If there is any point during which “The Kids in the Hall” tiptoes perhaps a little too close to feeling like a complaint about the current state of humor, the type of grouchy early-Boomer grousing about what is or isn’t allowable to be funny anymore, it comes during these various sketches. In one, the big boss (Foley) informs recurring character Danny Husk (Thompson) that he’s fired for sporting loud, squeaky clown shoes because it’s considered offensive cultural appropriation by an actual circus clown. In another, a Zoom meeting quickly devolves because the various attendees are called out for inappropriately touching themselves (and then it devolves even further). The sketches never jump fully into arguing that people are too touchy and need to relax, but the frequency of these jokes (and their hit-or-miss qualities, at best) makes you wonder.
Where “The Kids in the Hall” continues to show strength is in broader absurdity, as in one sketch where a little boy’s attempt to get his grandfather medical help goes awry because the grandfather is unable to appropriately say the word “ambulance.” And the bleakness of some of the sketches feels uniquely fresh even though it fits in well with their earlier work, as in one episode’s recurring sketches with a morning-zoo-style DJ (Foley) in an apocalyptic version of Earth where he lives in an underground bunker and plays the same song (“Brand New Key”) over and over and over and over again to an audience of likely zero.
Though all five of the Kids have gone on to varying levels of success in the last thirty years — American audiences may be most familiar with Foley, thanks to his starring role in “NewsRadio”, among other titles — they all seem as nimble and willing to dive into sublimely ridiculous premises. (And as a fan of the Disney film “Sky High,” it was particularly funny to watch a recurring sketch where Foley gets to play a sidekick … of sorts to a strange twist on a classic superhero.) For the most part, “The Kids in the Hall” feels about as unchanged as possible, in that the troupe doesn’t seem to have missed too much of a step.
One recurring bit through the first five episodes, and likely through the remaining installments, is dubbed “Friends of the Kids in the Hall,” in which a series of famous performers (including Pete Davidson, Catherine O’Hara, and Samantha Bee) briefly talk about their love of the Kids while also playing particularly weird characters in what amounts to a direct appeal to the camera. Though it’s nice to see these performers, it’s hard not to wonder what it would be like to have seen them in sketches with the Kids themselves. (The other two big names so far are Kenan Thompson and Will Forte, so we’re talking about people with plenty of comic cred already.) These bits almost serve as a way to prove to a younger audience that “The Kids in the Hall” is worth their time and attention, as if the show itself isn’t enough proof. And though there are some slight missteps, it’s great to see the Kids back in form. The guest stars are a nice bit of oomph, but almost an unnecessary one. The Kids are good enough on their own.
“The Kids in the Hall” premieres on Prime Video May 13, 2022.