in the Hall (KITH),is a sketch comedy program (1989-94) produced
by Lorne Michaels' Broadway Video and co-financed by the Canadian
Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and the U.S. cable network, Home
Box Office (HBO). KITH aired in Canada on the CBC and in
the United States on HBO, CBS, and another cable network, Comedy
Central. The members of KITH performance group are Dave Foley,
Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney, and Scott Thompson.
The name derives from U.S. comedian Jack Benny's habit of attributing
some of his material to aspiring comedians whom he called "the kids
in the hall".
KITH was formed in 1984 when McCulloch and McKinney, who
had worked together in Calgary as part of a group named the Audience,
teamed up with Foley and McDonald's Toronto-based group, KITH.
Thompson officially joined in January 1985. That same year, McCulloch
and McKinney were hired as writers for NBC's Saturday Night Live
(SNL) after a talent scout saw KITH in performance. Significantly,
SNL had also been created by Michaels, himself an ex-patriate
Canadian living and producing in New York. Still in 1985, Foley
appeared in the film High Stakes, and Thompson and McDonald toured
with Second City. In 1986, KITH were reunited in Toronto
and Michaels finally saw them perform. He immediately envisaged
a television project around them. In 1987, he moved KITH to
New York and, paying each member $150 per week, had them perform
in comedy clubs, write new material, and rehearse sketches. In 1988,
Michaels produced their HBO special. The regular series followed.
KITH immediately attracted a cult following and broke new
ground by combining shock humour with a finely developed sense of
performance and a generosity of spirit which invited audiences to
question their presuppositions rather than simply to mock the targets
of the humour. Characteristic of KITH's style are well-rounded
personifications of both men and women, homosexuals, business executives,
prostitutes and drug users, and such creations as the half human/half
fowl Chicken Lady, gay barfly Buddy Cole, the angry "head crusher",
the annoying child Gavin, and the teenager drawn to older women.
These personifications consistently draw upon the inner resources
of the characters themselves, showing their encounters with society
rather than society's judgment upon them.
also occupies an interesting place within Canadian television. First,
although a Canadian show filmed in Toronto, it was produced by a
New York-based company best known for turning comedians such as
Steve Martin and John Belushi into major stars. KITH could
therefore serve as Canadian content while gaining access to the
much larger and more lucrative U.S. market. Second, although a CBC
program, KITH attracted a youthful cult audience unfamiliar
to the CBC and inconsistent with its core demographic. Third, KITH
cracked the U.S. market by targeting an audience understood not
in terms of its membership in a Canadian national cultural community
but a North American audience understood in terms of its relative
youth and sophistication with comedy. Fourth, the success of
KITH coincided with the moment when the CBC attempted to change
its corporate culture by adopting some of the practices of other
North American networks and embracing urbanity unreservedly.
KITH also extended certain existing aspects of Canadian television.
First, KITH adopted the sketch rather than the situation
comedy format. Canadian broadcasting has attempted situation comedy
only sparingly and unevenly whereas its sketch comedy record reaches
back at least to the 1940s with radio's The Happy Gang. On
television, sketch comedy appears in the early 1950s with Wayne
and Shuster and comes to include Nightcap, SCTV, The Frantics,
S&M Comic Book, Codco, The Vacant Lot, Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie,
This Hour Has 22 Minutes, and others.
within the North American context, KITH also exemplified
the relative openness of Canadian broadcasting. For example, many
of KITH's themes and situations were initially deemed inappropriate
for U.S. network TV and it therefore debuted on HBO. When CBS did
pick it up, KITH underwent certain deletions. Canadian television,
however, because of the traditional preponderance of public broadcasting,
is more experimental and less censorious, and has long been open
to a much broader range of social, political, and cultural attitudes
than would be possible on U.S. television. This created a space
for KITH's shock humor and extended the CBC's commitment
to more challenging material.
KITH repeated the tradition of exporting Canadian comedy
to American television through such notables as Lorne Michaels himself,
Dan Aykroyd, Dave Thomas, Martin Short, James Carrey, John Candy,
Catherine O'Hara, Rick Moranis, Mike Meyers, and others.
was terminated by the principals themselves who are now pursuing
acting, writing, and music careers mainly in the United States.
A KITH fanzine and video exist as well as KITH merchandise.
A KITH book and movie are anticipated and a KITH newsgroup
is maintained on usenet. There may be KITH reunions and concert
Kids in the Hall
PRODUCER Lorne Michaels
CBS, Comedy Central, Sky Channel (Europe) Various Times
Bill. "Oh, Those Darn Kids--Black Humour From the Great White North."
Newsweek (New York), 2 October 1989.
Tom. "5 Angry Kids: Scott Thompson Decries Hypocrisy of CBS Ban
on Troupe's AIDS Humour." Vancouver Sun (Vancouver, British
Columbia, Canada), 1 February 1993.
"Kids Have 'Overdeveloped Senses of Humour'." Vancouver Sun
(Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), 7 February 1993.
Pierre, and Sid Adilman. "A Serious Look at Canadian Comedy."
Toronto Star (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 15 January 1994.
David. "It's 12:30 a.m.--Do You Know Where the Kids Are?" US
(New York), March 1994.
Cuff, John. "Farewell to Those Versatile and Fearless Kids." The
Globe and Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 16 January 1995.
_______________. "Has Too Much Freedom Spoiled the Kids?" The
Globe and Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 31 October 1991.
Henry. "Kids in the Hall Tape Final Show." Toronto Star (Toronto,
Ontario, Canada), 14 July 1994.
Programming in English