January 28, 2008
By Oscar Pascual
Kids in the Hall are evil, pure evil! Why? Because of all the classic sketches this legendary troupe performed on the final evening of the SF Sketchfest at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, they decided not to revisit Sir Simon Milligan and Hecubus’ Pit of Ultimate Darkness. Evil, I say!
What they did revisit, however, was sketch comedy gold. The five-man group consisting of Dave Foley, Kevin McDonald, Scott Thompson, Bruce McCulloch and Mark McKinney rejuvenated sketch comedy in the late 80s. The sheer absurdity that ran through the veins of earlier comedy troupes like Monty Python and Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In had long been replaced by the sharp social and cultural jabs thrown by Saturday Night Live and the stand-up comedians of the time. Kids in the Hall brought back that absurdity, reminding us that laughs needn’t be so intellectual all the time. Laughs can come from disgruntled head crushing, old men complaining about salty ham, and gay jokes. Lots and lots of gay jokes.
Scott Thompson brought back his leisure suit and huge lisp for yet another Buddy Cole monologue to present revealing evidence that Jesus Christ was gay, pointing out the reason why Christ was carousing with 12 bachelors who did nothing but drink wine and wash each other’s feet. Bruce McCulloch donned a baseball cap and backpack once again as Gavin, a young boy with a dysfunctional family who interrupts chair painting with all kinds of ridiculous yarns of smoking dogs and such that may or may not be true. And of course, Mark McKinney reprised the repulsive Chicken Lady character, as well as ending the evening with an appearance from Mr. Tyzik, who’s just about fed up with everyone. Tyzik pointed a portable camera at the audience that projected onto a huge screen and began to single people out, only to crush their heads with his thumb and index finger in front of the lens. The night ended fittingly as every KITH member suffered Tyzik’s wrath, including McKinney himself, who pointed the camera towards his own head and bitterly did himself in, garnering the standing applause of an adoring audience.
It wasn’t just the classic material that made the evening, it was the fact that they pulled off sketches that originally came with television production value. The panel discussion the troupe held last Saturday revealed their origins rooted in Canadian theatresports and improv. Their background made sense of their tight performance the next day. Without the luxury of repeated takes, the Kids performed flawlessly, exhibiting perfect timing and few miscues. The rare slips that occurred ended up humorous in themselves and ultimately added entertainment value to the sketches. Kevin McDonald and Dave Foley provided the best impromptu moment during a sketch about drinking buddies who travel through time to beat last call, when McDonald grabbed Foley’s head only to get hair dye all over his hands. The two broke out of sketch for minutes to the delight of the audience, before finally returning to the written material.
Moments like this also showed the cohesiveness of this troupe. These five men work amazingly well together, exhbiting a chemistry not unlike that found in great championship sports teams such as Showtime Lakers and Montana/Young-era 49ers. Yes, the Kids are that prolific together. Other comedy groups such as The State and various eras of SNL featured singular talents or clicky groups of talent, and almost always needed guest appearances. KITH is a solid unit whose whole sum was always greater than any single part. McCulloch and Thompson never began any solo acts aside from writing, Mark McKinney faded into the background during his SNL days, Dave Foley’s NewsRadio has turned out to be less than memorable and Kevin McDonald’s only shining solo moment was an appearance in OutKast’s “Roses” video. But together, this troupe redefined sketch comedy for years to come, culminating in a wonderfully hilarious reunion last night. The Kids proved their gutbusting skills despite having not performed regularly since 2002.
Playing after going years without practice — Evil!