SCTV; Kids in the Hall; This Hour has 22 Minutes;

In the last couple of decades, Canadian television humour has had a damn fine track record. Almost every history of Canadian TV humour will lovingly point further back to a horrible pastiche of lifted eyebrow smarm called Wayne and Shuster. Actually that is according it more substance and wit that it ever mustered..its more like if all humour were food, it would be papier mache; not even in the same category. And then things began to look up. A few steps up the ladder and we came to SCTV which was low budget but managed to create some memorable characters and launch many talents.

A few of these spent a little time on SNL but Michaels didn’t quite know how to use them so they languished. Martin Short‘s Ed Grimley but lasted but a year.

Bob and Doug McKenzie were the best known but other great characters included John Candy‘s The Mambo King, Andrea Martin‘s Edith Prickley, Dave Thomas‘ Scottish Bluesman and his unsurpassed Bob Hope parody, Rick Moranis‘ Woody Allen and so many more. The lasting legacy of SCTV are the Christopher Guest movies which are anchored by SCTV regulars Eugene Levy and Catherine OHara, and have are imbued with the same sensibility. See this blog for a much deeper dive into the SCTV pool.

And then, and yes, there were many lower profile shows I won’t go into, and then we had the unsurpassed Kids in the Hall. Still the exemplar of edge pushing sketch comedy. Not only was the writing top notch but it was courageous anything goes comedy backed up by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation which always supported pushing the envelope and wasn’t scared of gays on screen. Apart from developing memorable characters like the lascivious Chicken Lady, the key was deep character studies and leaving enough normalcy in all the sketches to highlight the radical elements. It is still the most pro-gay comedy series ever having the inimitable Scott Thompson who took gay humour on the little screen to the point where not only were there great characters but also had the balls to use the stereotypes as well much like the stretch in black comedy that occurred on MadTV a few years ago.

Here’s a couple of sketches (best of youtube but not the best of the Kids): Sausages.

Stand in the New Style.

Vintage Clothing.

SCTV started it but having Kids in the Hall is why so many Canadians found Saturday Night Live almost unwatchable. In comparison it seemed badly written, badly performed and juvenile. Exceptions there were but all in all, there was a hell of a lot of filler, a few too many sketches with the diapers still on and kept in the playpen, and a cuteness factor that didn’t compare with the chuckle into the abyss that was Kids in the Hall. For the true comparison, imagine the last show of SNL whenever they let it die. It will be a homage to days past, a loving caravan of stills and sketches, and tears on stage at the final hug. The last show of Kids in the Hall, the final sketch, was a grave being dug, they are tumbled in, its covered in, and Paul Bidini, one of the writers, and a recurring rolly polly figure dressed only in a hotel towel around his waist, dances on the grave and says “thank god,that’s over.”

The closest thing to good comedy in shouting distance that I’ve seen is MadTV which has developed some real beautiful standouts like Miss Swann, Lorraine, and now all I have to do is see Bobby Lee‘s face and I start laughing. Most of the Kids have found work since, Scott on Larry Sanders Show, Dave Foley remarkable straight in the really good News Radio, and the others here and there.

In a slightly different direction we had a show which came out of Newfoundland called Codco which kind of morphed into a weekly political comedy commentary which is called This Hour has 22 Minutes and this season so far as been great. For those outside the country, there are quite a few in jokes but I think someof it should still come across. I would check out the interviews by newcomer Nathan Fielder. The show is put online after each airing so you can watch almost the whole episodes with some not aired if you follow the link.

12 comments on “SCTV; Kids in the Hall; This Hour has 22 Minutes;

  1. I think that Four on The Floor was also quite an entertaining show though less influential than the ones you mentioned. It didn’t run very long. I think google might tell me (or you) how long it ran. The idea of Mr. Canoehead is sure funny.

  2. Yes, Mr. Hand, Four on the Floor was quite good. Some of the went on to do History Bites, didn’t they. That has its moments as well.

    I was fond of Butch Patterson, Private Dick, and the animated series Kevin Spencer. I’m amazed how CBC can air such great comedies yet can’t produce a watchable dramatic series (not another period piece set in maritimes, please).

    Thanks for the tip about 22 Minutes being online. A fellow Canadian and myself will now have something to watch.

  3. I also really enjoy the Rick Mercer Report… a good 22 minutes alumnus.

  4. RHand: I had forgotten about the see worthy Mr. Canoehead, thank you.

    Stevo: I hope that 22minutes is loading for you. It always works for me but for some and that includes some people on the network I share at work, it only comes up as a gray square. And you know I think the reason comedy is often so good is that there is no attempt to imitate some commercial product. Most of the bad Canadian tv drama seem to be ill conceived attempts at reproducing an American hit. And those do surely suck. But there is an exception: Da Vinci’s Inquest which is now actually syndicated down south and getting raves. And there is a followup series by Haddock called Intelligence which is quite good. It can be done as long as we go original and native.

    PMousse: Yes, love the Rick Mercer but I liked him just a wee bit more when he was part of the 22minutes crew and you had a breather from him between skits. Brilliant guy. Hey, I got to talk to Mary Walsh when she was on a book tour. Not as Marge DelaHaunty but still quite a thrill.

  5. I agree. I like Rick Mercer better with the whole crew.

    And, thanks for the 22 minutes link. I’ll use it. Lately, the only TV that I ever watch is either DVDs that friends lend us (and sometimes we don’t even watch those) or Rick Mercer online.

    Oh wait. That’s not quite true. We got some Kids in the Hall from the library. I think it seemed funnier when it first came out. Still some of it amazed me. I was amazed that they showed some of the stuff. Deloris the magic goat still cracks me up.

  6. I’ve got the first three seasons and I’m working through them…thought I’d seen them all but there are surprises here and there, and I only have the vagues recollection of Deloris….

  7. Yeah. I did notice that my memory of the sketches — especially the ones that had become standard jokes among my friends — wasn’t completely accurate. And, there were some pleasant surprises.

  8. Kids in the Hall’s video, Terriers, is one of my all time favorites.

  9. Paul BELLINI, not Paul Bidini. Nice post.

  10. What was I thinking? Of course.

  11. Yeah, Nathan Fielder on 22 Minutes is hillarious. The role of “social dunce” is definitey in, big time and sooo cool. Nathan plays it up so perfectly, you have to ask – is it really an act? Can’t wait for his next piece. Nathan’s interviewees all are unsuspecting dupes that set up his scenes, a play on awkward moments, I think. Yet the exchanges are great, natural and ticklishly uncomfortable – awkward moments that we all have in every day life, yet don’t notice deliberately, as WE don’t like to admit them! Thanks Nathan, I see the nurd in me. Do watch him! What a find!!!

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