It's not an exaggeration to say that I have watched certain Kids in the Hall sketches so many times that they run in a continuous and effortlessly memorized loop in my head. This five-man troupe from Canada (Calgary and Toronto, to be specific) arrived at just the right time -- Saturday Night Live was so safe, so tepid in those early years of the '90s that I rarely watched it, while Kids in the Hall was random and edgy, often dark and always smart.
Certain characters and ideas that wouldn't reach their fullest expression until the second and third seasons are already in evidence here -- including Mark McKinney's hilarious "head crusher" ("I'm crushing your head, yuppie! I crush it flat!") and the first incarnation of Bruce McCulloch's annoying neighborhood kid character. As is often true with first seasons, there's a lot of untried material here and much of it falls flat because the Kids -- fresh from the improv scenes of Calgary and Toronto -- were still working out all the requisite issues of performing in front of the camera. Still, you'll find some moments of unfettered brilliance, for instance Dave Foley's "Guy With a Good Attitude Toward Menstruation," Scott Thompson's soft focus, quasi-porno travelogue, "Explore Scott" and a sketch in which a blues man (McKinney) confronts the woman who done him wrong, "Kathie, with a 'K'" (Bruce McCulloch, in full secretarial drag and miffed body language). And speaking of McCulloch, the DVD set quickly became worth its sticker price just for his "Eradicator" and "Cabbage Head" skits alone.
The "Extras" DVD includes a 45-minute "oral history" with all five kids -- Mark McKinney, Bruce McCulloch, Scott Thompson, Kevin McDonald and Dave Foley -- as well as the rare pilot episode and 30 minutes of unseen footage from the Rivoli Theatre (where they were discovered by SNL's Lorne Michaels). As for the episodes themselves, production values are pretty low, and the first year of Kids in the Hall has the feel of real kids (college, perhaps) in a real hall (dormitory) putting on a low budget but dead funny show. In this Kids in the Hall world, none of the boys ever aged past 27, egos never got out of control and Bruce McCulloch continued to wear "No Excuses" jeans practically up to his armpits.
Publication date: 07/15/04