Everybody's favorite cross-dressing Canucks, the Kids in the Hall, came to Denver Sunday and conquered the huge crowd with overwhelming hilarity. Based on the strength of a television show that lives solely in syndication, the Kids nevertheless easily sold out the giant Fillmore-middle Auditorium. A group this well-loved could have phoned it in, but they did not.
For those unfamiliar with the Kids, this quintet is a Gen-X version of Monty Python or Second City, whose sketch-comedy television show can be seen daily on Comedy Central. They specialize in spoofing corporate culture, disenfranchised youth, gay issues, and psychotics, with a dash of depravity and a touch of slapstick. They work extraordinarily well together, each Kid pulling his own weight physically and creatively. Their 2000 tour is well-titled "Same Guys, New Dresses."
No one attending Sunday's show was unfamiliar with the Kids, and that is what made the show so successful. Their style and set of characters are now well-known, drawing the audience in as effectively as a hit song by a favorite band. Once they had the audience hooked, they used familiarity as a springboard to creativity, performing new skits with these known characters. For example, flaming queen Buddy Cole, played by Scott Thompson, did a whole new, and somewhat racier, monologue, with current themes and even a touch of Denver.
Later, David Foley and Kevin McDonald, wonderfully familiar as Master Simon and the evil Hecubus, starred in a "Pit of Darkness" episode filled with improvisational moments that added both to the hilarity and to the audience's feeling of inclusion. They made fun of the overactive smoke machine in parts that were even funnier than the scripted ones, a rare glimpse into the Kids' long-past comedy club roots.
And, of course, the head-crushing guy was there. One of the Kids' best-known subjects, the success of the head-crushing guy routine relies entirely upon a camera angle impossible to reproduce in real life (no cameras). Yet the Kids pulled it off, as the guy taunted audience members and crushed their heads.
Some of the newer material included "Jesus 2000," with Bruce McCulloch and Mark McKinney as slick salesmen introducing a modern way to worship, and a relatively successful sketch cycle about the suburbs which capped off the show much like the finale at a fireworks exhibit. All five members of the troupe encored with a skit in which they fondly remembered a dead friend, the conversation beautifully revealing itself to be somewhat darker than its nostalgic beginnings implied. The Kids are still very funny.
The show's pace was flawless. The skits were set up in true Vaudeville fashion, with those not on stage costuming for the next skit. The minimal sets were supplemented by video segues, with never a down moment. We never did get to see Scott as Queen Elisabeth, or hear Bruce sing one of his sweet but twisted songs, but there was plenty of entertainment to keep even the most rabid Kids' fan satisfied until the next tour.
-- Michael Salkind