Kids in the Hall talk 'Death Comes to Town,' underappreciated sketches, and inappropriate laughter |

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Kids in the Hall talk 'Death Comes to Town,' underappreciated sketches, and inappropriate laughter

kids-in-the-hallImage Credit: IFCEveryone’s favorite Canadian cross-dressing comedy troupe is back with tonight’s premiere of their eight-part murder-mystery miniseries The Kids in the Hall: Death Comes to Town (IFC, 10 p.m. ET). It’s got everything fans of Mark McKinney, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Dave Foley, and Scott Thompson want, as evidenced by the photo above. They each play multiple characters, but that’s McKinney as Death, who arrives in Shuckton, Ontario on a Greyhound bus and rides around on a bone-covered Mustang bike; McCulloch as Ricky, a 600 lb. shamed ex-hockey star who has been in his house since he lost the big game; McDonald as Marnie, Ricky’s only friend, an old woman who’s the local pizza delivery person and has Alzheimer’s; Foley as Marilyn, the gloriously alcoholic wife of the town’s soon-to-be-deceased mayor (McCulloch); and Thompson as Dusty, the coroner. Watch the trailer. We sat down with four of the five Kids in New York City last Friday during their media tour. McCulloch had already skipped town, but we chatted with him last fall when cameras rolled. Plus, the others were happy to imagine what he would have contributed to the conversation…

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: During your recent IFC Live chat (watch from 28:00), the most fun you had was reminiscing about the time on your 2008 tour when Scott rolled off the stage during the Headcrusher encore in San Francisco and fell into the orchestra pit and down some stairs. What’s one thing you know you shouldn’t laugh at another guy in the troupe for, but you just can’t help yourself?

Dave Foley [putting away his phone after reading a text]: Apparently I looked hot on TV last night.

Kevin McDonald: Who said that?

Foley: A girl.

Mark McKinney: That’s laughable.

Scott Thompson: Dave’s acrimonious divorce would be one.

McKinney: Bracket-s-closed brackets. [Foley laughs]

Foley: My father’s stroke was good for some laughs in 2000.

Thompson: Yes, it was. My cancer continues to make for all kind of hilarity. [He filmed Death Comes to Town in between chemo and radiation after being diagnosed with large B-cell non-Hodgkin’s gastric lymphoma last spring.]

McKinney: I don’t know. Something better.

Foley: Better than cancer?

McKinney: What do we actually laugh at Scott for?

McDonald: Well, there’s the video incident in the tour bus when he was mad at us and storms to the back of the bus and plays Portal.

Foley: Angrily.

McKinney: It’s the best footage we ever shot.


McDonald: What he didn't know that Mark knew was that you could watch what Scott was playing on the screen [in the front of the bus], and he was having trouble with part of the game.

McKinney: You had to figure out a way to get the gate to open, and Scott was like stoned and in a bad mood.

Thompson: Stoned and angry.

Foley: And stuck in the first room.

McKinney: Scott was in the back of the bus all by himself, and we were at the front just f---ing killing ourselves, and we filmed it. The best was when the computer voice comes on. We could hear it.

McDonald: "You have failed. Attempt again." We heard that for a half hour. "You have failed. Attempt again." And it sounded like the voice was getting mad. "YOU HAVE FAILED. ATTEMPT AGAIN." We knew we had a month before we could tell him that we filmed it, because he would have been angry.

McKinney: But the thing is, we spent a lot of money making [the videos] "Car F---ers" and "Rape Kevin," which were very funny pieces for the tour.

Thompson: We thought they'd go viral -- nothing. But this one went viral. The funniest thing I've ever done, I'm not even in it.

McKinney: You are.

Thompson: Well, sort of.

McKinney: When I showed it to him, Scott was like, [in dramatic voice] "I can't believe you posted that. How dare you?" Three minutes later, 90,000 views. "90,000 views?"

Thompson: That's how shallow I am in a nutshell. "I can't believe you posted my actual bowel movement. What? A million hits? A MILLION HITS? I'm gonna s--- more often! This could turn into a series!"


That’s a segue into my next question: Name one sketch you’d like another troupe member to finally admit was as funny as you always said it was.

McDonald: Over the years, we’ve slowly admitted to everything.

McKinney: [To Thompson] Admit the Cops are good. Admit it now.

Foley: [To McKinney] Admit the Hookers were good.

McKinney: That was their revenge sketch for the Cops, which I think turned out to be quite funny. They were so jealous of the insane success of the Cops.

Foley: Of course the Cops sprang forth from my body, like parasitic twins.

McDonald: On that sketch that we did “On the Run.”

Foley: ‘Cause it was snowing, and we had to wait for the snow to stop. So they improvised.

McDonald: I was in the car with Mark and Bruce all day as they were doing the characters, as the characters were born.


Thompson: [To McDonald] I’ll admit Gay’s Bar.

McDonald: You’ve done that already. That was a scene I wrote that was killed by Scott. I was a bar owner, and his name happened to be Gay, and so it was called Gay’s Bar, but people kept thinking it was a gay bar. So I’d be like, “I love you gentlemen very much, I just want to let you know this is a sports bar. You gentlemen are invited, but I want you to know it’s not a gay bar. My name is Gay. It’s Gay’s Bar.” We had an actor who looked like Rocket Richard, a famous hockey player, and he had a yellow scarf around his neck, and a bunch of gay men were lined up to get his autograph.

Thompson: And I thought it was very homophobic.

McDonald: One of Scott’s best friends was an extra. We finished taping the scene in front of a live audience. I was about to say, “Thanks for doing it,” and he just walked by me.

Foley: “I’ll take your money, but not your gratitude.”

And wasn’t there a division over Buddy Cole at one point?

McDonald: Remember we were against the enormously successful softball scene. The four of us didn’t get that at all.

McKinney: I think that was production value jealousy because it was a big shoot.

Thompson: No, it was one night!

McDonald: I remember we didn’t like the script, and then we didn’t like the edit of it.

Foley: I just kept saying, “So Buddy’s magic now?”

Thompson: They didn’t like Buddy when he had magic.

McDonald: He got off the stool and did the cartwheel [and came up holding sparklers]. We were totally against it. We saw the edit, and the four of us didn’t laugh at all, and we were all convinced it was going to be a failure, and then it got the biggest laughs.

Foley: And it ends with a Bugs Bunny gag.

Thompson: It had a Bugs Bunny gag, how could you not love that? It’s the most famous Buddy piece.

McDonald: When I watched it with the audience, I thought Oh, it’s funny, I was wrong.

Thompson: I didn’t really know that you guys hated it that much.

Foley: We kept telling you.

Thompson: I don’t remember, I blocked that out.

McDonald: You were mad at us.


What sketch would Bruce want one of you to admit was funny?

Foley: All of them.

Thompson: Love and Sausages?

Foley: I’ve admitted that one. I did hate that while we were shooting it [pretends to weep] ‘cause it was taking all the money and time.


Thompson: Oh, I know… No, I still don’t like it: 30 Second Stories. They are these little puppet shows. I can’t even pretend. I still hate it.

McDonald: Oh, Steps! I would like Mark and Bruce to admit that Steps was funny.

Thompson: I would too, Mark.

McKinney: I’d have to see it again.

Thompson: There’s a ton of them!

Foley: You should see all of them again. One of them has Gus Van Sant as an extra.

Thompson: We’re watching a Hollywood gay movie where the gay men never touch – they wore so many clothes they can’t even get close to each other – but the woman is bare-breasted the whole time. It was mocking the way gays were portrayed on American television. We go to a movie, I make out with a guy, really quite heavily, and there’s Gus Van Sant sitting right behind us.

Foley: Eating popcorn.

McDonald: He was there for a couple days just taking pictures of all of us.

Thompson: I didn’t even know you didn’t like the Steps.

McDonald: Am I making that up? I don’t remember them actually not liking it, I just assumed they didn’t like it. It was low-key. To me it was like a little comic strip.

Foley: I was such a cute little chicken in those days.

Thompson: You were. And that’s what Johnny Depp seems to be impersonating in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Dave in the Steps. And then you did him again in that movie —

Foley: With Brendan Fraser [Blast From the Past]. Yeah, pretty much. Slightly toned down version.

Thompson: [To McKinney] You don’t even know who Riley is?

McKinney: No.

Thompson: Smitty, Riley, and Butch?

McKinney: Who’s Smitty?

Thompson: Kevin’s Smitty, Dave’s Riley, and I’m Butch.

McKinney: [Applauds] Oh, okay, good. Those are great names.

Foley: And who’s this Headcrusher?


Speaking of faulty memories: The miniseries starts with Shuckton waiting for news on its bid to host the 2028 Olympics, which made me think of how during NBC’s coverage of this year’s Vancouver Games, Mary Carillo filed a segment on Canadian comedy that did not include a mention of the Kids in the Hall.

Foley: It was a national embarrassment. An international embarrassment.

Agreed. What clip would you have chosen to represent you?

Thompson: Shirling! Shirling was this things of Mark’s which was basically a strange Scottish sport that combines, what is it curling and —

McKinney: No, it was people chained around a spitting cobra in kilts.

Foley: And they get blinded. I remember shooting that because I had the worst flu I’ve ever had in my life. I had like a 104° fever and so did half our crew.

McDonald: Or you could just be crass and commercial and have them show The Headcrusher because it’s our most famous thing.

McKinney: Exactly.

Foley: But I think they did the tasteful thing in completely ignoring us.

Thompson: Maybe we’re too controversial or something? I don’t know.

McDonald: No, maybe they didn’t hear of us.

McKinney: See, at this point, Bruce would say, “We got as big as we could get without actually getting big.” That’s exactly the niche that we are in.


When I spoke to Bruce during filming, he said you weren’t actually telling the child actor who plays Rampop, the adopted son of the mayor and Marilyn, what was going on in the scenes. You’d just tell him what to do. What is the worst lie you told that boy?

Foley: That this was the start of big things for him.

McKinney: That night shooting was fun. It’s like a camp out with hot dogs and marshmallows and a film crew.

Foley: For a while, he was going, “I’m up at midnight! I’m up at midnight!” “I’m up at four in the morning. What is wrong with these people?”

And what’s the worst lie Bruce told him?

Foley: That a parent’s love is unconditional.

Bruce also said —

Thompson: You and Bruce.

McKinney: “Bruce, Bruce, Bruce, Bruce, Bruce.”

He said —

McDonald: [In his female voice] “Bruce said…”

He said there were sketches done of Death’s codpiece, and —

Thompson: They were all done by Mark because he’s always drawing his c—.

Foley: We hired the late Moshe Safdie to design it.

McKinney: There’s a museum of flea circuses inside my codpiece designed by the great Moshe Safdie with a cantilever thrust.

Foley: It’s elegant.

Where I was headed with this —

Foley: [Sips his coffee, faux belligerently shouts] Who cares?

He said there were sketches and like all things, you debated the decision to death. What is the strangest conversation you’ve ever had?

McDonald: I know in Brain Candy it was “Happiness Pie,” how thick or thin the consistency of the pie should be.

McKinney: We had to dance in a gigantic pie, and yes, there was a debate about how gelatinous the liquid should be.

McDonald: Every lunch, the [director] Kelly Makin and the whole team would be discussing it, and then when we get there —

Thompson: It’s orange water.

McKinney: Just suffice it to say that if we collectively added up all the man hours we have spent arguing about unbelievably arcane trivia, then you could actually give life to another life form.

Foley: There is the theory that for every decision we took endless hours to make, the opposite decision was made after endless hours of debate in another universe.


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More Kids in the Hall:
Bruce McCulloch talks Death Comes to Town
Dave Foley on the sketch an audience once walked out of
Gallery: Behind-the-scenes of their 2008 tour
Kids in the Hall answer silly questions in 2003
The Kids in the Hall on EW’s countdown of the 100 “New Classic” TV shows