Chicago is one of only five cities with the privilege of hosting legendary sketch-comedy group the Kids in the Hall on its “Rusty and Ready Tour,” the first time the fivesome has gotten out on the road together since 2008. In existence for 30 years, the Canadian troupe fully exposed itself to the States during the five-season run of its eponymous TV show in the late 80s/early 90s—and later in the 1996 film Brain Candy. Eventually, turmoil and arguing became a part of the Kids in the Hall’s behind-the-scenes routine, and they took long sabbaticals away from one another in the late 90s. But with age comes reflection—or at least a lessened will to fight—and, lucky for us, they refused to disband.
Much of my exposure came in the form of early-aughts mid-afternoon reruns on Comedy Central, lounging on my couch after getting out of class and before heading to work. I became addicted, not only because of the wildly nonsensical sketch humor—which was really just so far beyond the sluggish wit of Saturday Night Live—but also because Dave Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney, and Scott Thompson were a decisively cohesive unit, indulging in one another’s oddities while each nurturing his own. (Plus the great Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet instrumental intro song triggered some sort of Pavlovian response that made me plop down in front of a TV.) In celebration of tonight’s performance at the Chicago Theatre, Reader music editor Philip Montoro and I scoured YouTube for a small handful of our favorite The Kids in the Hall moments. Check ’em out below:
“A man works all day, he expects a normal ham meal, not goddamn bastard brine!” A classic. Put a mustache on McCulloch and some gravel in his voice and pair him with a doting Thompson in drag. This sketch is one of a series in which the two play a married couple, with Foley acting as their son—and McCulloch is perfect. (Note the hilarious photo on the nightstand of Foley doing his best impression of a drip.)
It seems the Kids in the Hall had a special fondness for ham—this sketch is usually called “Ham of Truth” or “Fine Ham Abounds” (the latter has been repeated around many a Christmas dinner table, I’m sure). In this case the ham is the catalyst that propels young rebel Bobby Terrance (played by Bruce McCulloch) out of his parents’ home on a rock ‘n’ roll journey of barfy self-discovery. “Bob, you don’t know anyone in the ocean!”
Is there a more hateful remark than calling someone a “human loser”? This short solo sketch will forever resonate with bike riders who have experienced theft, and McCulloch seems so genuinely pissed and flabbergasted that someone would only steal the front wheel of his bike. “Why don’t you buy your own wheel if you wanted one so badly? That’s what I did.”
The ham may be fuckin’ good, but the soup is shitty. “In fact, this soup is so vile, it will dominate your palate for the next seven months. You may never want to eat again!”
The steak is a symbol for something, but I’ve never been sure what.
This one sticks for a couple of reasons. One: the spectacle of Kevin McDonald’s red suit and red hair, which are meant to signify his profession of being “from the catsup company.” Two: the notion that the best way to handle a tapeworm is to fatten it up with tapeworm food. “I wonder what the poor people are doing.”
And you can’t do a The Kids in the Hall roundup without a little of Scott Thompson’s beloved “alpha fag,” Charles Budderick “Buddy” Cole.