Actor-comedian Dave Foley has a nice house, up in the Hollywood Hills. Foley also has new hair--it's dyed blond, for a role in the fall 2000 release "Monkey Bone," co-starring Brendan Fraser. But Foley is about to reinhabit old identities, some of them female, as part of the Canadian sketch comedy troupe the Kids in the Hall.
Recently, Foley's house became ground zero for "The Kids in the Hall 2000 Tour: Same Guys . . . New Dresses," concerts that reunite the Kids in a 25-city tour that arrives in Los Angeles this weekend for shows at the Wiltern Theatre on Friday and Saturday nights. In addition to favorite characters from their TV show, the concerts include new sketches and pre-shot bits to be projected onto three giant film screens.
This isn't the first time the Kids have toured (they began life as a stage act). And while you could call this a reunion tour, old comedy troupes don't die these days--they live on in perpetuity on cable TV. Such has been the Kids' fate, with Comedy Central still airing reruns of a show that began in the clubs around Toronto, then widened to include college dates and larger theaters. That was followed by a TV show on the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., a half-hour series that debuted domestically in 1988 on HBO.
Brought to what was then the Comedy Channel in 1991 by fellow Canadian and "Saturday Night Live" executive producer Lorne Michaels, the Kids in the Hall (Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Scott Thompson, Mark McKinney and Kevin McDonald) instantly earned cult status here, with an approach that recalled the absurdist sketch humor of Monty Python, this time transposed onto urban and rural Canadian life. Never high-concept, the Kids took on corporate suits, Waspy, repressed Canadian housewives and bored, busybody secretaries--with all five troupe members equally adept, and convincing, in drag.
True to the democratic nature of the work, there were a few breakout characters--Thompson's flamboyantly gay bar hound Buddy Cole, for instance--but no true stars. In 1992, reruns of the series were picked up as a late-night entry by CBS; while broadening the fan base, the experience ended up being an exercise in frustration for the Kids, who were accustomed to the much looser CBC broadcasting standards.
Longtime fans of the Kids haven't had anything new since 1996, the year of "Brain Candy," a feature film spoofing the Prozac craze. True to the out-there point of view of the troupe, "Brain Candy" had the potential to launch a string of Kids in the Hall-inspired films, but the movie was an instant bomb.
"When the movie was such a disaster, we just sort of ran away from each other. From our own souls," says Thompson.
The other Kids aren't that melodramatic, but in the wake of the film's poor performance the troupe members did go their separate ways. Foley starred in the NBC sitcom "NewsRadio." McKinney joined the cast of "Saturday Night Live." Thompson became a regular on HBO's "The Larry Sanders Show." McDonald turned up in character roles on "Seinfeld" and "Friends." And McCulloch turned to directing, helming the comedy features "Dog Park" and "Superstar."
"We didn't stop doing stuff because 'Brain Candy' didn't do great," McCulloch says of the troupe's temporary breakup. "We had finished the [TV] show, and we were going to do a movie. That was our plan."
Their plan now is to film the current tour for a possible theatrical release. And after that? All five Kids agree that staying together is hard to do.
"There aren't that many [longtime] comedy groups," McCulloch says. "It's a hard forum [in which] to stay together. Rock bands can tour. Comedy troupes don't usually have their own show that lasts for a long time. It's hard to sustain yourself."
The Kids in the Hall, Wiltern Theatre, 3790 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. 8 p.m. Friday, 8 and 10:45 p.m. Saturday; $45 and $40.50. (213) 380-5005.