The show opens with Scott Thompson sporting long, white, bejeweled hair, selling a copy of “Brain Candy” at a garage sale. Upon completion of the transaction for one earth dollar, Thompson holds the coin up, beams, and proclaims the curse is broken. “The Kids in the Hall” can return.
With that quasi-trip through the fourth wall, “Kids in the Hall” did return, this time on Amazon Prime, as though not a day has passed since the show ended in 1995. Although the kids — Thompson, Dave Foley, Mark McKinney, Bruce McCulloch, and Kevin McDonald — are older and grayer, the ethos from the original show remains. The irreverence, the overall weirdness, the willingness to offend, and the full-frontal nudity that those of us who watched the first run remember have picked up right where it all left off.
Well, maybe not the full-frontal nudity, which is a new development and was more than a little unexpected, but it’s still “Kids in the Hall,” which in 2022 is revolutionary.
What makes it so isn’t the return to the style of sketch comedy they’ve been doing since the 1980s, but what they’re not doing: focusing on scoring any ideological points. They’re simply trying to make people laugh. And while the show was always politically incorrect, the continuation 17 years later — and it is a continuation, not a reboot — is a reminder that being politically incorrect isn’t always about politics, but instead about not worrying about who might get offended.
Being Politically Incorrect Has Changed
Of course, today that looks a little different than when the “Kids” made their HBO debut in 1989. When the show first aired, it was more shocking — and more of a political statement — to have an openly gay man not just admitting his sexuality but owning it and making fun of it. These days, that’s almost quaint.
This means the troupe had to set their sights on different targets for the new season. From jokes about everything being racist to how clapping is a form of aggression to mocking the importance of diversity and gender equity to the silliness of complaints about cultural appropriation, they’re not pulling punches, even if they’re considerably milder than other comics, such as Dave Chappelle, who revel in making fun of everyone. (They are Canadian, after all.)
In an interview with Rolling Stone, the quintet explained their thinking on the state of comedy today, as well as their approach to it and the new season of “Kids in the Hall”:
David Fear: Maybe it’s a course correction from years of comedy that punched down, and…
Scott Thompson: Oh, please!
Dave Foley: That’s based on a misguided notion, I think, that comedy punches anywhere. Comedy doesn’t punch.
Thompson: Or maybe it punches in every direction? But come on. Who decides whether it’s up or down?
Foley: There’s always an element of condescension in deciding who’s down…
Thompson: Exactly. Like you’re the expert?
Mark McKinney: I like Dave’s quote — I’m going to paraphrase a bit here — “Just because you’re down doesn’t mean you’re not an idiot.” And therefore, completely worthy of satire.
Foley: I think there’s a generation that stupidly believes they should never be yelled at by their boss.
Thompson: Or have disagreements at all.
Foley: I sincerely believe everyone should be forced to work for a boss that is mean. Because you grow a lot. You learn how to handle adversity. You learn how to function in the real world.
As Comedy Should Be, There Are No Sacred Cows
At this juncture, it’s worth pointing out that when Thompson’s famed gay character Buddy Cole appears in Episode 2 of the new show, one of his first acts, almost imperceptible, is to take a sexual identity flag from a planter as he walks past it and nonchalantly throws it over his shoulder onto the ground. This occurs after he walks past an old-school gay pride flag, one that he leaves untouched. There is no commentary added to the act, no glaringly obvious political statement, but it’s not a cautious touch, particularly in 2022.
This is why the new season of “Kids in the Hall” is so good, and so important. It’s not the specific sacred cows they go after, it’s that there are no sacred cows, which is how comedy is supposed to function.
It isn’t about confirming one’s priors and making people tepidly chuckle by affirming their beliefs, whether from the left or the right, but about catching people off guard and making them genuinely laugh. It’s about actually succeeding rather than just performing. Or being performative.
As Thompson said, it’s about throwing punches in every direction, which is something we should all get a little more comfortable doing. But also, it’s a sad state of affairs that it took the bravery of five old white Canadian men to remind us of that.