SXSW Review: The Kids in the Hall – Comedy Punks

For a generation of comedy fans, The Kids in the Hall gave us permission – not simply to laugh at life’s absurdities but to truly be ourselves. Whether you caught their original run on HBO or became a fan through Comedy Central’s plentiful marathons, the Canadian comedy troupe represented a brave new way to be in the world. From poking fun at the alcohol-soaked delusions of suburban life to proudly representing queer experience amidst the AIDS epidemic, The Kids in the Hall were destined for cult status by refusing to play it safe, polite society be damned. In Reg Harkema’s new documentary The Kids in the Hall: Comedy Punks, fans are treated to an incredible look into their history with copious amounts of archival footage and priceless interviews.

            Throughout the film, there are the requisite talking heads ranging from comedy giants such as Lewis Black and Eddie Izzard to members of the new generation such as Reggie Watts. Perhaps the most fascinating, however, is an undeniably jealous Mike Myers who reminisces about how badly he once wanted to be a part of the group and to get away with they were doing on their show. What makes this documentary truly remarkable, however, is the sheer amount of archival footage that had access to.

Thanks to frequent collaborator/towel guy, Paul Bellini (and, of course, the tireless work of Harkema and team), a surprising amount of the Kids’ early shows at the Rivoli in Toronto were filmed, giving great insight into the early group dynamics. This archival footage continues through the HBO series and beyond, really giving fans a deep dive into who the Kids have been and who they are today. It’s really fantastic.

            With this, the audience gets to behold the ups and downs of their lifelong camaraderie, made all the deeper by the interviews with the troupe themselves. Having come out on the other end of their post-show fallout, the group now tours regularly and – as is abundantly clear from their chemistry on screen and at the Q & A afterwards – are as close as brothers. There’s talk throughout about who has the best chemistry with who but it’s hard to deny that, in one another, they truly stumbled upon their comedy soulmates.

            While the comedy throughout is, of course, top notch, the human element shines bright. There’s frank discussion about the trauma of their individual upbringings and how it informed their comedy, from alcoholic fathers to school shootings. There’s contemplation and celebration about what Scott Thompson’s unapologetically queer presence brought to its audience as well as a deeply moving reflection on his battle with cancer. Prepare to tear up about as much as you laugh.

            In addition to touring, this film will premier on Amazon in conjunction with a new series (which they’re considering the sixth season of the show). For lifelong fans, it’s really a treat to revisit the classics and gain insight into their creative development from the moment Lorne Michael discovered them to the tortuous creation of their cult classic Brain Candy. Whether you’re a devotee or curious about their whole vibe, this is a must see documentary for one of the greatest comedy acts of all time.