Comedy Documentary

SXSW Review: ‘The Kids in the Hall: Comedy Punks’

March 16, 2022Ben MK

Whether you were a teenager in the early 1990s or just someone who happened to catch Comedy Central's marathons of their cult classic television show, chances are you know The Kids in the Hall. A five-man comedy troupe that got its start in Toronto, Canada in the mid '80s, this team of now-legendary comedians went from performing on-stage in the heart of Toronto's entertainment district to a nationally broadcast sketch comedy show that lasted five seasons — and, to this day, continues to have lasting appeal. But even if you know their name, do you know their whole story?

In the documentary The Kids in the Hall: Comedy Punks, director Reg Harkema sets out to create the definitive behind-the-scenes look at the group, from how Mark McKinney and Bruce McCulloch met doing improvisational theatre in Calgary and how they joined forces with Toronto-based comedians Dave Foley, Kevin McDonald and Scott Thompson, to the temporary falling out they had with one another after The Kids in the Hall show ended in 1995 and the subsequent reunion tours they've embarked on in the years since. Using newly filmed interviews with all five Kids, along with interview clips from SNL creator Lorne Michaels and other such celebrity fans as Mike Myers, Eddie Izzard, Janeane Garofalo, Fred Armisen, Reggie Watts and Eric McCormack, Harkema chronicles the group's professional and personal ups and downs, the show's most memorable characters, and the way The Kids in the Hall has inspired its legions of fans. What stands out the most, however, is the enduring friendship among all five members and how they continue to be there for one another, even though four decades have passed.

What follows will certainly bring back memories for those who used to tune in every week to see what hilarious hijinks these Canuck comedians had up their sleeves. But if the result truly makes good on its intentions, it will also serve as an introduction to a new generation of fans. After all, sketch comedy shows like Baroness Von Sketch Show, I Think You Should Leave and Portlandia all owe a debt of gratitude to The Kids in the Hall. Likewise, for any self-respecting fan of the group, The Kids in the Hall: Comedy Punks is practically essential viewing.

The Kids in the Hall: Comedy Punks screens under the Documentary Spotlight section at the 2022 South by Southwest Film Festival. Its runtime is 1 hr. 35 min.

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