Dallas — Anyone with a passing interest in non-conventional sketch comedy—especially those of us over 30—is likely familiar with Kids in the Hall. The Canadian sketch team first appeared on Canadian television in 1988, and was picked up by HBO shortly thereafter. On stateside TV, they transitioned over to CBS late nights for their final two seasons, which wrapped in 1994.
By “non-conventional,” here’s what I mean: My favorite KITH sketch is called, “Can I Keep Him?” (see above) in which a boy, played by Bruce McCullough. takes in a stray…businessman (Kevin McDonald). Though dressed in a suit and taking on the appearance of an adult human, McDonald’s businessman was more animal than person. He’d do things like hand out his business card and enthusiastically shake hands rather than purring or heeling. He subsisted on martinis and seemingly could only blurt out short, vaguely business-y terms like “taxi!”
In the end, McCullough returned McDonald to his natural habitat—a downtown city center, naturally—where McDonald, reluctantly at first, then excitedly, took his leave with another feral businessman, played by Dave Foley. In a taxi, of course.
It’s hard to imagine Saturday Night Live straying that far out of the box, and Kids in the Hall rarely dabbled in well-worn sketch tropes like portrayals of current politicians or coffee mug catchphrases.
They just did what they liked, according to Foley, and the good people at the CBC and HBO let them. “We were always doing whatever we thought was funny,” he says. “It all seemed to make sense to us.”
For such an experimental troupe—rounded out by Mark McKinney and Scott Thompson—it’s appropriate that they are being awarded this year’s Ernie Kovacs Award, bestowed by the Video Association of Dallas as part of the revamped Dallas VideoFest. The ceremony will take place Saturday Oct. 14 at Alamo Drafthouse in Richardson. Foley and McDonald will be on hand, and they’ll screen Brain Candy, the KITH movie they shot shortly after the wrap of their TV series.
Kovacs was a pioneer of television and experimentation, and Foley was a fan. “We both [Foley and McDonald] really liked the fact that he was playing with the form of television,” Foley says. “If he was doing a talk show, it wouldn’t really be a talk show; it’d be a satire of a talk show, even though there was a talk. He was satirizing the form as it was invented.”
Thanks to those of us in the states whose parents didn’t spring for HBO, the show’s constant syndicated presence on Comedy Central in the late ’90s introduced the quintet to a huge new audience.
“It took us by surprise in 2000. We ended it in 1995, and we didn’t do anything for five years after Brain Candy,” says Foley. “When we went on the road in 2000, we were caught off-guard by how our following had gotten larger. It kind of blew us away.”
The longevity of Kids in the Hall—if you count their pre-TV days, they’ve been together for 32 years on and off with no personnel changes—has not been without its gaps and disagreements. The thing that ultimately keeps them together, though, is their understanding of what Kids in the Hall means, as Foley explains:
“Kids in the Hall could only exist as us five guys. I don’t think any of us feel any differently.”
» CLICK HERE to purchase tickets for Saturday, Oct. 14. Below is the pricing breakdown:
- $25 – the Ernie Kovacs Awards presentation at 7:30 p.m.
- $10 – Brain Candy (1996) with intro by Dave Foley and Kevin McDonald at 10 p.m.
- $30 – Kovacs Awards presentation and Brain Candy at 7:30 p.m.
- $50 – includes all events: Reception hosted by Canadian Consulate, Ernie Kovacs Awards presentation and Brain Candy at 6:30 p.m.