In a sketch set in a steam room, a man shows off his newly sprouted breasts. A farmer in a gimme cap tells how Mickey Rooney came to dinner — and wouldn’t leave. And a lacy old matron complains, ”Why did they have to take the word gay? What was wrong with pervert?” Welcome to the new season of HBO’s The Kids in the Hall, airing at midnight on Fridays and starring the Canadian comedy troupe that has won an avid cult following since Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels put their half-hour, skit-filled show on the air in 1989.
The Kids — Kevin McDonald, Scott Thompson, Bruce McCulloch, Dave Foley, and Mark McKinney —came together in Toronto’s comedy clubs seven years ago; the name is an homage to the writers who used to hang outside Jack Benny’s radio studio, peddling their jokes to him. Their favorite targets are middle-class values and sexism, and they aren’t afraid to ”treat homosexuality like it’s part of the mainstream,” says Thompson. Much of their material, though, focuses on hilariously warped bourgeois couples (their straight-faced impersonations of women could fool even Warren Beatty).
The Kids write most sketches separately, then fine-tune them (with three other writers) in their Toronto studio. With plans to do more TV and feature films, they’ll keep it up a while longer. ”It’s like an old marriage,” says Thompson, ”an old, unhappy marriage — the skits are our kids, so we stay together.”
The Kids aren’t kids anymore: They’re in their late 20s or early 30s. This year, the establishment embraced them with an International Emmy nomination. Can they keep their edge? Foley says yes: ”As writers, we’re more skillful than we were a year ago, or two years ago.” McKinney, though, has doubts: ”Following that logic, Paul McCartney has never been better.”