As they ready their return to TV, The Kids in the Hall aren’t too worried that their brand of humor might not sit well with the politically correct woke crowd. In fact, the comedy troupe — made up of long-time pals Scott Thompson, Dave Foley, Mark McKinney, Bruce McCulloch and Kevin McDonald — is relishing the idea of potentially offending a few people with a rebooted sketch series that hits Prime Video worldwide this week.
“For men our age, in a strange way, with the push back against us and the rigid political correctness of today, it’s kind of a gift in a way,” Thompson, 62, says in an interview.
“It’s like, ‘F—, I feel dangerous again.’ That’s something I didn’t expect to have. I know for myself — personally — I had to really remind myself that this is a gift to feel dangerous again.”
“Old men don’t usually get that chance,” Foley, 59, adds.
Executive produced by Saturday Night Live mastermind Lorne Michaels, the eight-episode revival picks up on their eponymous TV show, which aired from 1988 to 1995 on CBC.
The Emmy-nominated series spawned several cross-country tours, a movie — 1996’s brain candy — and the 2010 serial comeback, Death Comes to Town.
“We’re like cicadas. Every 17 years, we come, we flourish and then we die in 24 hours,” McCulloch, 60, jokes.
Born in Toronto in the 1980s, it was an eccentric blend of recurring characters (like McCulloch’s cigar smoking Cabbage Head and McKinney’s sexually obsessed Chicken Lady) and enduring sketches (Headcrusher, Politically Correct Art Class and the chatty Cathys) that turned the show into a hit on both sides of the border.
The new season will find the fivesome introducing a new batch of offbeat characters and beloved favourites.
“A lot of the old characters that you didn’t really care about are back and some of the ones you liked,” Foley deadpans. “The cops are back; Buddy Cole is back. Sorry, Simon and Hecubus aren’t coming back. There’s no Chicken Lady either. Wait, should we give these away? People might not tune in.”
“Scott and I wrote one about two women who are in a constant existential crisis. It was one of the first ones we filmed,” McKinney adds. “Headcrusher will be there.”
The season will have no shortage of A-list guest stars, including Pete Davidson, Catherine O’Hara, Kenan Thompson, Will Forte, Samantha Bee, Jay Baruchel, Tracee Ellis Ross and Mark Hamill.
The series will be joined by the two-part documentary The Kids in the Hall: Comedy Punks on May 20 (i.e. on Prime Video).
In between comedy tours, the kids have embraced all other projects. McKinney co-starred for six seasons on NBC’s superstorewhile McCulloch signed on to produce CBC’s TallBoyz.
Meanwhile, Foley has enjoyed success on TV’s dr ken other spun outwith Thompson taking on supporting roles on Hannibal other American Gods.
No one is saying if this iteration of the kids will expand to a second season or lead to another tour.
“We might stay buried for 17 more years,” McKinney, 62, grins.
But for now, here sit the Kids (minus McDonald), in a pristine dressing room at Toronto’s newly reopened Massey Hall. They’re in town to walk the red carpet for a premiere party at the Rivoli, the Queen St. club at which they first played in the 1980s, and contemplate yet another comeback.
You guys have maintained a presence on the stage. But it’s been a while since we’ve seen you on TV. Why was now the right time for the kids to return?
Foley: “Because somebody let us. That made it a lot easier. Prime Video wanted us to do it. We gather weirdly like the clouds and it becomes, ‘Now’s the time to do it.’ We don’t have a smart brain business-wise.”
Thompson: “When you see groups of birds congregating and flocking. That’s kind of us.”
Did it come back to you easily?
Foley: “We used to say we’d never do sketch again and then we did. So we’re liars. We were done with the show, but when we started to talk about things to do, we all kind of said, ‘Let’s do an OG show where we’ll do sketches and some new stuff and just make it like the next season of the Kids in the Hall.’ That seemed to be the right recipe.”
Thompson: “We didn’t want to reinvent it, we just wanted to be who we were at this stage of our lives.”
McKinney: “I used to agonize about writing and I don’t know if I picked up a smidgen of discipline in 25 years, but I was able to produce and write a bunch of new stuff.”
Foley: “We had been doing some live touring where we found out that we really like performing with one another still. So we thought, ‘Let’s try writing some stuff.’ We decided to write an entire show’s worth of new material. We learned that we still like writing together.”
Thompson: “And after that, we couldn’t write this stuff and let it disappear … We wanted to cement our reputations. Is that wrong to say?”
Foley: “You’re supposed to say, ‘We’re going to make it this time.’ ”
Thompson: “We’re going to make it this time.”
I came across a clip of the Politically Correct Art Class from your earlier series. I didn’t think terms like that existed back then.
Thompson: “That’s something that came about in my community that over the last 25, 30 years has migrated out to take over the entire world. But in those days, in the gay community, that was very big.”
Foley: “The term ‘political correctness’ was coined in the ’80s. So it’s always been around.”
Thompson: “It was a fringe thing, but now it’s everywhere.”
Do you worry about cancel culture?
Foley: “We’re about to find out.”
McCulloch: “It’s an interesting time to be coming back. We’re like old blues musicians. We’re going back on the road — figuratively — by doing a series. It’s just a good time with a lot of conversations going on to put something out in culture to respond to some of those things.”
The kids have been together for almost 40 years. Why do you think you were able to endure?
Foley: “We were never topical, so we weren’t tied to the period. But I think we also never tried to do anything other than try and make each other laugh. We were never worried about an outside audience at all. It was always, ‘Can I get the other guys excited about this idea?’”
Thompson: “We’re like a family that sings and harmonizes together. We’re not trying to make other families happy; we’re just hoping to make this family happy. Families that harmonize are always going to be valuable… We’re like the McGarrigles.”
I know them. I love Rufus Wainwright.
Thompson: “So we’re like five Loudon Wainwrights… no, wait, five Ashley MacIsaacs.”
McCulloch: “That’s another weird reference. Just take it and go.”
The Kids in the Hall debuts this Friday on Prime Video.
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