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Blast from the past
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Blast from the past

The Kids in the Hall, the beloved Canadian sketch show that ran from 1989 to 1995, launched its much-delayed sixth season on Friday on Prime Video.

And in case it hadn’t sunk in that it’s been almost 30 years since the Chicken Lady served up a disturbingly fresh omelette, grim reminders of mortality and the passage of time hang heavy over the show.

The debut episode shows the Kids — Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Scott Thompson, Dave Foley and Mark McKinney, now in their 60s — literally being unearthed from the grave in which they were buried in the last episode of the fifth season.

"The Kids in the Hall" Bruce McCulloch, Dave Foley, Kevin McDonald and Scott Thompson arrive on the red carpet for the 2019 Canadian Screen Awards in Toronto. (Nathan Denette / The Canadian Press Files)

Then the twangy theme kicks in, Having an Average Weekend by Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet. The track was recorded with bassist Reid Diamond, who died of cancer in 2001. His replacement, Dallas Good of the Sadies, appears briefly in the intro; Good died earlier this year.

It’s a bit jarring to revisit something nostalgic from your past — the theme song alone, paired with grainy black-and-white footage of Toronto, transports you immediately back to the ‘90s — and also have it remind you so strongly of everything that’s changed.

To its credit — indeed, even to its benefit — the show is fully aware of the transformations, both physical and social, wrought by the decades. When the Kids (a moniker that seems more ironic than ever) are first dug up, they are horrified by each other’s grey hair (or lack thereof) and wrinkled visages. “Am I still the cute one,” Foley wails. (Note: I think McCulloch was the cute one, but maybe I’m alone there.)

It’s a relief to discover the troupe is as funny as ever, though a lot of the laughs in the first few episodes are more rueful than gut-busting, tinged with sadness rather than the anger of their younger days. (Foley’s turn as a morning radio DJ broadcasting to no one in a post-apocalyptic world — his only record is Melanie’s Brand New Key — is breathtaking in its hopelessness.)

Old favourites — Buddy Cole, office workers Kathy and Cathy — return, but the characters aren’t oblivious to the intervening years.

"The Kids In The Hall" by The Comedy Network in 1997. (The Canadian Press Files)

Maybe it’s because he’s been doing it without a break — and doing it well — for about a hundred years that no one looks at Mick Jagger strutting and preening onstage and says, “Dude, you are an old man.” But after their long hiatus, the Kids are wise enough to acknowledge and even lean into their almost-senior status; a sketch in which they play 60-year-old strippers is utterly ridiculous and yet weirdly plausible, with a nod to topicality that is mostly absent from early KItH sketches.

“I’ve been doing this since they closed the plant in Oshawa,” McKinney’s character says. “Autoworkers and strippers, they’re in the same union, so I got to keep my benefits.”

As Homer Simpson would say, it’s funny ’cause it’s true.

Jill Wilson

Jill Wilson

Jill Wilson

What’s up this week

This item comes from my colleague Eva Wasney, who writes: Performance art isn’t the same without an audience. This weekend, Art Holm returns to the stage for three days of music, drag and dance during its first major live event in two years.

Since 2017, the interdisciplinary performance series has been creating a platform for local artists of every stripe — from filmmakers to dancers and poets to puppeteers. The semi-annual events have continued amid the pandemic virtually or on a smaller scale.

The upcoming lineup includes Winnipeg musician JayWood, drag group Bahay Perlas and Vancouver dancer Jeanette Kotowich.

JayWood, a.k.a. Jeremy Haywood-Smith, is a genre-blending musician and producer known for putting out fun, feel-good music. His debut EP, Some Days, was released in 2021.

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Winnipeg’s Jeremy Haywood-Smith will be performing at Art Holm. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Bahay Perlas, which translates to House of Pearls, is made up of Filipinx drag queens Lady Fortuna (Christian Alcera) and Special K (Kiel Galera). The pair are graduates of Prairie Theatre Exchange’s drag performance program and have gained a following in the local drag scene for their storytelling skills, musicality and style.

Jeanette Kotowich is a contemporary dance artist and choreographer of Nêhiyaw, Métis and mixed settler ancestry. Her work is based on ancestral knowledge and rooted in protocol, ritual and relationship with the natural and spirit world.

Each artist will perform Friday through Sunday, 8:30 to 10 p.m, in the lobby at Théâtre Cercle Molière in St. Boniface with ASL interpreters Emma Drury and Jordan Wynychuk. Tickets for the in-person and livestreamed shows are available for a minimum $1 donation on the Eventbrite website.

Winnipeg Comedy Showcase No. 29 gets underway tonight at the Park Theatre with a lineup of comics that includes Dana Smith, the Lady Lumps, Matt Nightingale, Jordan Welwood and more. Tickets are $18.40 on the Eventbrite website.

Also at the Park, Baltimore synth-pop band Future Islands — who went viral after an appearance on Letterman, thanks in part to charismatic singer Samuel Herring’s dance moves — plays on Saturday at 8 p.m. Tickets are available here at $48. Oh, Rose opens the show.

Samuel T. Herring of Future Islands performs at the 2014 Coachella Music and Arts Festival in Indio, Calif. (Chris Pizzello / Invision / Associated Press)

Recommended

Books: I’ve read a couple of dreary autobiographies lately, so Michelle Zauner’s Crying in H Mart is a welcome reminder of what a well-written, deeply felt memoir can be, intertwining personal experiences and emotions with broader observations about the bonds between mothers and daughters. Zauner writes about the death of her Korean-born mother and their contentious but fiercely loving relationship in a way that feels specific and universal at once. Food was her mother’s love language and the mouth-watering descriptions of Korean dishes will have you running to the Asian market in search of ingredients.

Zauner brings her musical project, Japanese Breakfast, to the Winnipeg Folk Festival this July.

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