When Lorne Michaels signed the Kids in the Hall for a series of HBO specials in 1989, the Canadian comedy troupe was absurdist, ahead of its time, and definitely an acquired taste. But the way it exploited the relative freedom of cable TV with skits like "Dr. Seuss Bible" and "Anal-Probing Aliens" primed an audience for provocative Comedy Central gambits like Strangers With Candy -- as well as South Park's own scatological obsessions.
And the Kids themselves? "I'm 40 years old, and I'm talking about digging boogies out of my nose so people will watch Comedy Central," complains Mark McKinney as he shuffles away from a camera crew in the Upper West Side bar Fez. He and the rest of the recently reunited group (Kevin McDonald, Scott Thompson, Bruce McCulloch, McKinney, and Dave Foley) are filming promo spots for a Kids in the Hall marathon that will air on Comedy Central (which picked up the show from HBO in 1990) in January. They'll also be "back together to take on the Man again," McCulloch boasts, with the 25-city theater show "Kids in the Hall 2000 Tour: Same Guys . . . New Dresses," which will mix new material with classic sketches. In typical Kids fashion, they also promise to guess the weight of audience members, show lots of slides, and insult the mayor's wife in every town ("Except in New York," Thompson whispers, "where the mayor's a lesbian").
Since the last time all five members were in the same room -- four, five, six, or fifteen years, depending on which Kid you ask -- some have fared better than others. "I had a mood swing right there on camera, because I just found out that Dave has three pilots," says Thompson, who's currently "between projects" in Los Angeles. "Those are pilot deals, not pilots," clarifies Foley, who just finished a four-year stint with the now-defunct NewsRadio and whose hair is dyed straw blond for a role opposite Brendan Fraser in the movie Monkey Bone. "How many pilots do you have, Scott?" asks McKinney, who's enjoying raves for his performance in the Manhattan Theatre Club's silly romp Fuddy Meers.
"I was in that Hugh Grant movie," says Thompson, who admits that his Internet fan-club venture, ScottLand.com, went bankrupt. "Oh, yes, let's see," McKinney says with glee. "Now, there have been two Hugh Grant movies lately. One of them made a huuuge amount of money and made Hugh Grant a superstar. The other one -- well, which one were you in, Scott?" "Mickey Blue Eyes," Thompson answers. Later, after sulking for most of the afternoon, he brightens and announces flamboyantly, "I'm not gay anymore. I'm not -- I want to work!" "Scott has a new character named Rock Girlfucker," Foley agrees. " 'Show me the front door' is his catchphrase."
Struggling to escape -- or is that embrace? -- their adolescent fixations may not make the Kids more than cult favorites, but they already had a shot at fame with Brain Candy, their 1996 Prozac film farce, which ended with a maniacal plot to chemically depress everyone on the planet. Indeed, they seem not to have given up on that hope: "If you're like us," Foley sighs before the cameras, "you're full of hatred and self-doubt."