The Kids in the Hall: Comedy Punks

Behind the scenes with the Kids in the Hall at the legendary Rivoli, where they built Toronto's famous alt-comedy scene in the 80s. L-R: Mark McKinney, Scott Thompson, Dave Foley, Kevin McDonald and Bruce McCulloch. Photo credit: Laura Bombier.

The Kids in the Hall: Comedy Punks is an in-depth as a two-part documentary can be about the Canadian comedy troupe.

Together, Dave Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney, and Scott Thompson make up The Kids in the Hall. The two-part documentary weaves in their comments with archival footage from their earlier years. If you want an opportunity to see their pre-HBO/CBS work, make sure to watch the doc series when it lands on Prime Video! Through in-depth interviews, we learn more about their origins over 40 years ago. For instance, you learn about how being the children of alcoholic fathers would play a role in informing their comedy perspectives. There’s no shortage of insight about their five seasons on TV, feature film, and the many tours since going off the air.

Sketch comedy was in a unique place in the 1980s. You had the juggernaut that was Saturday Night Live and then you had SCTV. The Kids in the Hall came along and they brought about their own perspective of things. There was a while where two of them were hired to write for SNL. The thing is, this isn’t just a group that you can break up. Thankfully, Lorne Michaels realized this and decided to have them work on a one-hour pilot. When the call came for 20 episodes, it was Mark McKinney who got the phone call.

If not for the series, it’s likely that they would just be another sketch comedy group for Canada. The HBO series certainly got them a bigger audience in America. Surprisingly, the show got cancelled. If not for a different showing at the Cable Ace Awards, the future might be different. It is this very awards show that would lead to a revival of The Kids in the Hall. Ultimately, HBO would air three seasons before CBS acquired the show for the next two seasons.

In addition to the five members, a number of comedy types appear in the two-part doc. They are a mix of people who worked with them, industry insiders, or simply grew up as fans. Lauren Ash and Jay Baruchel are among the contemporary Canadian comedy stars who appear.

Something that The Kids in the Hall did better than SNL at the time was having their characters dress in drag. The same applies to this day and it’s not just myself that feels this way. They didn’t play women as a joke but through grounded characters.

Former Second City/Superstore star Lauren Ash had this to say about The Kids playing women in the series:

“They just played woman like they were characters. It was believable, it was real, it was grounded. It doesn’t feel like, we’re gonna do this thing where we put on wigs and talk about periods.”

Similarly, Scott Thompson talks about being gay and playing effeminate gay characters. The AIDS crisis was an uncomfortable topic for many people but the character of Buddy Cole is important when it comes to comedy history. Thompson describes Cole as an “alpha queen” and that the character was “never the butt of a joke.”

Whether you’re a casual or die-hard fan, The Kids in the Hall: Comedy Punks is a must-watch.

DIRECTOR: Reg Harkema
FEATURING: Dave Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney, Scott Thompson, Fred Armisen, Lauren Ash, Jay Baruchel, Lewis Black, Janeane Garofalo, Eddie Izzard, Mae Martin, Eric McCormack, Lorne Michaels, Mike Myers, Matt Walsh, Reggie Watts

Prime Video will launch The Kids in the Hall: Comedy Punks on May 20, 2022. Grade: 4/5

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.