September 14, 2014

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Recess is over: Kids in the Hall are back

By JOHN BENSON

Special to The Gazette

Similar to the ’90s alt rock movement, which saw underground bands move into the limelight, the sketch comedy show “The Kids in the Hall” flirted with the mainstream.

Discovered by Lorne Michaels, The Kids in the Hall troupe, which features the off-the-wall and oftentimes subversive comedy stylings of Dave Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney and Scott Thompson, debuted on HBO in 1989 but reached a larger audience when “Comedy Central” began airing its repeats.

The troupe’s distinctly edgy humor broke new ground with their characterizations of secretaries, prostitutes, gays, drug users and oddball creations like the half-human Chicken Lady, the vengeful Head Crusher and the chauvinist Cabbage Head.

Still, among its peer shows (“The State” and “Mr. Show” come to mind), “The Kids in the Hall” may be underrated in both its material and its influence on latter day comedy.

“I’ve always said we were The Pixies of comedy,” said McDonald, calling from Portland, Ore. “I said we paved the way for the Nirvana of Comedy, which would be ‘South Park’ and Tom Green. But people always go back to The Pixies.”

Just like The Pixies earlier this decade, The Kids in the Hall group are back with a new tour — its first since 2002 — that the act hopes will cash in on its legend. Titled “Live As We’ll Ever Be,” the show is scheduled to play Cleveland tonight at the Palace Theatre.

“We’re trying to sell out, but by sell out that means doing our stuff and hoping it hits a bigger audience,” McDonald said. “It would be impossible for us to write mainstream stuff. It would be impossible for us to sell out creatively because we’re just not that good enough to do that.”

For those Kids in the Hall fans who were there in the beginning, they’ll be excited to see new sketches featuring familiar characters Chicken Lady, Gavin Sketch and Head Crusher interspersed with new material.

The Kids in the Hall present “Live as We’ll Ever Be” at 8 p.m. today at the Palace Theatre, 1615 Euclid Ave., Cleveland. Tickets are $39.75 at Tickets.com outlets. For more information, call 216-241-6000 or visit www.tickets.com.

Benson may be reached at ididhear@aol.com.