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…

The Sketches
(Struck-out titles omitted on Comedy Central viewing)

  • You Millionaires!
  • Oversensitive Guy
  • Guys on Break
  • Working Stiffs
  • Brian’s Bombshell
  • Goodnight Nookie
  • Romeo
  • Everyone’s Friend
  • Old Lady | Battle
  • Love at First Sight
  • But Do You Love *Me*?
  • David Foley’s power | Mark McKinney’s Confession
  • Naked For Jesus
  • Reg
  • Headcrusher quits for the Night

The “Goodnight Nookie” Cabbagehead sketch is also available here on the Nerdist channel with an interview afterward featuring Bruce McCullough & Mark McKinney.

Recurring Characters
Technically these are first appearances.

Headcrusher aka Mr. Tiscic aka Mr. Tyzik (Mark)

Cabbagehead (Bruce)

Buddy Cole
Buddy Cole (Scott)

Pilots are strange beasts.

They need to show the world how great the show will be without necessarily knowing how the show will get there. A pilot episode is the appetizer that can ruin the entire meal and it’s often prepared without any of the proper equipment you will have to make the main course with. This post you’re reading is my pilot episode for this blog experiment I’m attempting. I’m just flying without television executives telling me about what demographics want.

KITH began with the knowledge that these five guys from Canada were funny. This was fact, Lorne Michaels had seen their Rivoli show. A lot of the sketches were almost taken directly from the stage and put on television. This “cut & paste” shows in the staging and pacing. The Cabbagehead sketch is a great example of this transfer from stage to screen and it working very well.

“Romeo,” however, doesn’t work. It’s still a fantastic funny sketch and really embodies the beginning of great characterization but it suffers in length and it’s too dull visually. Given the amount of movement in it, a lot of it coming from Dave’s character the camera shots feel jarring. Contrast it to the sketch “Reg” which is stage set too but focused on speech not action.

The pilot definitely looks like a pilot, it has all the unfinished edges that’s expected of a first production. Even if most of the sketches have concrete backdrops, the wigs are awful (think Kevin’s character with the walking in “Romeo”) and they didn’t yet have a good hair and make-up team. They didn’t want to look like guys in drag, they wanted to look like women. More on that point in another post. However, the heart is still there. The pilot gives the first episode its potential.

So what sketch in this episode stands out to you, for good or bad reasons? If you’ve seen the full pilot, please feel free to brag and tell us all about it!

A neat little idea I had, keep track of how many appearances each of the Kids have. *Pilot totals stand alone.

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