Will Intersectional Politics Kill ‘The Kids In The Hall’ Sketch Comedy Reboot?

Will Intersectional Politics Kill ‘The Kids In The Hall’ Sketch Comedy Reboot?

To the rejoicing of 1990s nerds everywhere, Amazon announced Thursday that it will bring back an eight-episode season of the Canadian sketch comedy show “The Kids in the Hall.”

Originally running from 1989-1995, the show spanned five seasons and was produced by Lorne Michaels of “Saturday Night Live.” Michaels will also produce the Amazon Prime reboot, which will include all original cast members: Dave Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney, and Scott Thompson.

Commenting on the announcement, Michaels remarked, “Even after 30 years, “The Kids in the Hall” has retained its brilliance and originality. We are happy to be bringing back all of the original kids for the new series.”

If you’ve never seen it, the show is a perfect mélange of quirky British humor and North American creative experimentation, like a cross-eyed Canadian love child of Monty Python and “Saturday Night Live.”

For example, does a sketch in which poor losers eat mac and cheese to fatten up their tapeworms sound funny to you? Or a guy monologuing onstage about his positive attitude toward menstruation? How about businessmen getting wasted on girl drinks? What about a bald, middle-aged businessman having a heart-to-heart with a co-worker because unidentified brown stuff is leaking out of his mouth (although rest assured, it is not “poo-based”)?

Similar to shows such as “Arrested Development” or “Twin Peaks,” there are only two ways to feel about “The Kids in the Hall”: It’s your favorite show in the whole wide world, or you think it’s weird as heck. There’s little room for in between.

But it’s not all madcap, absurdist fun. Going back and watching the show now, some sketches read more like prophesy than comedy. Take, for instance, flamboyantly gay lounge rat Buddy Cole talking about having virtual sex with strangers, or students walking out on an art class because the nude model is being exploited by the patriarchy.

Scott Thompson’s openly gay persona and the show’s numerous gay characters were also rare and very edgy for the day. Even though the show had some fun at his expense, it took steps toward normalizing gay and queer culture. Having five guys regularly dress in drag probably helped, too.

Despite this, there are some very problematic things about “The Kids.” It’s hard to imagine that a troupe once responsible for sketches featuring a folk hero called “The Running Faggot” is going to jive with today’s ultra-woke sensibilities. Will today’s audience forgive sketches about a perennial sexual predator — because, after all, he’s got a cabbage for a head? Or will the humorless brigade shut down the madcap chase to absurdity that made “The Kids in the Hall” awesome? Or, worst of all, will “The Kids” spend more effort making political statements than comedy?

This old fan is hopeful the reboot will bring new life to old characters — and old genius to new ones. Thirty Helens agree that it’s at least worth a shot.

Caroline D'Agati is a writer, former park ranger, and New Jersey expatriate living in DC. She studied English at Georgetown and media studies at The New School. You can follow her on Twitter at @carodagati.
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