Kat in the Hall: 1×02

Season 1, Episode 2
Airdate: Tuesday October 31st, 1989

Watch along on youtube: HERE.

The Sketches

Thirty Helens Agree 1 & Womyn sketches can be seen here & here respectively, on the Nerdist channel. Each video has an interview with Bruce and Mark after the sketch.

Recurring Characters

Cabbagehead (Bruce)

Cabbage Head (Bruce)

Thirty Helens Agree!

Thirty Helens Agree!

Buddy Cole (Scott)

Buddy Cole (Scott)

Episode two is upon us and “Thirty Helens agree” is introduced. The idea of thirty Helens in a field as a sketch concept was originally brought up by Bruce as a promo idea for Saturday Night Live. “Thirty Helens agree, Saturday Night Live is the best show ever” he says in the Nerdist interview linked above. None of the other writers liked it and so it came back with Bruce and added to the Kids’ material. Short, powerful ideas can work so well because the repetition keeps it familiar and makes the little twist that much stronger.

The sketch Sketch Comedy reminds me of an act Penn & Teller performed on Just for Laughs called ‘Sleight of Hand’ that included Penn rocking the bass (and speaking, obviously) as Teller went through and demonstrated how magicians use sleight of hand in their routines. This ‘how to’ has always interested me and seeing the anatomy of a sketch explained in such a monotone voice makes it all the more hilarious. I’ve also read that this is based on a class Bruce paid for in 1982, if this is true then money well spent.

buddycolestill“It reminds me of something that Yoko Ono once said to Malcolm X in a bistro in Rome. ‘Oh the food’s terrible. But the waiter’s hilarious.'” – Buddy Cole

The first appearance of Buddy Cole since the pilot; he’s in a bar and not an alley and he’s making us laugh and making us think. This is a sketch that I can see people being offended about. Really it’s mocking people who think such ridiculous things as a group of people being generalized as just one thing. This sketch came out in 1989 and as relevant as it was then, it’s just as relevant now when we have issues like Ferguson on the news every night. People making wide, unjustified opinions based on race still happen today.

Cabbage Head once again is a horrible person! This time we see a woman not swayed by his whining like we did in the pilot. Kevin’s character doesn’t put up with any crap even if she does offer the cringe-worthy line of “that’s such a manly drink”. (Let’s be fair, mixing alcohol with alcohol is always the smart thing to do regardless of gender.) Even though he’s not successful, at least Cabbage Head gets his head watered twice, since he was so concerned about that before.

Sarcastic Guy is a fantastic sketch.

Two episodes in and we have clever sketches like Sketch Comedy and then Womyn. Womyn is a piece that is hard to describe for me because I read it as an almost empowering-for-women sketch. There are a few oversimplifications and of course today we know that being a woman doesn’t mean you can get pregnant or have a period or any of those things. Looking at the sketch with what we know now it’s nice to see an argument about breasts are for feeding kids or PMS jokes not being funny. This was 1989, these are still relevant!

Two episodes in and the Kids are starting to find their feet and beginning to put down solid for TV sketches. We also have at least three sketches that touch on controversial material.

So what did you think about today’s episode? Were you offended by any of these sketches?

Watch on youtube? Please purchase the boxset when you are able. (amazon.com/amazon.ca/amazon.co.uk [NTSC])

Kat in the Hall: 1×01

Season 1, Episode 1
Airdate: Tuesday October 24th, 1989

The Sketches

The Eradicator & Ballet school sketches can be seen here & here respectively, on the Nerdist channel with interviews with some of the Kids after.

Recurring Characters

Headcrusher aka Mr. Tyzik (Mark)

Kathie (Bruce) & Mississippi Gary (Mark)

Where the pilot episode held some unfinished edges, this episode feels a bit more concise and put together. The cold open features Scott and Mark as Tiffany and Tabitha beginning a KITH tradition of dressing as women, not as a joke but simply to show female characters. Unlike Monty Python or Saturday Night Live the show isn’t big on playing women just for laughs, they play them like their mothers, sisters, friends and teachers. Kathie is a great example of this. The laughs don’t come from the fact that it’s Bruce dressed as a woman, it’s the banter between her and Mississippi Gary that’s funny. In fact, I would argue that Kathie is a far more interesting and in-depth female character than a lot of sitcoms have.

Now Mississippi Gary is a bit of a weird point. This is Mark McKinney playing in blackface, which I don’t agree with. It’s racist, I won’t apologize for it or say that “this was a different time” because it’s the 90’s and he’s still playing in blackface. At the same time I know that the character of Mississippi Gary will not always be played that way, they’ll drop that schtick and part of the joke will be that he’s just a white guy from Vermont. That doesn’t make it okay, it’s still a boring sketch with a couple of clever lines. While it’s not my favourite sketch and I feel like it’s a weak point in the episode, the dynamic between Gary and Kathie is clever and there’s some good harmonica playing and backing guitar.

The Eradicator is a Bruce sketch, properly weird and full of great one liners that I urge everyone to put into their day-to-day life.

“Don’t try to follow me, I have a cab waiting!” – The Eradicator

The two Headcrusher sketches start to flesh out a character that doesn’t need fleshing out at all. Mark has said in different interviews that he kept writing more story for the character even though all that was needed was ten or twenty seconds of material. Once you get the idea behind the Headcrusher anything else is just gravy. His “gag” is something we can easily imitate, it’s just a wonderful play on perspective. I think he would be an excellent Doctor Who villain, turning the world into flat heads and sparing only the occasional child who dislikes businessmen like he does.

The Pear Dream sketch is something I just can’t wrap my brain around. I don’t know whether to dislike the artsy feel of it or applaud the guts it takes to make something funny like that in such a unique style. It’s not a traditionally funny sketch either, it’s strange and a little unnerving. The first time I saw it I didn’t know where the “hook” or twist was going to come from. Either way we see Scott flexing the acting muscles he came to the troupe with even acting against a pear on a pillow.

So, what did you think? Are there any lines from this episode you find yourself quoting? Leave a comment! More Kat in the Hall on Monday!

Kat in the Hall: The Pilot (1988)

kith pilot thumbnail

Welcome to the first post for Kat in the Hall! If you’re not sure what that is: check here.

This post focuses on the “best of” pilot footage that aired on Comedy Central and is present as a DVD extra on the boxset. It is missing 15 minutes of sketches but it can viewed on Youtube here!

The Backstory – Quick Version
Kids in the Hall (KITH) is Dave Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney & Scott Thompson but it started as two separate groups would come together in Toronto, Ontario. One group already living in Toronto was made up of Kevin, Dave and Luciano Casimiri. They called themselves the Kids in the Hall. A couple years later the group from Calgary, Alberta known as The Audience consisting of Bruce, Mark, Norm Hiscock, and Gary Campbell; traveled to Toronto and began playing opposite them on bills at comedy clubs. Their styles complimented each other and they merged. The Audience was gone, hello Kids in the Hall. Mark then introduced the group to Scott, the group had achieved its final form.

The group was formed but success didn’t immediately follow. Individual projects split the group (Second City shows, Bruce and Mark wrote for Saturday Night Live). They were playing shows with small audiences of maybe five or ten people and with little to no press. They were on the verge of breaking up completely but reunited to begin playing the Rivioli, a performance space on Queen Street West in Toronto. Although they continued playing small shows, a positive review came from it and SNL’s Lorne Michaels happened to see it. With his help the Kids would move to New York for five months for a “Comedy Boot Camp”, there they would get an hour-long pilot produced for HBO and CBC. CBC would air the pilot in 1988 and HBO in 1989. With the pilot finished they then came back to Canada in hopes of picking up a show. Often it takes an American crowd to make a Canadian audience sit up and take notice…
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Kat in the Hall: A New Project

Anyone who knows me or reads this blog knows I love marathoning TV shows and watching an actor’s entire filmography. I fangirl, I obsess, and often I’ll watch nothing but one TV show or fandom for weeks on end. If there’s related music to listen to as well, even better.

However, this labour of love is a solitary one and although I talk about it I don’t find it necessary to ask others along on for the journey.

Until now.

I’m starting a project on this blog, dubbed “Kat in the Hall” by myself and probably no one else (for good reason). I will be reviewing two episodes of Kids in the Hall per week, Monday and Thursday, until I’ve reviewed all 101 episodes + the pilot. I’ll be tagging them, so you can avoid them if you wish and I’ll be posting other content too but this will be my focus. I thought about starting a separate blog but decided it’s still under the umbrella of “pondering fandom”.

Comedy is best experienced with others and the goal is to share the love I’m feeling for the Kids in the Hall both as a comedy troupe and individually. There will be a breakdown of all the sketches in each episode, links so you can watch them too, background information and an overall review. There may even be a giveaway or two during the journey.

So how ’bout it, eh? It’ll be better than going to a Leaf’s game.

If you’ve seen it all before, then watch it again! The comments will be wide-open for discussion. I would love to hear stories from non-Canadians who have stumbled upon the show or people who watched when it first aired. However, I hope if you have never seen Kids in the Hall and you like sketch comedy that you’ll take a chance and join me for the ride.

Join us Monday for a review of the pilot that aired in 1988 and a brief history of how five Canadian guys with a big hand from SNL’s Lorne Michaels got an hour-long pilot on CBC.

Until then just try to ignore the oversensitive guy…

CanCon, Canadian TV aaaaaaaaand Satan!

I am proud to be Canadian. I am not always proud of Canadian things.

I can’t imagine being from anywhere else. It would be wonderful to live in Britain. My great-grandparents were from there, if there’s another country where I feel a connection it’s England and if it wasn’t for World War II my great-grandmother probably would have never left Surrey. I just can’t picture myself writing anything but “Canadian” in the nationality section of a customs form. That doesn’t mean I like Canadian things. Once bitten, twice shy and if I see something boasting that it’s Canadian I see that as “not good”, “cheap”, “or fake American.” Canada has always suffered from being in the States’ shadow and feeling the need to act out to try to stand out.

Until recently I was happy to make a “Canadian TV” joke. Canada has been the backdrop for many American movies, TV movies and TV shows. Vancouver becomes Los Angeles, Toronto becomes New York or Pittsburgh but that’s where it ends. It’s improving now, but Canadian television still has something to prove. There’s a running joke that the Maritimes are ten years behind the rest of the country, but Canadian television in the nineties looked like they should have been in the eighties. Growing up, the Littlest Hobo being an exception, I avoided Canadian media products. This wasn’t easy as we only got two English channels. The CBC didn’t play anything interesting; they tried really hard but whether it was my age or interests I avoided CBC as often as I could. Global at least carried American shows to break the monotony of news that they so often presented. Why should I be proud of this stuff? Although they said they were Canadian I didn’t see any evidence of that. It was watered down American nonsense about American things. I like American nonsense, it’s what I grew up on, but this was watered down. Growing up in the Maritimes probably didn’t help as no one seemed to talk like I or my family did and they didn’t have the same problems as us. If I had been older I think Air Farce would have been another exception. I enjoyed watching it for the physical comedy and the funny voices, but their jokes were Canadian but focused on politics and as a kid I didn’t understand them.

When I was a teenager I learned about “Cancon” aka Canadian Content, which states that Canadian radio and television broadcasters (including cable and satellite specialty channels) must air a certain percentage of content that was at least partly written, produced, presented, or otherwise contributed to by persons from Canada. In other words, to my young mind, a certain percentage of everything I watched on Canadian channels would be awful.

Fast-forward to last year: would I like to watch a Canadian sitcom called Spun Out? I was hesitant. Thanks to my family’s obsessive love of “half hour comedies” I assume anything that calls itself a situational comedy will be like “Everybody Loves Raymond” or “King of Queens”. (I’m sorry but I would rather watch paint dry!) Tack on the word “Canadian” and what hope was there for it? How could it possibly be good? I gave it a shot.

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