There was something lovely about seeing people talk anew about the brilliance of The Kids In The Hall last week when the iconic Canadian sketch group made their return with a new season (available on Amazon Prime) a mere quarter-century and change after their previous finale. There’s a real sense of pride and humanity that swells when you realize other people like the thing you like (and have liked your whole life). That they get it. Kids In The Hall is now and forever a thing built for a specific audience with specific tastes. Never mainstream or conformist. That’s part of their charm. Part of why the new documentary about the troop, Comedy Punks, is so perfectly titled. And perfectly timed, too, coming out a week after the new season (the doc is also on Amazon Prime) to keep that conversation going, reminding fans that the Kids are back while, at the same time, illuminating their origins, feuds, reunions, and overall us against the world ethos.
Last week, we ran an interview with Dave Foley to share some of his thoughts on those same topics. This time, we’re talking with Mark McKinney about the show, the doc, creative ambition, not trying to force fan-favorite characters into rotation, and the absence of regret over the Kids’ long hiatus.
I don’t know if you’ve been told, but I’m in a car.
That’s a pretty great mode of transportation.
Yeah. It’s one of my favorites.
Well, I do remember that you guys have fucked them in the past in Car Fuckers [a 2008 one-off sketch that seems impossible to find on the internet now].
We have fucked the automobile. That’s right. Directed by the Russo brothers.
Was it? I did not realize that. Honestly, now I really think Marvel had a missed opportunity. They should have put that on the poster for the Avengers films, “from the people that brought you Car Fuckers.”
Exactly, please note that I asked, “Where are they now?”
You really wrecked their career actually. Nice job.
Sorry. I feel bad, but there are two of them. They should be able to forage together something.
So the show is tremendous. It’d be weird if I was doing this and I had no affection for you guys, or your work. What is this for? Is this a Superstore DVD extra?
[Laughing] I am stealing that. I’m going to find a reason to put that on my Insta. Attention, Superstore DVD extra: Kids In The Hall.
So, the Comedy Punks doc is also great. You had mentioned there that you, yourself, don’t have any ambition. I thought that was funny because you can’t really tell. You’ve done a bit. Was that just an off-the-cuff joke, or is that something you honestly feel?
Well, I don’t know. What is ambition? Maybe it’s not competitive ambition. I have creative ambition, a lot of it. I mean, I’ve done a ton of stuff. But in a way, I don’t have a plan. I’ve never tried to scheme my career. And I think collectively, the Kids In The Hall have. And I think individually, I’m probably on the low end of ambition, of business ambition in the troop, but maybe not creative ambition. But it was also a bit, so I don’t know. But it’s something I noticed the other day when I was watching it at the Hot Docs Festival. I sort of went home going, “What did I mean by that? Am I talking to myself?”
I think for me it goes back to the beginning. I think I said this in the doc. But the Loose Moose Theater was a theater in Calgary that myself and Norm Hiscock, one of the eventual Kids In The Hall writers went and saw when we were 20 years old and trying to find a way to write comedy. You could have a theater sports team and be on stage the next week if you signed up. And I would never have been able to think my way on stage. It had to be like that. “Well, we’re doing it.” “Oh, we are?” I would’ve been too self-conscious. I have too strong a belief in orthodoxies, in systems, and stuff like that, too much of a WASP-y respect for law and order and meritocracies and hierarchies. You know what I mean? I would’ve tried to find my way nimbly through them. I’m much, much better when I’m forced into a reaction or an unselfconscious choice.
You all did a great job of weaving in the classic and the new. Going in, was that a concern? Not wanting to just give people a bunch of older material. Giving them a bit of new stuff. Was that part of the challenge that excited you?
Oh, very much so. I wanted this to be the Kids In The Hall, 30 years on. What would we write now? Old characters had to be apt. They had to fit. Otherwise, we weren’t going to be interested. It didn’t feel like that’s what this was about. This was like, holy cow, we got this amazing chance to stand on our feet in a television format as opposed to stage or something. And I wanted to see what that was for myself.
The characters that worked were bizarre. I didn’t sit down to write the Hotel La Rut characters again. I just found myself in a moment of COVID sloth, being too tired to get up and get my iPad. And I started muttering to myself in that language and Scott liked the idea. So we did it.
So there was no whiteboard with like, “Okay, we’ve got to do this character?”
No, no, no, no. We’ve never worked that way. Had we worked that way, we would be very successful, we’d be huge. But no, we never worked that way with an imperative on the material.
As you’re doing this and seeing the results, do you feel regret that you guys weren’t able to get more movies out to follow Brain Candy or to be able to otherwise capitalize on it? Obviously, there are a billion, different reasons why something like that didn’t come together, but I’m curious.
No, I think more like a kind of a radical acceptance that really the secret sauce of Kids In The Hall is the exact kind of contrast and bracing contrast that makes writing a single narrative movie kind of almost impossible. We wrote an original idea for Brain Candy. I think the Pythons were very smart to riff off the Arthurian legends and the Bible because everyone can contribute to that. Do you know what I mean? It’s the unifying force.
We kind of pulled back and forth over the threads of the story of Brain Candy. And that actually pointed the way to a revival. You know what makes us work? It’s a Scott monologue, followed by a weird piece by me, followed by a Dave and Kevin classic, followed by a Bruce. It’s the gumbo of that, that is the Kids In The Hall. I think now maybe if there was ever a window, we could go back and do something. An archetype.
‘Kids In The Hall’ and ‘Comedy Punks’ can both be found on Amazon Prime