My parents raised me on a steady helping of genius material. When it came to comedy, I was introduced to the likes of Monty Python and SCTV at a very young age. So, when The Kids in the Hall popped up on my TV screen in the late 80s/early 90s not only was I all in…I felt that I had found my generations Monty Python. The irreverent, almost strange type of humor spoke to me immediately. This was a revolution and I was ready at the front lines to witness every second of it.
By this point in my life I figured I already knew everything there was to know about the history of Bruce, Dave, Kevin, Mark, and Scott. Little did I know there were still details and information about these performers, as well as the history of their art that I was completely unaware of. I certainly had an idea that their world views and hard biting cynicism came from their personal pasts. But color me shocked to learn that (and upon researching I do realize this has been out in the ether before this documentary) that Kevin’s father pretty much said the horrible things to Kevin that exist in the sketch, “Daddy Drank.” It won’t make me laugh any less at the sketch, but it sure makes me think.
That’s what makes The Kids in the Hall: Comedy Punks a wonderful documentary. It crams in all the little pieces of their history you already knew about– Scott throwing donuts at the troop, the origins of the name, etc.– and adds in a plethora of new facts encompassed in the most emotion and heart I’ve ever seen The Kids exhibit…and jokey fun, don’t worry, there are plenty of shenanigans to be had. But among the stars and fans that the film throws at you as they gawk and fawn over the brilliance of this unmatched group of performers, are some very complicated and trouble human beings that found a way through life by being with each other.
More on that later though, because what this film also gives us (and this is really for the fans) is a 60+ year old Paul Bellini in his famous white towel. It’s not for the whole film mind you, but they were cognizant enough to make sure we got a glorious Bellini cameo in the towel before he was properly dressed and also really getting to the heart of the matter when it came to the special talents and relationships of the cast. Though, that isn’t to say there are things I felt were missing from the production as well. I’m still not convinced writer Norm Hiscock (yes, if you didn’t know) is a real person and not just an alias for a group of writers; but we’ll never know here as the name isn’t even mentioned.
But maybe that is also unfair to say, because as much as The Kids in the Hall was/is a television/stage show– this is not a pointed look just at the makings of product. This is a guide through the lives of five men who lucked into meeting each other and ended up changing the face of comedy and subverting all expectations. It’s really about the trials and tribulations of first breaking out of the mold they were expected to fill, and then finding their feet, together.
There is a certain joy one can gain from hearing how much Dave hated the “Sausages” film because while people might laugh at it, there are no actual jokes in it. I for one think “Sausages” is amazing, and would have no problem telling Dave Foley that to his face. There is even a newer, maybe fresher look at the rift between Dave and the guys after he accepted his gig on Newsradio and how it affected their relationship, even bleeding into production of Brain Candy, where shooting a scene was a professional as could be, but once cut was yelled, seething anger and angst filled the room.
Every fan knows how much these men mean to each other, but it is one thing to know it and another to see them well up with tears as they recount the Scott’s health issues and what he went through while filming Death Comes to Town. Kids in the Hall: Comedy Punks ultimately filled me with admiration for strangers I didn’t think I could admire anymore than I already had.
Final Grade: A-