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The Kids in the Hall grow up

From left: Mark McKinney, Bruce McCulloch, Scott Thompson, Dave Foley and Kevin McDonald are all grown up, but they’ve retained their warped sense of humor.

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From left: Mark McKinney, Bruce McCulloch, Scott Thompson, Dave Foley and Kevin McDonald are all grown up, but they’ve retained their warped sense of humor.

A woman walks into an auto shop, demanding to know why it's taking so long to repair her car.

The jumpsuits on the floor hem and stammer, and tell her they're "plugging away" at it. Annoyed, she barges past them and storms into the garage.

There, in the back, she is horrified to encounter a gang of grease monkeys having sex with her Volkswagen.

"We're only guilty," one says solemnly, "of a love that has no name."

And with that, the Kids in the Hall have announced their return to twisted, surreal sketch comedy.

The scene was a new skit filmed to promote the famed Canadian troupe's national tour, on which all five members — Bruce McCulloch, Mark McKinney, Dave Foley, Kevin McDonlad and Scott Thompson — are performing nightly for the first time since 2002. The tour comes to Ruth Eckerd Hall on Friday night.

"At this stage in our life, it's so hard to have time to get together," said McCulloch, on the phone from a hotel in Seattle, where the troupe performed last week. "We're sort of a part-time group, and I think that (comes) with age and knowledge and all that. We're probably much more appreciative of each other. We're actually pretty kind to each other now, which I don't think was always the case."

Indeed, McCulloch uses words like "ego" and "acrimony" when discussing the troupe's salad days, when each member argued like hell to bring his individual oddball characters — a cabbage-headed lothario, an oversexed chicken lady, a businessman with magical armpit sweat — to life.

"In terms of group dynamics, I've probably grown up a lot," said McCulloch, an accomplished filmmaker who's often described as the group's dark auteur. "When I was doing the show, I always felt nobody had an idea as good as I did. And it took me a while to realize that we were great if we were five voices. We all fought for the same clay, a bit, and probably no one more than me when we started. And now it's like, 'Oh, that guy's gotta be happy; we've all gotta be happy.' It's just more of a harmony, you know?"

The Kids came together in the mid '80s, when writing partners McCulloch and McKinney joined forces with Foley and McDonald, who were already performing under the name Kids in the Hall in Toronto. Thompson signed on shortly thereafter.

Lorne Michaels briefly hired McCulloch and McKinney as junior writers for Saturday Night Live — where McCulloch says they were viewed as "geeks" — but it was only after he saw the Kids in the Hall perform live that he offered to give the troupe a show. The Kids in the Hall ran from 1988 to 1995 on HBO, CBS and Comedy Central, and helped bridge the generational gap between troupes like Monty Python and the SCTV crew and later alternative cliques like The State and the Upright Citizens Brigade.

"Young troupes always come up and talk to us," he said, "but I don't dare to think that they're around because of us. I remember reading an interview with Paul Westerberg talking about how all the young punks like the Goo Goo Dolls don't thank him. I'm like, 'Really? I don't know if you thanked whoever you took your s--- from.' So yeah, we probably influenced people. But so what?"

These days, McCulloch said he doesn't often reflect on the Kids' classic skits. Their new stage show mixes in some favorite characters like Buddy Cole and the Headcrusher, but it's about 85 percent new material. And that's just fine with McCulloch.

"The thing that I've probably become most at peace with is that the Kids in the Hall really is my sense of humor," he says. "I think when we all left The Kids in the Hall, we sort of went, 'I want to do my stuff now!' And then we kind of said, 'Well, you know, the weird stuff I'm doing with Kids in the Hall is my stuff.' That's the full circle for me on this tour."

The Kids in the Hall

The sketch troupe performs at 8 p.m. Friday at Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 McMullen-Booth Road, Clearwater. $42.75-$55.75. (727) 791-7400.

The Kids in the Hall grow up 05/22/08 [Last modified: Thursday, May 22, 2008 1:53pm]
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