A kid in the hall of an elementary school sees a sworn enemy, best friend, cute girl or teacher at the other end of the corridor, raises his thumb and index finger to eye level and slowly squeezes: "I'm crushing your head!" Voila. The comedic genius of Kids in the Hall is born again.
The sketch comedy series that collected a cult following in the late '80s may have tackled everything adult, from AIDS to middle-class mores, but it has always stayed true to the ridiculously inspired delinquency of a juvenile. In the absurd world of Kids in the Hall, people had cabbages for heads, aliens probed anuses, Dr. Seuss wrote the Bible, doctors were bad, chickens could produce part-woman offspring, and everyone wore dresses.
The troupe's famous cross-dressing began innocently enough. Dave Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney and Scott Thompson simply had to take up the slack when the group's female members left for greener pastures in the early '80s -- otherwise, they would have had to trash a lot of skits. Of course, the Kids insisted on trying to be believable women, and yes, the consensus is that Foley was the looker of the bunch.
In hindsight, it seems that the real women shouldn't have left the act. In 1985 the Kids were spotted by a scout from Saturday Night Live, and in 1986 SNL producer Lorne Michaels offered them a television deal, provided that they come to New York City. After honing the act in the Big Apple's comedy clubs, The Kids in the Hall debuted on HBO in 1989. Coincidentally, that's right about the time SNL really started to descend into its current position as a total suckfest. Instantly the comedic quintet did something that SNL stopped doing after its '84-'85 season: It broke new ground.
Versed in the styles of Second City, Monty Python, Andy Kaufman, Jerry Lewis and second-graders, and free from the confines of network television, the show quickly became the place for the most outrageous sketch comedy on television. Skits like "Sex Girl Patrol," "Sandwich People" and "Chicken Lady's Date" and characters like Queen Elizabeth, The King of Empty Promises and Head Crusher (come on, say it with me, "I'm crushing your head!") even earned KITH both Emmy and Ace award nominations.
After five seasons on HBO the Kids split up to pursue other avenues. Although their 1996 Prozac takeoff, Brain Candy, was far from a box-office smash, all of the Kids have enjoyed success beyond the show. Foley starred on the NBC hit series NewsRadio, lent his voice to A Bug's Life and worked on the highly underrated 1999 film Dick. McCulloch, whose send-up of Carl Bernstein in Dick is priceless, has his own stand-up tour, called "Slightly Bigger Cities." McKinney can take credit for being a part of, yes, Spice World and starring on SNL for a few seasons (where, big surprise, his talents were completely wasted). Thompson scored a role on The Larry Sanders Show, and McDonald had some guest appearances on Friends and The Drew Carey Show.
But with NewsRadio canceled and McKinney off SNL, the time is ripe for a reunion. So the Kids, who are now pushing 40, are on a sold-out 25-city tour reprising the classics and unveiling some new sketches. To KITH fans, the name says it all: "Kids in the Hall 2000 Tour: Same Guys New Dresses."
The Kids in the Hall perform Saturday, February 5, at 8 p.m. at the Aerial Theater at Bayou Place. Call (713)230-1600 for tickets, $28.50 and $36.