Narrowing down Kids in the Hall’s five seasons into a short list of twenty best sketches is no easy feat. The cult show created a seemingly endless supply of memorable characters, from Cabbage Head to the Hookers, and bits like “Thirty Helens Agree” to “It’s a Fact.” On top of those well-known classics, the show boasted numerous fan favorites like “Girl Drink Drunk,” “Gavin & the Evangelists” and the dark, damp “Love and Sausages.” But these sketches are already out there, sitting atop many “best of” lists.
The sheer difficulty involved only goes to show what Kids in the Hall offers viewers: A completely distinct comedic voice that mines the everyday for its offbeat undercurrent. Whether it’s boardrooms or dinner dates, blue-collar workers or a family gathered around their dinner table, Kids in the Hall works best when focusing on average moments, situations and people and revealing their true absurdity. Call it anti-establishment, shirking the mainstream or simply paying attention, but the troupe remains keenly attuned to life’s quirks. Here are twenty sketches in no particular order that showcase their oddball sense of humor at its prime.
A typical guy’s night turns into a round-table confession, when each man shares his secret desire to exhibit more feminine traits. The sketch showcases the troupe’s underlying feminist attitude, which often comes out in their female characters, and provides a hilarious glimpse into what guy’s night chit-chat could really be about. If only.
Over the course of the series, office gossips “Cathy with a C” and “Kathy with a K” became massive hits among fans. When it’s time for Tanya (“Temp! Temp!”) to say goodbye, the Kathys rally to send her out with strained enthusiasm and a giant cookie.
After learning that her new husband doesn’t want to be married, the unnamed bride (beautifully played by Dave Foley) heads back to the altar to try again, and again, and again and again. So many sketches rely primarily on premise and characterization, but this one gets much of its comedic effect from timing and editing. A romping Zydeco tune provides an upbeat backsplash to the wedding’s slow motion build-up.
Danny Husk is a mild-mannered businessman who happens to find himself in some rather ludicrous situations. When Danny foregoes deodorant the whole world falls captive to his natural musky scent. It turns out that “Husk Musk” contains magical properties. It’s a hair growth product, a cure for cancer and a cure for world peace all rolled into one.
Early sketches like “Can I Keep Him?” establish the show’s running theme of exploring the corporate world through an increasingly absurdist lens. In a world where people can be pets, Corey finds “stray” businessman Mr. Stevenson, and wants to keep him. Kevin McDonald plays Mr. Stevenson to full physical effect.
No list would be complete without that empowered gay Canadian lispingly played by Scott Thompson. There’s no end to Buddy’s memorable monologues, but his first appearance in Season 2 stands out. In a rare moment of topicality, Buddy calls out all the gay-bashing comics for their homophobic attitudes with his trademark irreverent wit.
Childhood memories, those nostalgic days of yore, go in a different direction when KITH get their hands on them. Kevin McDonald recalls memories of his father’s drinking, which at the outset doesn’t seem entirely funny. Yet with Dave Foley playing the hyperbolized father and a perfectly placed camera “playing” the son, what results is one of the most memorable sketches to this day.
Kids in the Hall often features filmed sketches exploring comedy’s darker side. “My Pen!” or “Love and Sausages” make a lot of “best of” lists for good reason, but “The Monkeys” also lingers in the mind. Mr. Lewis has gotten ahold of some ferocious monkeys, and he uses the mere threat of letting them loose to get things. Like faster pizza delivery.
A sketch about growing facial hair doesn’t seem so far-fetched now that beards are all the rage. In true Kids in the Hall fashion, everything is ripe for the ridiculous. After growing a beard on his vacation, Donald becomes increasingly attached to it. Donald’s resistance to shaving is more than a reaction to corporate culture, it’s almost as though the beard takes on a life of its own.
Darrill (emphasis on the second syllable) appears throughout the series, but it’s a sketch showcasing his talent as a painting instructor on a local cable show that stands out most. In a turn reminiscent of, though quite distinct from, Bob Ross, the ever-quirky Darrill teaches his viewers how to add tragic elements, like tumors, to their paintings.
In this absurdist take on mechanization and its effect on blue-collar workers, robot arms replace the men who stood for years with their arms in a vat of dead fish. Were the sketch to examine a more recognizable means of industry, it wouldn’t be nearly as poignant or funny. Watching the ease with which the men are cast aside by their carnivalesque union and robot boss creates a deeper impact.
The Chicken Lady may be one of the most memorable characters to emerge out of Kids in the Hall. Who can forget the time she and the Bearded Lady went to a strip club that just so happened to feature a rooster? Add interactions with a frightened waiter and a chastising MC, and this sketch showcases everything there is to love about Chicken Lady’s world. Including her “big finish.”
In between performed and filmed sketches, the Kids often took to the stage to perform monologues. Bruce McCulloch’s rant against the jerk that took his bicycle wheel, and the people who watched, strikes a sharp comedic note. Bruce’s straightforward delivery—his disdain, his disgust, his disbelief—and the range of insults he flings at the imagined thief make it a gem.
Most often appearing in between sketches, those inept Cops have a grand showdown with three escaped convicts toward Season 2’s end. After encountering the convicts sitting down to a meal at a diner, the cops hurry to catch them. Both sides race through their meal in order to get the check first. In a world where the rules are illogical, each side plays them by them nonetheless.
At just over a minute, “Parenting” is perhaps more of a bit than a sketch, but its irreverent take on childrearing makes it a classic even if it’s sometimes overlooked in favor of flashier sketches. A mother and father call a press conference to inform the public what their neighbors already suspect: Their son is a disappointment to them, as is the whole parenting experience.
No one plays larger than life females better than Scott Thompson. The glamorous movie star Francesca Fiore appears in all manner of sketches with her lover Bruno Puntz Jones (Dave Foley), but it’s the time they chop up a general during a fashion show that’s particularly hilarious.
Take a word or concept’s negative connotation and turn it on its head. That’s exactly what Kids in the Hall does with “Running Faggot,” a song about a folk hero who feeds a puppy, stops a battle and serves as the foil to two stereotypical rednecks. Sung by two church boys, the satire is sharp all around.
It’s the Scottish sport sweeping the globe. Soon Shirling will be more popular than football, hockey and every other professionally played team sport. What is it exactly? Two four-person teams circle around a live cobra trying to spray players with venom. One day it’ll be as popular as monster truck rallies.
Fran and Gordon first appear in “Salty Ham,” but he continues lamenting her cooking in “Tampa Bay.” Gordon comes home claiming he’s been fired for going berserk. The culprit? His lunch. (“Soup in a bag, Fran? Soup in a bag?”) Where Fran stayed relatively collected when Gordon yelled at her for preparing a salty ham, she loses it to hilarious effect when he tells her she’ll have to get a job.
Mark McKinney’s famous headcrusher Mr. Tyzyk appeared in Kids in the Hall’s very first episode, and became an instant hit. Any “best of” list usually includes the headcrusher’s rehab stint, but when he meets and faces off against his rival, the “Facepincher,” it creates an unforgettable battle for finger supremacy.
Amanda Wicks is a journalist specializing in music and comedy. As a Canadian, she’s happy to say she does know that guy from Toronto you met once. Follow her on Twitter.