A guide to the best sketches and characters from The Kids in the Hall

Photo: The children in the hall/YouTube

So you want one children in the hall sharper?

sharper

\ ˈkēnər \

(Canadian slang, noun) Person eager to demonstrate knowledge or enthusiastically participate in schools, churches, seminars, etc. Toady eating or natural ability.

Then listen to your old man.

The children in the hall is back from the dead (literally – they ended their original 1988-1995 series by being buried alive in a mass grave), and they’re leading a whole new generation of comedy nerds into their brand of alternative, intelligent, surreal, goofy comedy one. In the decades since their CBC-HBO sketch show went off the air, they’ve released a cult-favorite film, embarked on numerous live comedy tours, and enjoyed a limited revival in 2010 Death is coming to town. Over the course of 102 episodes in their original series, Dave Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney, and Scott Thompson were ahead of their time and equally adept at political subversion, gender fuckery, and poo jokes. Watching it again, this show is a nuclear twinkie: just as fresh as the day it was made and perversely delicious. When you see the letters KITH and just think shoes, here is a 22 step guide with tropes to look out for Citizen Kane the sketch comedy.

Only nine out of ten doctors agree on the leading brand of toothpaste, but 30 out of 30 Helens agree on everything from tattoos to coleslaw. (Except for this one, only 29 Helens agreed on the issue of punctuality because Helen Fournier was late.)

This is the fictional company where all children in the hall‘s office drag takes place, the forerunner of your GloboChems and Cincos. There are gossip queens of the writing pool Cathy and Kathie (McCulloch and Thompson, unclear who’s who); her backup whipper Tanya (McKinney); company man Danny Husk (Thompson); chatty mailroom guy Stan (McKinney); and the Boss, played by Foley in a fat suit and a bald head, sometimes with a mysterious brown liquid dripping from his mouth. And adjacent, but not affiliated with AT & Love, are Gerald’s attorneys.

If KITH With 30 seconds to fill in between sketches, you better believe McCulloch and McKinney’s stupid TPS officers are on the case. Give them five minutes, though, and they’ll put on their $1,100 suit jackets and try to sell you with a pyramid scheme, a canned meat product, or an electric organ. These sales pitch sketches are an example of a technique KITH really pioneered before shows like ITYSL or Tim & Eric: If in doubt, fill in a sketch with a counterfeit product and/or seniors.

No, that’s not the name of a spinoff sketch series. It’s a confirmation that nobody in the world plays pugnacious little punks and annoying little gits better than McCulloch. They can be meek (“My Pen”) or insanely bold (“Bobby Versus Satan”), and often they’re itching for a fight they’re bound to lose (“Eradicator,” “Cincinnati Kid,” “Stay Down”). McCulloch can play a hundred shades of Twerp, from the hideous creepy Cabbage Head to the overly talkative latchkey Gavin He particularly loves acting as a mullet punk rocker, see ‘Into the Doors’ where he played Jack Black Hi-Fi character years earlier Hi-Fi.

Thompson’s greatest character is a folk hero, trailblazer, iconoclast, and agent of chaos. Buddy Cole, the most urbane Canadian of all time, is a unique figure in sketch history. He’s hyper-intelligent, hyper-sexual, unabashedly fiery, and irreverent at a time when there weren’t exactly a million other characters on television spouting five-minute monologues about crossing and dropping James Baldwin references. What makes Buddy a fully balanced one-queen force is how he sprinkles his satire with the surreal. Take Dinosaurs, a monologue about queer social life and over an influx of T Rexes and pterodactyls running around biting limbs off his friends, or the time he coached a lesbian softball team (the Sappho Sluggers), which was essentially a live-action bugs bunny sequence. Canadian television funding has never gone to a more worthy cause.

Above all, KITH are good Canadian subjects of the Queen. Or at least Thompson’s version of her.

Half chicken, half woman with no brain cells and a huge libido that explodes into a cloud of feathers when you orgasm. Obviously that would become the mainstream breakout character. What do you do not understand?

McDonald’s totally incompetent talk show host is underrated but extremely funny. Can’t pronounce a name to save her life, poor child.

McKinney’s ponytail, ambiguously accented Darill feels like a Frasier Character. That is the highest praise.

These fake foreign movie stars make films that are impossible to follow but hard to look away from. Thompson plays the mysterious and glamorous Uruguayan beauty Francesca and Foley plays Bruno, her lover-pimp co-star. They first appear in a sketch that folds reality inside out, and as their performances progress we get a good look at their work Senhora Sete to spy models.

A much of existential anxiety and paranoia going on in some of them. A much the creativity with the camera and the style of filmmaking. smart stuff. Did you know that beforehand? KITH, Foley and McDonald were on an improv team called Uncle Vanya and the Three Sisters? drive my car found tremors.

McCulloch and Thompson’s middle-aged suburban couple is delightfully settled; one gets the feeling that behind the marriage of the considerate and resentful Fran and the boisterous Gordon there is a whole story in two acts. I could choose from a zillion sketches in which the kids play disheveled housewives, but these are the sketches I keep coming back to. Though Thompson plays the wife, it’s McCulloch who does the drag here, performing a very specific brand of domesticated masculinity that is always reticent, angry, and stressed. Decades before @dril, Gordon spat lines like “A man works all day – he expects a regular ham meal, not some goddamn bastard brine!”

The children in the hall had a good number of skits that used the camera in ways that were more surprising than the average skit show. Sometimes that meant cinematic, lyrical stuff like “My Pen”… and sometimes that just meant McKinney’s foreground headcrusher crossing his finger and thumb to crush businessmen, yuppies, and thugs like ants. The Headcrusher’s lore expanded throughout the series as the kids found silly new ways to play with depth of field: There’s Nobody Home, finger rehab, and an epic battle with his rival, the Facepincher (McDonald).

You would think that Foley is the prettiest girl of them all Children – After all, he’s one of comedy’s prettiest boys. But you’d be wrong, alas, because there’s McKinney’s lazy French whore Sylvie, blond withering away in front of a vanity, thinking about Tony, wondering where he might be, who he’s with, what’s on his mind… is he thinking about her? And if he will ever return one day. Her friend Michelle (Thompson) is wondering the exact same thing. My head cannon is Monique the Pyromaniac, her identical twin.

McDonald and Foley performed together long before the troupe even formed, and when the two team up for a skit, things get extra…sizzling. It takes a creative partnership built on trust and a shared creative language to invent characters like Jerry Sizzler and his sister Jerry Sizzler, two escaped mental patients in bathrobes and stolen wigs with tags still attached, who end their lives as lounge singers and Bank restart robbers.

There is also Simon and his servant Hecubus, eeeeeeee host of Pit of Ultimate Darkness, and hapless variety shows McGillicuddy and Green (not to be confused with McDonald’s other hapless variety show, Mr. K). And then there’s “Premise Beach,” a segment where Foley and McDonald throw themselves into the craziest premises imaginable. The most elaborate of the premises is “Shitty Soup,” which deftly morphs into a fourth-wall-breaking sketch that Thompson runs away with.

Almost forgot to add this guy to the list. I have forgotten.

Premise Beach is just the tip of this iceberg.

Any member of KITH can deliver a mean monologue both in terms of character and appearance. they do SNL and late-night monologues sound like graduation speeches, and they go well beyond Buddy Cole. Foley is particularly adept at delivering clear-eyed psychotic takes. You’ve had several self-talks about how crappy it is to be a cyclist in Toronto (plus ça change). But only “Bank People” has dance breaks.

You know that podcasts often have an audio engineer or producer who ends up casually becoming the show’s bonus host—always in the background and a favorite tidbit when he picks up the mic? Paul Bellini is KITH‘s version of it. Bellini, who would later have a column in Toronto’s defunct gay magazine Fabulous, is Thompson’s writing partner on the show and has written almost every episode, with the two infusing the comedy with a distinctly queer sensibility. As the series progressed, they increasingly threw him in sketches, always clothed in a towel and mostly silent, until they started hosting sweepstakes for fans where they could touch Bellini’s bare stomach or have breakfast with him in an airport. After Shania Twain, he is Timmins’ most famous export. And in the future mankind will know that God was a “ridiculous, foolish appearance” but will remember and worship Bellini.

what would children in the hall be without that surf guitar theme music? And what would it be without musical sketches? And where would all these Daves be without their mothers?

KITH infused their comedy with gay themes and characters from its very first installment in 1988 in sketches about reclusive celebrity, representational politics, homophobia, or just normal relationship flaws. And almost every other sketch was about mocking straight culture: her straight husband and businessman characters come across as more drag than her drag characters. Most of the children are straight, but the impact of Thompson and Bellini was indelible, and the entire cast helped bring these closely watched characters to life. As in “Steps,” a recurring sketch about a triad of friends hanging out on the porch of a coffee shop near Church and Wellesley, talking about the big “iss-yoos,” as Foley pronounces it, including AIDS and gay marriage. There’s Smitty (McDonald), a neurotic Louis Ironson guy, Riley (Foley), a fucking rascal, and Butch (Thompson), the cute jerk. To quote writer Daniel Ortberg: “In the hands of lesser men, this would not be a loving, loving, insider change of Canadian gay (staircase) culture; it would be a frightening gay drag. Not so the kids.

If you haven’t figured it out by this time, KITH revels in the absurd. Either the Pear Dream speaks to you or it doesn’t.

And there you have it: 22 things to know before watching the new children in the hall. Go ahead, be free. Goodbye Mr Stevenson!

https://www.vulture.com/article/kids-in-the-hall-comedy-guide.html A guide to the best sketches and characters from The Kids in the Hall

Lindsay Lowe

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