The Kids in the Hall, performing in Dallas tonight, dust off the rust with two shows at Austin’s Moontower Comedy Festival.
published Sunday, April 27, 2014
Austin â€” The Kids in the Hall are rolling through Texas on their Rusty and Ready tour, a public outing of material destined for a longer Northeast tour in June. Itâ€™s a follow-up to their series of five reunion shows at their old stomping grounds, The Rivoli, in Toronto last December. (More on that project here.) After a two-night stint at Moontower Comedy & Oddity Festival in Austin, the show comes to the Majestic in Dallas on Sunday.
This was fresh-baked comedy, recently written and rehearsed that week at The New Movement in Austin. The newness was alluded to in an opening musical monologue by Kevin McDonald, which also recapped the Kidsâ€™ history for non-insiders, including the ill-fated movie Brain Candyâ€™s five-million dollar loss. It was accompanied by a comically inept soft-shoe dance that provided the first of many references to their advancing ages: â€śWeâ€™re the group your grandpa told you about.â€ť
The kick-off featured the sight gag of the Kids in wedding dresses, putting up front their well-known proclivity for cross-dressing. They waxed on the benefits of wearing themâ€”â€śItâ€™s easier to hail a cabâ€ťâ€”and riffed about gay marriage, with Mark McKinneyâ€™s pregnant belly never mentioned. Bruce McCulloch tossed off a bit on a bank teller fantasizing about a wilder life. A bit on couples at a Brokeback Mountain screening, with the women oblivious to the menâ€™s true relationship, went on a bit long.
McKinney and Scott Thompson spun off a sly satire about improv, portraying a pair trying to work-up a scene, parroting the phrases learned in improv class such as â€śYes, and,â€ť rather than actually learning from them. The scattered improv fans in the audience found it hilarious, causing others to look at us puzzled.
McCullochâ€™s surprising skills as an actor came to the fore in a skit on Canadian politeness and rush to apology. He genuinely copped to causing cancer, even Thompsonâ€™s near-fatal B-cell non–Hodgkin’s gastric lymphoma, an aggressive stomach cancer, as well as the other memberâ€™s divorces. McCulloch presented one of his trademark monologues with ruminations on being a super-nerdâ€”â€śIâ€™m on the spectrumâ€ťâ€”and offered the best line of the night: â€śThe conspiracy about government conspiracies is that they donâ€™t exist.â€ť
But it was the updating of classic characters that the fan base came to see, even though Headcrusher and Cabbage Head never showed up. Simply the appearance of Sir Simon Milligan (Kevin McDonald) and his evil sidekick Hecubus (Dave Foley) prompted huge cheers. Hecubus, the â€śboy toy of Hell,â€ť got confused if heâ€™s serving Santa or Satan in the Pit of Ultimate Darkness.
McKinneyâ€™s reprise of the lascivious Chicken Lady was well received. The aging avian femme fatale could no longer afford gigolos and was trying her hand at dating, but intended mate Foley would have none of it. Thompson turned in a polished Buddy Cole monologue on gay kids being bulliedâ€”â€śTrans is so much more chic than sissyâ€ťâ€”and slacker teachersâ€”â€śThese days kids get stars for not waking up dead.â€ť
Sketch acts now tend to go for satire, whereas the Kids prefer to tickle while whispering subversive nothings in your ear. They are Canadian warped, genuinely weird and Pythonesque, ever pushing their bits into absurdity. A skit on pretentious foodies went well past insanity. Itâ€™s a well-fluffed silliness with pointed messages embedded so deep they donâ€™t kick in until two beats after the joke.
Rusty and Ready is a deeper show than prior reunions. Even if the rust flakes showed in the form of flubbed lines and performers frequently cracking up on stage, itâ€™s good to see the group together again. The Kids fervent fan base was more than happy to laugh along. As McCullough signed off at the end: â€śThank you for watching the rust fall off of us.”