Saturday, March 31, 2012

Another Season Of Great Humor: The Kids In The Hall Season Two!

The Good: Funny, Well-acted, Interesting characters, Decent DVD bonuses
The Bad: Some loss of punch, Price
The Basics: With a quick wit and amazingly funny writing, the second season of The Kids In The Hall delivers humor that is sustained after years on the shelf.

Sophomore seasons of most shows are the make-or-break season for a series. It's easy to come out of the gate strong and blow people away with a show that is different, intriguing and ground breaking. This is almost doubly true of sketch comedy shows. Indeed, sketch comedy shows seem to have a higher rate of degradation, especially as the seasons progress. The Kids In The Hall may be the only successful sketch comedy show to endure its entire run with all of the original participants (Monty Python fans, before you start crawling up my butt, recall that John Cleese left in the last season!). Yet, here in the second season of The Kids In The Hall, the show is already beginning to illustrate the strain of maintaining the critically high standards that make for great sketch comedy.

The second season of The Kids In The Hall is twenty-episodes of twenty-two minute compilations of various offbeat comedy skits. In this season, the five-man group recalls such memorable first season characters as the Headcrusher and Cabbage Head, and creates wonderful new characters and recurring sketches like Simon and Hecubus and "It's a Fact!" This season marks the introduction of the fan-favorite (though not mine) character of the Chicken Lady. Like most sketch comedy, it is hard to describe the show as a season, when it truly is a collection of skits. Here, however, are some of the prime selling points of season two:

1. "The Doctor" - Sadly, the first episode of the second season has arguably the best sketch with "The Doctor" a short dissertation by a blood-soaked medical professional admitting just how lousy he is as a doctor. The wide-eyed enthusiasm with which Dave Foley speaks is disturbing and hilarious. Quite possibly one of the funniest monologues of all time (right up there with "Politicians: An Apology" from Monty Python's Flying Circus).

2. "Guess Your Weight" - In this sketch a carnival entertainer is set with the task of guessing a person's weight and their ability to read all other aspects of the person's life is quite humorous. As he jostles his victim, he describes the man's poor love life, horrible childhood, etc. and the glee with which he does so is quite amusing.

3. "Scott's Not Gay" - Wherein resident homosexual cast member Scott Thompson comes out of the closet and into heterosexuality in a biting satire of what is expected of celebrities who are in and out of the closet.

4. "I Can't Play Piano" - Another Dave Foley bit of genius where a lounge singer gouges our ears with his revelation (again, enthusiastic, it's always enthusiastically with Dave Foley) that he has no musical abilities whatsoever. Very funny.

and 5. "Simon and Hecubus" - An hilarious look at worshiping satan as a Master and Servant try to entertain a crowd. This is the first of this pair's recurring appearances and it's originality illustrates well how the The Kids In The Hall have not lost much going into their second season.

Now, I know this might be somewhat confusing, me saying one moment how difficult the second season of a show can be and how the The Kids In The Hall are starting to show their signs of fading, but then say they aren't fading much. Allow me to clarify. Second seasons are difficult, especially in sketch comedy, because you have to prove the first season was not just a fluke. There are signs that the "Kids" are fading here in the second season; the Headcrusher bits which were wearing thin by the end of the first season are tired in the second and the Cabbage Head bits are just awful in the second season as well. Gone, too, are one of the funniest little bits, "Thirty Helens Agree."

But these little cracks are patched (in good order) by a slew of new, equally interesting characters, like Simon and Hecubus, Bruce McCulloch's feminist, and the "Touch Paul Bellini" contest. One or two of the new additions, like the Chicken Lady, appear in the second season for the first time and already feel like it's an old trick. But the "It's a Fact" segments and "Cops" sketches fit in perfectly. In short, the weakness of the second season is when the Kids In the Hall try to provide recognizable, already liked characters, as opposed to forging ahead with newer, more extravagant characters.

The strength of The Kids In The Hall is in the troupe's writing and acting ability. Dave Foley is hilarious in his roles that he often infuses with such energy and vigor as to make them instantly likable. Kevin McDonald has a way of altering his voice throughout his sketches so as to appear as the hyperbole of the everyman in the funniest possible ways. Mark McKinney is a master of deadpan humor and he plays off Scott Thompson's expressive genius perfectly.

The second season is the one where Bruce McCulloch comes into his own. In this season Bruce livens up with more vibrant, memorable characters like his militant feminist and his subtle-childlike performance of the recurring annoying child. McCulloch strikes an excellent balance in this season between wonderful physical comedy and his presentation of hilarious lines.

The Kids In The Hall remains one of the strongest sketch comedy ensembles ever assembled and in the second season it is easy to see why. Pushing the envelope forward with racy humor and an irreverence toward every subject, even after over a decade since airing, these episodes are more outrageous than most of the things on Saturday Night Live or Mad TV. A must for anyone who loves comedy, especially sketch comedy.

For other stand-up and irreverent comedy, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Strangers With Candy
Totally Committed - Jeff Foxworthy
Dress To Kill - Eddie Izzard


For other television reviews, please visit my index page on the subject by clicking here!

© 2012, 2005 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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