SXSW review: ‘Comedy Punks’ looks at the Canadian Kids in the Hall who made a splash

Original members come back together to talk about the past — and the future


“Kids in the Hall: Comedy Punks” pays tribute to the Canadian troupe who broke all sorts of boundaries, donning wigs and dresses and fully embracing their imagined characters, including the very out comedic stylings of Scott Thompson.

The documentary, which is having its world premiere at South by Southwest, has been picked up by Prime Video and will have its premiere on that streaming service later this year.

The documentary starts where you might expect — at the Rivoli nightclub in Toronto, where Dave Foley and Kevin McDonald were performing standup and sketch comedy. They were soon joined by a duo from Calgary, Bruce McCullough and Mark McKinney, and then added a fifth member, Thompson.

For a long time, the troupe labored in obscurity, fine-tuning their characters and jokes, but they begin to draw big crowds in the late 1980s, as well as the attention of Saturday Night Live’s Lorne Michaels.

Mike Myers, a fellow Canadian, says he was quite jealous of their early success, and some of that humor came from the Kids’ frequent display of “a cavalcade of bad parenting.”

And then there was the Chicken Lady, a cross between a lady and a chicken. And there were numerous characters created by Thompson, often a self-aware gay dandy who turned out on top in his skits rather than becoming the butt of jokes.

Before long, Michaels brought the guys to New York, and they began taping a pilot in 1988 for the CBC in Canada and HBO in the United States. Production of the first of 20 shows started in 1989.

All five troupe members have lots of screen time, with separate interviews detailing the various infighting that led to splits in the years that followed. But they all maintained the idea that they were part of a movement: that they were the comic arm of the grunge movement for Generation X.

Indeed, various comedians like Lewis Black and Eddie Izzard reinforce that judgment, while lots of young folks began to identify with the Kids after re-runs of the series began to show up on Comedy Central.

The Kids made a poorly received movie, “Brain Candy,” in 1996, but it has since become a cult classic. And they have regrouped at various times since then for tours and various shows.

If “Comedy Punks” is any indication, they’ll be making yet another comeback in 2022.

The movie will have its premiere at 2:15 p.m. March 15 at the Zach Theatre, with an online screening starting at 9 a.m. March 16 and another in-person screening at 2:45 p.m. March 16 at the Zach.

Charles Ealy
Charles Ealy
Charles Ealy is a former movies editor for The Dallas Morning News and Austin American-Statesman.

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