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Kids in the Hall: Death Comes to Town

Kanada Kev

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The new Kids in the Hall show "Death Comes To Town" is going to be starting soon. For anyone interested, they are going to be pulling off some sort of free event in the Atrium at CBC's Broadcast Centre in Toronto. There are posters for it all around here and it is to happen at 12noon on Jan 11th. Here's the trailer:

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The Kids in the Hall: Death Comes to Town

eight-part mini-series premieres Jan. 12, 9pm on CBC



Epic sketch

BY Joshua Ostroff January 06, 2010 21:01

NORTH BAY, ONT. — "It's a good day today," Bruce McCulloch exclaims, with twinkling eyes and a wide grin. "We have a marching band!"

McCulloch, one of the five founding Kids in the Hall, is pacing about a TV location shoot. The set is an Ontario burg so authentic-looking that its main street is called Main Street and Mary Poppins is the matinee movie. There's a saloon with a mechanical bull. The best member of said marching band is the cowbell player.

In his flash cowboy suit, shiny brown boots, snap-button shirt and Western tie, McCulloch looks very much in charge, as befits his role as mayor of the fictional cottage-country town called Shuckton. But McCulloch's also the executive producer of The Kids in the Hall's long-awaited new show. Titled Death Comes to Town, it's an eight-episode murder-mystery miniseries that brings Canada's legendary cult comedy troupe together for their first screen project since the commercially unsuccessful 1996 film foray Brain Candy.

"We have no plan," McCulloch says of the Kids' reformation. "We got back into [TV] because we were getting back into sketch comedy — it's funny to even say 'sketch comedy' now, it's like CB radio it's so old school. But [on the troupe's 2008 tour] we started writing new sketches and it became this."


Though the quintet had trotted out their greatest head-crushing hits for a previous reunion tour in 2000, the 40-date 2008 tour of North America featured all-new material. Writing together again inspired them to make the leap from stage to screen, just as they had done decades earlier when they abandoned the Rivoli's back room for The Kids in the Hall's storied run on CBC, CBS and HBO.

Today's shoot involves a civic street party celebrating Shuckton's unlikely Olympic aspirations, hence the real North Bay high-school marching band on site. ("I said to the kids, act as if I'm beloved — like I'm Mordecai Richler," McCulloch deadpans. "They just stared at me like they didn't understand my reference.")

The Kids are all on set, most of them in drag. Scott Thompson is dolled up in a red dress as ambitious meteorologist Heather Weather, Dave Foley is adorned in a blond wig as the mayor's boozy wife (and the mother of Rampop, a "special" child who sees everyone as

butterflies), Mark McKinney is an anchorwoman with a crush on the open-shirted boom mic operator, and Kevin McDonald is dressed as his pizza-delivery-lady-with-Alzheimer's character.

"We always wanted to do long-form," McDonald says. "This project actually started out as a movie but the idea got so big we thought, 'let's go back to TV and make it a miniseries.' We wanted to do a comedy Roots."

Though the Kids themselves hail from cities (Calgary, Ottawa, the GTA) and were based in Toronto, the small-town setting fits their comedic shtick, which brings an unlikely realism to the most surreal sketches while imbuing their eccentric characters with an uncommon shade of respect.

"We've always thought small towns were funny, but I don't mean in a patronizing way," McDonald says, noting that basing characters in small communities has been a recurring theme since their Queen Street days. "We're so odd and unusual and non-professional that to make fun of the small town would be to do it the 'right way' — we're too bad to even do the stereotypes."

He adds, with understatement: "Our sensibility is different from a Corner Gas sensibility. Corner Gas is probably more accurate."

Thompson, who, coincidentally, was born here in North Bay, likens Death Comes to Town to Peyton Place or Twin Peaks, both because of the characters' plentiful secrets and because the

four-hour format allows them to delve far deeper than their trademark sketch work allows.

"It goes from serious stuff to broad-as-hell comedy, nuanced character work and really surreal stuff," he says with a grin. "We're just going for it in every moment. Every night I go to bed saying are you kidding? What we did today? And there's no agenda. We're going to push some buttons, but only accidentally — it's what we do. The joy we're getting by being together and performing, it's just out of this world.

"I think we're doing the best work we've ever done. I usually think that about whatever I'm doing, but something magical is happening here in North Bay."


As with their original series, Death features the five guys playing practically every character. In addition to the aforementioned townies, there's McKinney's codpiece-wearing Grim Reaper, McCulloch's 600-pound ex–hockey star, Ricky, Thompson's one-sixteenth-native delinquent Crim and Foley's cheerful abortionist.

"You rarely get to play characters," Foley notes. "Outside of the troupe you always have to play someone who looks or sounds a lot like yourself — and, as we are speaking, I am dressed as a woman. You don't get to do this a lot in other venues."

Foley cites another reason for the creative reunion: "We are a group, like [Monty] Python. It's not like we were a cast that was constantly changing. You could like us the way you'd like a band. It's not like the cast of NewsRadio [the hit 1990s sitcom on which Foley starred] is going to do any more projects together."

While CBC has been happily hands-off, the Kids have yet to sell their show down south. HBO seems an obvious eventual home, though not necessarily — the Kids' cult has continued over the years, but they've also been away a long while.

"A lot of people don't know who the fuck we are," McCulloch says matter-of-factly. "If we visited Ohio State University 15 years ago, we would've been mobbed. Now people think, 'Whose dads are walking through our campus?'"

And, while times have changed, they are not changing with them. The Kids may even be heading in the opposite direction. Whereas their old, succinct sketches were ahead of their time and would've been perfect fodder for the modern viral-comedy movement, today they're experimenting with an ambitious eight-episode narrative.

"I'm not sure if you can be around as long as us and have a viral success. I think it has to be an accident. Or carefully manipulated to seem like an accident," Foley says, dismissively. "It seems weird that someone can do a three-minute sketch and it will go viral and they'll get a film offer. We've done a few thousand of those — but we put 'em on TV! And now all of our stuff is on YouTube anyway."

"Yeah, yeah, we never do anything the right way," laughs McDonald. "But doing things the wrong way sometimes gets you noticed more — if you're lucky enough to be inept, I think you have more of a chance of making it."



Unlike the casts of SCTV or SNL, The Kids in the Hall didn't take over Hollywood after their legendary sketch series wound down — which isn't to say they stopped working. Here's what happened after the Kids left the building:

Bruce McCulloch: "I think we're all satisfied and dissatisfied with our post–Kids in the Hall careers," says the director of the Trinity Bellwoods–shot indie flick Dog Park (1998), SNL-spinoff flop Superstar (1999), Tom Green vehicle Stealing Harvard (2002) and creator of failed ABC sitcom Carpoolers. "I do a lot of stuff with studios and networks and the true essence of myself is probably weirder than what they want. We're not mainstream, y'know, and there's something bigger with the group, a comfort, and it all makes sense. But we're so weird we can't help ourselves in the other stuff."

Dave Foley: The prettiest Kid in drag transitioned to straight man on NewsRadio, "a show that was really funny.... And I got a fair bit of movie work I liked doing — and a whole bunch I couldn't care less about." Subsequent roles ranged from the aspirational ant in the animated A Bug's Life, to Celebrity Poker Showdown's colour commentator, to recent Canadian indie film Suck and the critically reviled movie The Strip.

Mark McKinney: The most consistently successful post-Kids Kid spent several seasons on SNL, starred in art-house flicks The Last Days of Disco and Guy Maddin's The Saddest Music in the World, was hired to save Aaron Sorkin's Studio 60 ("I felt really bad about that!"), starred in Newfoundland-set CBC comedy Hatching, Matching, & Dispatching and is currently showrunner on the excellent CanCom series Less Than Kind. But his biggest hit has been the Stratford Festival–inspired Slings and Arrows, which was recently licensed for a Brazilian version that debuted to 18 million viewers. "The great thing about Slings is that it has legs — it's as if it's still on," he says of the 2003-2006 series. "People are still discovering it and are fanatic about that show."

Kevin McDonald: Eclectic is an understatement for McDonald's career, which has included roles as a cross-dressing alien in Lilo & Stich, a pastor on That '70s Show, a teacher in OutKast's "Roses" video, Harry Potter in Epic Movie and Baxter the dog in Emmy-winning cartoon Back at the Barnyard. "We're basically lazy," he says of future Kids prospects, "so knowing the troupe as I do, my guess would be that filming Death will make us have to rest for three years."

Scott Thompson: The only gay in the group went straight into another classic comedy, The Larry Sanders Show. His later career has consisted of Simpsons cameos, sitcom guest spots, My Fabulous Gay Wedding and a series of one-man shows, often in his great barfly monologist guise, Buddy Cole.

Thompson was recently diagnosed with cancer and filmed (the now-ironically titled) Death Comes to Town in between chemotherapy and radiation. "Chemo ravaged me. People keep telling me that no one looks [good] like I do after chemo, but I think it's because I couldn't allow it to happen. I'm too vain, I had to play girls. Heather Weather is a cougar — I had to look good!"

Email us at: LETTERS@EYEWEEKLY.COM or send your questions to EYEWEEKLY.COM

625 Church St, 6th Floor, Toronto M4Y 2G1

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