10 Fun Facts About The Kids In The Hall

Mill Creek Entertainment
Mill Creek Entertainment

It’s a fact! Ten of them, in fact. All about the comedians from Canada who created the strangest sketch show since that famous flying circus. Scott Thompson, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney, Dave Foley, and Bruce McCulloch.

After launching the pilot episode on both CBC and HBO in 1988, The Kids in the Hall—which made its series debut a year later—brought an irreverent, chaotic brand of comedy to the airwaves as a kind of antidote to Saturday Night Live's pop culture-heavy format. The series contorted and skewered real life, stretching satire to its furthest limits with recurring characters like the chauvinistic Cabbage Head, the explosive Chicken Lady, and others that weren’t human-animal/vegetable hybrids.

Let’s crush our heads together for some facts about the purveyors of brain candy.

1. THEY ADOPTED THEIR NAME FROM A SID CAESAR GAG.

Whenever Sid Caesar bombed a joke, he’d say that it had been written by “the kids in the hall,” referring to the young upstarts working for him in the NBC studio of Your Show of Shows. Dave Foley and Kevin McDonald were big Caesar fans, but they didn’t choose the name solely because of that admiration. The “kids” Caesar was goofing on in the 1950s included Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, and others who the new “Kids” also loved.

2. THEY AVOIDED CONVERSATIONS ABOUT THE NATURE OF COMEDY.

There’s a cottage industry of comedians waxing comically about being funny (think Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee), and it makes sense to assume funny people are always discussing what makes things funny. Yet The Kids in the Hall shied away from navel gazing. “There was always a pooh-poohing of theoretical discussions,” Mark McKinney told Vulture. McCulloch added that “whenever we’d have a theoretical conversation about comedy, we’d stop because we knew if we kept at it, we’d break up."

3. THE "HEAD CRUSHER" MADE HIS DEBUT MUCH EARLIER THAN THE SERIES.

One of The Kids in the Hall's most famous characters was the Head Crusher, in which McKinney played a delusional (or was he?) man who tried to crush people’s heads by squinting through his thumb and forefinger. It turns out that he’s been a champion against yuppiedom since the beginning.

“It was something that I created back in our club days,” McKinney told Esquire. “Kevin and I were having lunch, and we were broke. I think we were splitting a sandwich. We were feeling really poor, and we were having lunch in an area of Toronto called Bay Street which is kind of like Wall Street, so there were a lot of people in very expensive suits all around us talking loud, and I just started crushing their heads, like, ‘You think you so good? I crush your head!’ And we immediately thought it was funny."

4. A FAN GAVE THEM COW EYES.

The Kids in the Hall attracted a curious fanbase, including one fan in Vancouver who gave them a jar of cow eyes. But it wasn’t just a gift: He put them out on a plate and asked the Kids to chow down. “We didn’t eat that,” McDonald told The A.V. Club.

5. SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE ALMOST BROKE THEM UP BEFORE THEY EVEN GOT GOING.

McDonald and Dave Foley were performing as The Kids in the Hall before the group formed into the Voltron of cross-dressing comedy we know. Likewise, McCulloch and McKinney were working together in the improv world. They met and started doing comedy together as The Kids in the Hall, eventually pulling in Thompson in 1985, but that was around the same time that Saturday Night Live came calling for McCulloch and McKinney. They wrote for the iconic show for only a season, necessitating a brief hiatus from the Kids, and when they got back together, it was SNL guru Lorne Michaels who saw their act and set the gears in motion for The Kids in the Hall TV show.

6. THEY MADE ONLY ONE (SUPER DIVISIVE) MOVIE TOGETHER.

Many TV comedies have tried to make the jump to feature films by trying to make their humor appeal to an even larger audience. That’s not what The Kids in the Hall did. They actually went even weirder when they made 1996’s Brain Candy, a film about a struggling pharmaceutical company that hits on a potent antidepressant which becomes a massive success (except when it drives people into comas where they relive their favorite memories on loop). It featured several characters from their show alongside many new ones, and was so divisive that Siskel and Ebert all but yelled at each other while reviewing it (Siskel loved it; Ebert ... not so much).

7. BRAIN CANDY WAS MADE UNDER INCREDIBLY DEPRESSING CIRCUMSTANCES.

A cult film through and through (read: a box office flop), Brain Candy also represented the end of the road for The Kids in the Hall. It came after their TV show was over, and when the group's members were forging their own paths. Foley, who’d found mainstream success with NewsRadio, left the group over creative differences, and lost his writing credit and his main role in Brain Candy. It was a strain on a group that was already buckling, but they were also dealing with a lot of personal problems.

“In the period of a month, Dave’s marriage broke up, one of Kevin’s parents died, and my brother committed suicide,” Thompson later explained. “I was pretty much in shock. My brother died literally a week before we started shooting. All those things conspired to make it a dark time.” Not to mention they were making a comedy about depression.

8. THEY STAND BY THEIR MOST CONTROVERSIAL GAG.

One Kids in the Hall character who made the leap to their movie also ruffled a lot of feathers for those who couldn’t tell where the satirical line had been drawn. Cancer Boy was meant to mock celebrities who sought the spotlight with sick children, but a lot of people thought it was a bad taste jab aimed at the kids. The studio desperately wanted the character cut, and Janet Maslin of The New York Times called it the film’s “worst idea,” but the Kids defend it to this day.

“I love Cancer Boy more than anybody,” McCulloch, who portrayed the character, told The A.V. Club. “I was tired of the way that little kids with cancer were used by celebrities for photo ops. If the kid goes into remission, does Wayne Gretzky still visit him?” The other cast members echoed that support for the controversial joke.

9. “GIRL DRINK DRUNK” HAD AN UNHAPPY ORIGIN, TOO.

In another famous sketch, Foley plays a “grown man” corporate climber peer pressured into having alcohol for the first time. Eventually, the drinks that “taste like candy” ruin his life, hilariously. For McDonald, the idea for the gag came from a ruinous performance when McCulloch bombed throughout a show and then scolded the group, which depressed McDonald to hit a bar with McKinney. The winos at the bar depressed him more, and McKinney convinced him to have his very first drink, a margarita, because “it takes just like candy."

10. THEY REFORMED TO MAKE A MURDER MYSTERY.

The dissolution of the group after Brain Candy wasn’t the end for The Kids in the Hall. They’ve reunited a few times in the past two decades for live tours, but The Kids in the Hall: Death Comes to Town was their first time returning to television, and the result is something tonally similar to their sketch show while structurally divergent.

It follows a single story—the murder of the mayor of a small town vying to host the 2028 Summer Olympics. Oh, and the scythe-wielding personification of Death has checked into a local motel. Far from Sharp Objects, it’s still profoundly goofy and seriously silly.

Tom Hiddleston Will Return as Loki for Live-Action Series for Disney+

Vittorio Zunino Celotto, Getty Images for Gucci
Vittorio Zunino Celotto, Getty Images for Gucci

After various reports and rumors claiming Marvel's Loki would be getting his own TV series for the new Disney+ streaming service, Disney CEO Bob Iger has finally confirmed the news.

In an official press release, it was also announced that ​Tom Hiddleston will be reprising his role as "Loki, the god of mischief" for the live-action series.

It was back in September that Variety first reported that both Loki and Scarlet Witch would be getting their own TV series for Disney+, with Hiddleston and Elizabeth Olsen reprising their respective roles. It was also rumored these series would only be around six to eight episodes apiece, allowing the stars maintain their otherwise busy schedules.

In the same release, Disney ​announced a Rogue One: A Star Wars Story live-action prequel series, starring Diego Luna, who will reprise his role of Cassian Andor.

“Going back to the Star Wars universe is very special for me," Luna said. "I have so many memories of the great work we did together and the relationships I made throughout the journey."

With its slate of A-list properties, Disney+ is already shaking up the small-screen with its announced original series. The service is not expected to debut until at least late 2019.

40 Educational Facts About Sesame Street

Getty Images
Getty Images

On November 10, 1969, television audiences were introduced to Sesame Street. In the near-50 years since, the series has become one of television's most iconic programs—and it's not just for kids. We're big fans of the Street, and to prove it, here are some of our favorite Sesame Street facts.

1. Oscar the Grouch used to be orange. Jim Henson decided to make him green before season two.

2. How did Oscar explain the color change? He said he went on vacation to the very damp Swamp Mushy Muddy and turned green overnight.

3. During a 2004 episode, Cookie Monster said that before he started eating cookies, his name was Sid.

4. In 1980, C-3PO and R2-D2 visited Sesame Street. They played games, sang songs, and R2-D2 fell in love with a fire hydrant.

5. Mr. Snuffleupagus has a first name—Aloysius.

6. Ralph Nader stopped by in 1988 and sang "a consumer advocate is a person in your neighborhood."

7. Caroll Spinney said he based Oscar's voice on a cab driver from the Bronx who brought him to the audition.

8. In 1970, Ernie reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the timeless hit "Rubber Duckie."

9. One of Count von Count's lady friends is Countess von Backwards, who's also obsessed with counting but likes to do it backwards.

10. Sesame Street made its Afghanistan debut in 2011 with Baghch-e-Simsim (Sesame Garden). Big Bird, Grover and Elmo are involved.

11. According to Muppet Wiki, Oscar the Grouch and Count von Count were minimized on Baghch-e-Simsim "due to cultural taboos against trash and vampirism."

12. Before Giancarlo Esposito was Breaking Bad's super intense Gus Fring, he played Big Bird's camp counselor Mickey in 1982.

13. Thankfully, those episodes are available on YouTube.

14. How big is Big Bird? 8'2".

15. In 2002, the South African version (Takalani Sesame) added an HIV-positive Muppet named Kami.

16. Six Republicans on the House Commerce Committee wrote a letter to PBS president Pat Mitchell warning that Kami was not appropriate for American children, and reminded Mitchell that their committee controlled PBS's funding.

17. Sesame Street's resident game show host Guy Smiley was using a pseudonym. His real name was Bernie Liederkrantz.

18. Bert and Ernie have been getting questioned about their sexuality for years. Ernie himself, as performed by Steve Whitmire, has weighed in: “All that stuff about me and Bert? It’s not true. We’re both very happy, but we’re not gay,”

19. A few years later, Bert (as performed by Eric Jacobson) answered the same question by saying, “No, no. In fact, sometimes we are not even friends; he can be a pain in the neck.”

20. In the first season, both Superman and Batman appeared in short cartoons produced by Filmation. In one clip, Batman told Bert and Ernie to stop arguing and take turns choosing what’s on TV.

21. In another segment, Superman battled a giant chimp.

22. Telly was originally "Television Monster," a TV-obsessed Muppet whose eyes whirled around as he watched.

23. According to Sesame Workshop, Elmo is the only non-human to testify before Congress.

Photo of Elmo from 'Sesame Street'
iStock

24. He lobbied for more funding for music education, so that "when Elmo goes to school, there will be the instruments to play."

25. In the early 1990s, soon after Jim Henson’s passing, a rumor circulated that Ernie would be killed off in order to teach children about death, as they'd done with Mr. Hooper.

26. According to Snopes, the rumor may have spread thanks to New Hampshire college student Michael Tabor, who convinced his graduating class to wear “Save Ernie” beanies and sign a petition to persuade Sesame Workshop to let Ernie live.

27. By the time Tabor was corrected, the newspapers had already picked up the story.

28. Sesame Street’s executive producer Carol-Lynn Parente joined Sesame Workshop as a production assistant and has worked her way to the top.

29. Originally, Count von Count was more sinister. He could hypnotize and stun people.

30. According to Sesame Workshop, all Sesame Street's main Muppets have four fingers except Cookie Monster, who has five.

31. The episode with Mr. Hooper's funeral aired on Thanksgiving Day in 1983. That date was chosen because families were more likely to be together at that time, in case kids had questions or needed emotional support.

32. Mr. Hooper’s first name was Harold.

33. Big Bird sang "Bein' Green" at Jim Henson's memorial service.

34. As Mental Floss's Chris Higgins put it, the performance was "devastating."

35. Oscar's Israeli counterpart is Moishe Oofnik, whose last name means “grouch” in Hebrew.

36. Nigeria's version of Cookie Monster eats yams. His catchphrase: "ME WANT YAM!"

37. Sesame Street's Roosevelt Franklin ran a school, where he spoke in scat and taught about Africa. Some parents hated him, so in 1975 he got the boot, only to inspire Gob Bluth’s racist puppet Franklin on Arrested Development 28 years later.

38. Our good friend and contributor Eddie Deezen was the voice of Donnie Dodo in the 1985 classic Follow That Bird.

39. Cookie Monster evolved from The Wheel-Stealer—a snack-pilfering puppet Jim Henson created to promote Wheels, Crowns and Flutes in the 1960s.

40. This puppet later was seen eating a computer in an IBM training film and on The Ed Sullivan Show.

An earlier version of this article appeared in 2012.

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