The five members of The Kids in the Hall may have mellowed with age, but it's clear they still haven't grown up. And that's great news for the fans of their particular brand of off-kilter sketch humour. Mark McKinney notes, "We tend to find the same things funny, so in that sense our humour hasn't matured."
The troupe was formed by comedians Dave Foley, Kevin McDonald, Bruce McCulloch, Mark McKinney and Scott Thompson. Before joining, McCulloch and McKinney were working together in Calgary, performing in a group called The Audience. At the same time, Foley and McDonald were performing in Toronto as Kids in the Hall. The four met in Toronto and began performing regularly as The Kids in the Hall, finally adding Scott Thompson in January of 1985.
The group broke of briefly in 1985 when Foley and McCulloch appeared in the Anne of Green Gables series. McCulloch and McKinney were invited by scouts for Saturday Night Live to join the show's writing team, while Thompson and McDonald worked with Second City. The Team reunited in 1986, and after Lorne Michaels (SNL) saw them perform as a group, they began plans for a television show. Michaels sent them to New York to work on their comedy chops, and in 1988 the show premiered on CBC, making its U.S debut on HBO a year later.
The quirky, surreal and nonsensical sketches more closely resembled Monty Python's Flying Circus than SNL, and because there were no women in the group, had all five players frequently cross-dressing as female characters. They took their comedic inspiration from another Canadian comedy troupe. Foley says, "Definitely SCTV was a big inspiration. Living in Canada, there was the idea that you could actually have a TV show in Canada. Show business happened in America."
The Kids frequently appeared as themselves, and many of the sketches dealt with them as a comedy troupe producing a television show. The distinctly edgy humour broke new ground with their characterizations of secretaries, prostitutes, gays, drug users and oddball creations, like the half-human Chicken Lady (McKinney), the precocious boy Gavin (McCulloch), prostitutes Maudre and Jocelyn (Thompson and Foley), the vengeful "head crusher" Mr. Tyzik (McKinney), the face pincher (McDonald) and the sexist Cabbage Head (McCulloch.). Critical acclaim, Emmy and Ace nominations, and a legion of extremely dedicated fans quickly followed the debut.
The Kids created memorable and oft-quoted characters, including Buddy Cole (Thompson), the polite axe murderer (Foley), the secretaries of AT& Love, Cathy, and Kathie (McCulloch and Thompson), and Herman Menderchuck (McKinney).
The show ran on CBC and HBO for 1989 until 1995. At the conclusion of the final episode, the cast is shown being buried alive, their tombstone inscription reading, "The Kids in the Hall Show 1989-1995." New audiences and a whole new generation of fans have discovered The Kids as the show continues in reruns on Comedy Central.
After the series ended, the troupe produced a feature film, Brain Candy, with a few characters from the show and many new ones. They reunited for Kids in the Hall :Same Guys, New Dresses (2000), Kids in the Hall :Tour of Duty (2002), and SF Sketchfest Tribute (2008).
The Kids in the Hall began their "Live As We'll Ever Be" 30-city tour in early April 2008, giving audiences a chance to see their favourite characters experience fresh situations. All of The Kids have been successful individually, but it is universally acknowledged among the members that they do their best work as comedians in the group. "We are at our happiest creatively when we are together," says McDonald. McKinney agrees: "We finally figured out that, not matter how our post-Kids hits and misses played out, we weren't going to be able to find the thrill of playing with each other anywhere else? ever." McCulloch thinks they get along better now than they did earlier in their careers. "We're actually pretty kind to each other now." Recess is over? The Kids are back in town.
The Kids in the Hall name comes from Sid Caesar, who would attribute a poorly receieved joke to "the kids in the hall"- meaning the group of young writers who hung around the studio.