Canadian TV is getting its due, lately, with huge global popularity surrounding shows like Letter Kenny and Schitt’s Creek. In the midst of all this television Canadiana, Amazon is releasing eight brand new episodes of the 30-year-old cult sketch comedy show, The Kids in the Hall. And the gang’s all back: original cast Dave Foley (NewsRadio), Scott Thompson (What Would Sal Do?), Kevin McDonald (Lilo & Stitch), Bruce McCulloch (Young Drunk Punk), and Mark McKinney (Superstore) have all confirmed their eminent return, as well as original executive producer Lorne Michaels (Saturday Night Live). 30 Helens agree: this is a good thing.

“Even after 30 years, The Kids in the Hall has retained its brilliance and originality,” Michaels said. “We are happy to be bringing back all of the original ‘Kids’ for the new series.” KITH has a serious cult following among fans of subversive comedy. The troupe formed in 1984 (with Thompson joining the following year) and performed sketches at comedy nights in The Rivoli, a small performance venue on Toronto’s Queen West. The group disbanded briefly in 1986 while the members pursued paying gigs (McKinney and McCulloch even wrote for Saturday Night Live for a while), but they would still get together to perform. It was at one of these performances that they were discovered by Michaels, who approached them with an offer to do a TV show. The show ran for five seasons from 1989 to 1995 in Canada and the US (although some sketches were edited or even cut for American broadcast). A movie, Brain Candy, which lampooned the pharmaceutical industry, was released in 1996, and they did an eight-episode miniseries, Death Comes to Town in 2010. Although each member has an IMDB page full of other projects, the troupe never really broke up, having performed several reunion tours in the intervening years.

The show was groundbreaking, dealing with issues that were still extremely taboo in the late ’80s-early ’90s: themes like homosexuality (notably Thompson’s iconic Buddy Cole character), misogyny, menstruation, feminism, and religion, just to name a few. The show’s unique surrealist and fourth wall-breaking technique, as well as its recurring jokes and characters, created a signature style among sketch comedy programming (the ’70s and ’80s saw somewhat of a boom of sketch comedy in Canada). This was evidenced particularly in the way the all-male troop played female characters. While drag is a mainstay in the often male-dominated realm of sketch comedy, it’s often done with a wink at the audience, as if men in dresses were the real punchline of the bit. But the Kids never went for that, always playing female characters as they would any other character in the sketch. When we think of Cathy and Kathie or Maudre and Jocelyn, we laugh because of the excellent comedic writing and delivery — not because they look funny in wigs and dresses. The sketches often drew from philosophy, theology, film, and literature, giving them a depth not often found in the wacky slapstick prevalent in sketch comedy of the day.

Michaels has apparently been trying to get a reunion show happening since 2017, according to a News-Press interview with McDonald. The new episodes are still early in the pre-production stages, with a likely 2021 release. They have confirmed that fan-favorite characters will be making a comeback, but fans are left wondering: which ones and how will they be adapted? The cultural climate has changed a lot in the last three decades, and some of the original show’s recurring characters may not fly with today’s audiences. For example, McKinney doing blackface for Mississippi Gary would definitely not be welcome on today’s screens. Will Cabbage Head get a Tinder account? Will the unnamed Toronto police officers tackle the issue of police violence? Will Buddy Cole finally settle down and get married? With the amazingly creative minds of the Kids in the writing room together once again, anything is possible.

Brooke Ali
Brooke grew up in Nova Scotia on a steady diet of scifi, fantasy, anime, and video games. She now works as a genealogist and lives in Toronto with her husband and twin nerds-in-training. When she's not reading and writing about geek culture, she's knitting, spinning, and writing about social history.

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