Seminal Canadian sketch troupe The Kids In The Hall is still among the most quoted, referenced, and revered commodities in all of comedy. Though the comedic quintet’s collective influence continues, now 20 years after the last The Kids In The Hall episode (and 19 since the misguided cult classic Brain Candy), no individual cast member enjoyed as much success since. Sure, Dave Foley was an apt straight man in the excellent NewsRadio; Mark McKinney had a brief and unremarkable run on Saturday Night Live; Bruce McCulloch sustained modest writing and directorial success; Scott Thompson has maintained visibility on stages, screens, and bookshelves; and Kevin McDonald…probably did stuff too, but it’s fair to say no single member ever came close to eclipsing the quality and significance of work they did between 1989 through 1995. Nobody at Riverside Theater on Friday was more aware of that fact than the Kids themselves, as they delighted a nostalgic audience with nearly two hours of beloved characters of yore, new material, and more than a few self-directed barbs.
“Now, I know some of you were dragged here by your 41-year-old boyfriend who saw a little too much of us in college while getting high,” McDonald said after the opening sketch where the five men wore wedding dresses, before launching into a self-deprecating song about the troupe never getting bigger than cult, Brain Candy‘s box office shortcomings, and their collective irrelevance. Self-awareness sufficiently stressed, the Kids transitioned into sketches in the early-going, including a premise of a couple trying to pawn off godparenting duties to an unwilling pair, McCulloch’s beloved “Gavin” trying to get a doughnut from an AIDS clinic, and Foley portraying a dawdling doctor taking his time during an emergency house call. Of course, Thompson’s famed “Buddy Cole” stopped by the stage as well. “Oh, you smell so good. So cheesy. Just how I like my penises,” the gay icon started, before sipping his trademark martini. “What? Penises are supposed to smell. That’s how you find them in the dark.”
If this latest reunion (seven years after the cast’s last trip to town) was a desperate cash-grab, it didn’t show in the slightest. The material was sharp, largely hilarious, and all five performers legitimately seemed to be having fun dusting off old characters and taking liberties with new ones. Partway through a mid-show Foley monologue about his appreciation of menstruation, a fan stood up to snap a photo. Foley held his pose and deadpanned, “I’ll wait. Did you get two?” During a late-show sketch that lampooned the ongoing trend of food obsession, a water bottle fell to the stage from above. Without missing a beat, McKinney picked up the container, asked if it was vodka before integrated it into the show by dousing a dessert and serving the mess to a dress-donning McDonald, who couldn’t help but break character and burst into laughter. Following a reprisal of McColluch’s iconic Super Drunk character, McKinney—who was on stage more than anyone else—re-emerged with a video camera, while dressed as Mr. Tyzik (aka “Headcrusher”) to cave in craniums of eager audience members. Once his crushing crowd work was done, McKinney called out his cohorts to experience the wrath of his thumb and pointer finger after a series of cruel and personal remarks about each performer. “Isn’t it sad when the boyish grow old?” he asked, pointing the lens at the aged visage of Foley. Eventually, he turned the camera and the insults on himself to bring the remarkable romp to a fitting conclusion.
Sadly, there were entire rows that were empty, so perhaps there’s a dash of truth in the group’s self-inflicted criticism. However, those who were wise enough to make it out not only got to see The Kids In The Hall’s rare return to the stage, they got to see the group at its finest. Hopefully this tour is a sign of more to come.