Kids In The Hall

Note: This review is from 2007

Review by Steve Bennett

Mention The Kids In The Hall to most Britons, and you’ll get a blank expression. But these are surely the successful comedy group Canada ever produced.

Lying somewhere in the Venn diagram overlap between Python, Little Britain and League Of Gentlemen, their sketch show dominated Canadian comedy in the early Nineties, running on CBS in the States. Now no longer kids, this five-man troupe has reunited for what is, incredibly, their first shows at the Montreal comedy festival.

Should proof be needed of their iconic status, they won three rapturous standing ovations, once at the start, before they’d even begun, then pre- and post- encore. It would certainly be easy to exploit this dedicated fandom with a laurels-resting greatest hits package but, no, this is a whole new show with a (mostly) whole new cast of characters.

The few favourites that they did revive were lovingly greeted like the returning old friends that they are. Headcrusher was great, silly fun – a Teutonic-accented madman who, with the power of perspective, pincers people between his thumb and forefinger – although the flamboyantly camp lounge lizard Buddy Cole trotted out a rather tedious and overlong monologue about how Jesus must have been gay.

Overindulgence is their only real failing, and their devoted fans let them get away with it. Many sketches are that little bit too long, taking their time getting to the crux of the matter. But when they get there, the results are usually good.

At first, the quintet come across as your typical educated middle-class sketch group, straight out of Oxbridge, or its Canadian equivalent. But their point of difference is that they are never happier than when plunging their otherwise quite formal skits into darker territory. Imagine the Parrot Sketch with rape gags… Dave Foley is even able to joke about the murder of his friend Phil Hartman.

But it’s not necessarily those edgier sketches that are the best. The Three-Quarters Written Song is a greatly inventive piece of musical comedy, the amusing imaginary girlfriend sketch twists and turns cleverly, and the universally unlikeable baby provides some verbal knockabout

Everything is very well executed: When they introduce two overly-mannered Edwardian-style rat-catchers, an all-absorbing Gothic atmosphere is instantly created. Yet elsewhere they can break the suspension of disbelief by stifling giggles at their own gags, which only adds to the sense of fun. The five also have a reputation for cross-dressing – which really doesn’t raise an eyebrow in Britain where it’s established comedy tradition – but Kevin McDonald especially makes a disturbingly convincing woman.

Even a troupe of The Kids In The Hall’s reputation and experience can’t escape the charge almost universally levelled at sketch comedy – that it’s ‘a bit hit-and-miss’. A few scenes simply tread water, and a more still need far stricter editing; an early one about the Gut Spiggot to drain excess fat from obese Americans, for instance, takes forever getting to the point.

But the best of the sketches certainly show the spark, originality and inventiveness that made them stars in the first place. What is harder to explain is why they were never bigger in Britain.

Reviewed by Steve Bennett
Montreal, July 20 2007

Review date: 1 Jan 2007
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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