SXSW Film Review: Kids in the Hall: Comedy Punks

Canada's transgressive comedy kings reunite

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 by Laura Bombier)

Watching Kids In The Hall: Comedy Punks, in between recognizable characters and skits like “crushing your head” and “when pigs fly," there's a lesson in who the Kids in the Hall were, what challenges they faced throughout show business, where they are now - all while reminding us that friendships have ups and downs

Formed in 1984, the Kids in the Hall are a Canadian comedy sketch troupe made up of Dave Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney and Scott Thompson. They always strived to be authentic and outsiders, and fans like Janeane Garofalo describe them as the first group to represent Generation X. Their television show ran from 1989 to 1995, and even in reruns went on to be Comedy Central's second highest rated series, right below Saturday Night Live. They then went on to release a movie in 1996, Brain Candy (it didn’t turn out well), went on tour in 2000, reunited for 2010 miniseries Death Comes to Town, and now have an eight episode revival season coming out on Amazon Prime.

The Kids made the misfits feel like they had a place in the world during a time that rebellion became more popular with the rise of rock and punk music. The creators of the film did a great job of peers like Michael Myers and Lewis Black who loved their content, clips of their live performances and shows, and interview with the Kids themselves.

Reg Harkema's documentary dives into what it was like to perform sketches with a gay person, Thompson, acting out gay characters in the middle of the AIDS crisis of the 80s. “We were making fun of AIDS because all I thought about was AIDS” Thompson says. “Do comedy, don’t get AIDS, don’t get AIDS, don’t get AIDS.” During the recording of Death Comes to Town, doctors diagnosed Thompson with non-hodgkin's gastric lymphoma, which, at the time, had a low survival rate. However, Thompson kept filming the miniseries because, even launching solo careers after the box office failure, creative trauma, and collapsing friendships around Brain Candy, they all felt nothing will be the same as the Kids in the Hall.

If you love the Kids in the Hall or have no idea who they are, you will walk away from this movie knowing a bit more about the transgressive pioneers who made comedy queerer and more rebellious.

Kids In The Hall: Comedy Punks

Documentary Spotlight, World Premiere
Online: March 16, 9am-March 18, 9am

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