The Kids in the Hall is a Canadian sketch comedy group formed in 1984, consisting of comedians Dave Foley, Kevin McDonald, Bruce McCulloch,Mark McKinney, and Scott Thompson. Their eponymous television show ran from 1988 to 1994 on CBC in Canada, and 1989 to 1995 on CBS and HBOin the United States. The theme song for the show was the instrumental "Having an Average Weekend" by the Canadian band Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet. The troupe made one movie, Brain Candy, which was released in 1996.
The name of the group came from Sid Caesar, who, if a joke didn't go over, or played worse than expected, would attribute it to "the kids in the hall", referring to a group of young writers hanging around the studio.
Despite their SNL connection, the show's sketches were more reminiscent of Monty Python's Flying Circus: often quirky or surreal, frequently utilizing drag, with very few celebrity impressions or pop culture parodies; the only recurring celebrity impression was of Queen Elizabeth II, played by Thompson. A recurring character was Mr. Tyzik, played by McKinney, who pretended to crush people's heads from a distance with his fingers. McKinney also played Chicken Lady, a shrill-voiced sexually excitable human-chicken hybrid. Another prominent recurring character was Cabbage Head, played by McCulloch, who was a gruff-voiced cigar-smoking misogynist who would frequently use the fact that he had cabbage in place of hair as a means to generate pity in the hopes of getting women into bed. Many of the sketches featured gay characters and themes; most of these sketches were written by and starred Scott Thompson, who is openly gay. The show was also notable for reflecting and dealing with the youth subculture of its times, and for incisive sketches about big business and family units.
The Kids frequently appeared as themselves rather than as characters, and some sketches dealt directly with the fact that they were a comedy troupe producing a TV show. For example, Kevin McDonald announces that if the next sketch (which he has written) is not successful, the others are considering kicking him out of the group. In another episode, Thompson declares that he isn't gay anymore, which throws the other Kids into a panic, as they fear that the news will alienate the troupe's considerable gay fanbase. In yet another sketch (in which an employee, Foley, asks his boss, McDonald, for a raise) McDonald complains the setup is cliché and his character one-dimensional.
Monologues were a staple of the show. Though Scott Thompson's Buddy Cole monologues are the best known, the other Kids performed many memorable solo pieces as well. McCulloch in particular performed many monologues that consisted of him, acting as himself, telling hyperbolic stories of the struggles and day to day experiences in his life and/or the lives of others. Prominent examples from the other Kids include Foley describing his positive attitude toward menstruation, McKinney in character as a high-pitched recluse who's describing with intense fascination his hideously infected and bruised toe, and in a gag reminiscent of Bob Newhart, a distraught McDonald calling a best friend's young son to tell him his father died, only to have the child end up consoling him, even going so far as quoting famous philosophers on the ultimate emptiness of life.
The show originated in Canada, and the content was at times edited slightly for U.S. tastes in one respect: sketches mocking religion were sometimes cut down or removed, necessitating the addition of material from other episodes to round out the half-hour. Some US channels censored the occasional nudity as well, such as when Foley revealed to Thompson he had inexplicably grown breasts. Among the more controversial sketches was the final sketch of Season 1, "Dr. Seuss Bible", in which the troupe tells the story of Jesus Christ's crucifixion in the style of children's author Dr. Seuss.
Though the show occasionally featured guest actors (notably Neve Campbell and Nicole de Boer well before they became famous), the Kids played nearly all parts, both male and female, themselves. In contrast to Monty Python, where the members often donned drag to portray older women, but usually utilized women such as Carol Cleveland and Connie Booth to play female characters who were young and attractive, all the Kids regularly played both old and young women; the frequent cross-dressing would become one of the show's trademarks. This began during their stage show, because they found themselves writing female characters but had no female member to play them. As Scott Thompson explained, "The way we played women ... we weren't winking at the audience ... We were never, like, going, 'Oh, look at me! I'm a guy in a dress!' Never. We would always try to be real, and that, I think, freaked people out..."
The CBC aired the show through its entire run. Seasons 1–3 aired on HBO but, in the fall of 1992, CBS picked up the rights to the show and aired it on late-night Fridays showing repeats, while HBO was airing the last of the season 3 episodes.
In early 1993, all-new episodes of The Kids in the Hall aired on CBS late-night, making the start of season 4. In the fall of 1993 it aired right after the Late Show with David Letterman late Friday nights. The fifth and final season of The Kids in the Hall began airing in the spring of 1994 until November. In January 1995 it was off the air and replaced with a new show, The Late Late Show with Tom Snyder.