By Shelby Clark Petkus
Years before American shows would dare to “go there,” the “Kids in the Hall” were skewering homophobia, dressing in drag and lampooning the stereotypes of gay men, feminist women and more. The five-man Canadian comedy troupe (composed of Dave Foley, Kevin McDonald, Bruce McCulloch, Mark McKinney and Scott Thompson) kept that irreverent, yet inclusive, spirit alive with their recent show at Royal Oak Music Theatre.
The curtains separated at almost 8 p.m. at the May 13 show, revealing all five comedians in women’s wedding dresses. The group gave a rehearsed speech, noting that they wore wedding dresses “for those who can’t.” “Those” people included farmers, soccer moms and cat ladies before the group “broke the fourth wall” and said in seriousness: “We support gay marriage.” The crowd broke into applause. Those “breaks” would continue throughout the night, including Foley referencing their failure to keep straight faces during some of the sketches.
The references to the LGBT community continued throughout the night, which was run much like a standard episode of the troupe’s old sketch show, complete with music riffs between quick changes and different sketches. Thompson, who has been openly gay throughout his career, reprised the character of “Buddy Cole” to a huge reaction from the crowd.
Cole, the “alpha queen” character known for sipping martinis while tearing apart the gay community, spent his monologue both satirizing and, ultimately, championing LGBT youth experiencing bullying. Much of the sketch involved the character wondering why LGBT youth today are so prominent in the spotlight. “When I was performing dances in the woods behind my house,” he said, referencing LGBT kids who make it onto talk shows, “I traumatized only the woodland creatures.” After a variety of digs at the community as a whole, Thompson’s Cole finished his speech with the message to LGBT youth to fight against bullying, owning the fact that they’re fabulous. “And there’s always violence,” he added with a smirk.
Thompson would go on to be one of the most solid in the almost two-hour performance, rarely breaking character unlike the more jovial McDonald and Foley; even McCulloch had trouble reigning in giggles at Thompson’s cross-dressing victim of theft in a sketch towards the end of the show.
Thompson’s “Running Faggot” character also made an appearance during a medley of Kids in the Hall’s music numbers (“The Daves I Know,” for instance, though McCulloch’s infamous “Tammy” character was absent from the musical number), also to much applause. The character, known for being a folk hero running while McCulloch and McKinney sing, did his usual schtick of helping lost puppies and angering homophobic rednecks.
The drag element of the show was as apparent as it was back in the ’90s; every one of the comedians appeared dressed as a woman at least once during the show, including Thompson as a put-upon wife who made a ham “too salty,” McCulloch as a mother who secretly hates her baby and McDonald as a swinging wife at the mercy of Thompson’s stereotypically “straight, alpha” man. McKinney’s well-known “Chicken Lady” character didn’t make an appearance, though the comedian did don drag while playing a woman who ruins a party after revealing she threw out a gift. Foley also reprised his monologue of “a man with a positive attitude toward menstruation.”
Finally, the encore of the evening featured perhaps the most well-known sketch from the comedy troupe: McKinney’s “Headcrusher.” Bringing out a camcorder to showcase the audience on a big screen behind the stage, McKinney “crushed” the heads of many audience members with his fingers from a distance before bringing out the other four “Kids” for an-end-of-the-show roast.
“Scott Thompson, you old gay relic,” McKinney spat, “what kind of gay man doesn’t have any following in the gay community?” He then crushed Thompson’s crestfallen head before turning on the other members. McKinney eventually turned the camera on himself, chastising himself for not using his most famous character during his brief tenure on “Saturday Night Live” before crushing his own head.