figured I may just throw caution to the wind.
And just like that, my time was up. The conversation I dropped in probably continued without me, much like The Kids in the Hall show: murky beginning, no clear ending and a lot of fun in between.