Head-Crushed and Proud: The Kids in the Hall @ the L.A. Orpheum, May 9, 2008, 8:00 pm

Let's get this straight. I don't miss the beginnings of shows. I don't miss the ends of shows. I don't go to the bathroom in the middle of a show, and I certainly don't go off to the snack counter to refresh my soda halfway through the proceedings either. This applies mainly to movies, but I don't do any of this nonsense at concerts, speeches, political rallies or plays either.

When I buy a ticket, I am there for the show, not any of the peripherals, and I plot my behavior at that show according to how that show has been planned. If there is an intermission, as at most plays or Lawrence of Arabia, then I use the opportunity should I have need to perform my ablutions. Because of this, I have developed remarkable, shall we say, hold. I sat squirming for the last two hours and ten minutes of Empire of the Sun, needing desperately to use the facilities, but determined to not miss a second of the film. Even if the film, in retrospect, was only so-so (not the case for Sun though), I cannot tear apart my personal mantra for a mere piss.

But at the L.A. Orpheum last Friday night, Jen and I had just suffered through some odd circumstances (please read Monday's post here) just trying to get ten dollars for parking, and the extra time we had figured in for getting a pre-show snack had dissolved like so much candy-floss. We were thirsty, we were starving, and we were faced with the fact that The Kids in the Hall were due to take the stage any moment. But, on the list of plus factors, we were in the back row on the aisle, I had a pocket of newly gained cash, and there was a bar serving drinks and snacks just down the stairs behind us. We were perfectly positioned to relieve both our hunger and thirst, and all I had to do was play the gentleman and go and pay up. And possibly miss the opening of the show.

Which I did. My foot speed allowed me to not only fly down the steps in short order, but also zip past several couples on their way to the bar, all of them mostly oblivious to the notion that I had just taken cuts, though it was before we were even close to the line. It's my one super-power and I am proud of it, the fact that I am basically the pedestrian version of the Flash, albeit sans costume or six-pack abs. And there I was, ready to get even further from capturing that six-pack by loading up on some soda and Hershey bars, which were our only choices since we didn't want to drink (and then potentially get lost on the way home).

And then it happened. Fourth in line from the front, the lights flickered in that way which informs the stragglers to take their seats quickly. Third from the front, my ears caught (how could they miss it?) the rise of the crowd's overt joy as quite clearly the show was underway. The screaming masses took over the building as I imagined each of The Kids making their way on stage (not quite, as it turned out, but close), and as I waited patiently in line for my turn. Now second in line, I could hear some very unclear lines being spoken from the stage, miked of course, but too distorted to make out. All I could understand was the raucous laughter of the crowd, and all I could imagine was that I was missing something awesome. And I was waiting behind a punk poser chick and her boyfriend, who would apparently rather ask the bartender, in ridiculously exaggerated slowness, like a goddamn retarded turtle, for a series of drinks the bartender couldn't possibly create with his limited range of beverages, garnishes and hardware. Finally, perusing his acceptable list, the punk poser chick decides on Long Island Ice Teas, and as the bartender attempts to move her order along, she regales him with the history of her fake-looking I.D. and her troubles with cops thinking she is always underage. And as he punches up her order, she just keeps talking, but never thinks, "Oh, I've been holding up the line a good seven minutes. Maybe I will pull my cash out while he is ringing it up to at least cut the wait down for these good people behind me by at least a few seconds." Which she didn't bother to do. And then, after scuffling through her wallet for money, she tries to pay with a hundred. Thanks for considering those about you. I hope you die soon, you pink-haired, nose-ringed fake, and I hope you die horribly.

My own purchase took a whole twenty seconds -- TOTAL -- two Cokes and a Hershey's with Almonds, and I tipped the bartender the extra three bucks on my ten to save even more time. Hooray for me, but really, I was just in a massive hurry to get back to my seat. As it turned out, I only missed the opening bit, mostly film, wherein the Kids were threatening to rape Kevin McDonald, who appeared in his tighty whities, skinny, hairy legs and all. I was devastated when Jen told me, but the show proper was starting.

It's amazing how sharp, nasty satire can reflect one's personal ire over the injustice and craziness of the world at large, but also serve to calm one down simultaneously simply through creating laughter. The "Hateful Baby" sketch caused this reaction to me, and made me instantly forget the evil pink-haired bitch and settle into what I loved most: the skewering of the remainder of the world's sacred cows. No religion left untouched, no suburban banality unravaged. Holding another couple's newborn infant, Dave Foley reacts with unconcealed disgust once the couple leaves the room. "It's like Auschwitz wrapped in swaddling!" Eventually, it is agreed that holding the abhorrent brat is like "hearing that Coldplay song Yellow on the radio." A terrible fate indeed.

The new material is as sharp and topical as ever, even when old favorite characters adorn the stage. Scott Thompson's grande dame Buddy Cole, atop his signature stool, dished on the secret gay life of Jesus Christ, and took potshots at just about every figure surrounding the savior. Thompson and Bruce McCulloch's weight-obsessed secretaries Kathy and Cathy partook of crystal meth via Cathy's unicorn-shaped pipe. And while many comedians go to great lengths in their routines to portray a fear-slash-respect for Mohammed and his followers, tiptoeing around the subject of Islam, the Kids twice flaunted a disregard for Mohammed by name, albeit wrapped within the obviously inane Ugly American characters they were portraying on stage. (If there were any Muslims in the crowd, they certainly betrayed no adverse reaction).

One of these sketches, "Superdrunk" was a supreme display for McCulloch's physical humor as his character only gains superpowers through the drinks plied to him by his sidekick, "The Bartender," stopping to take the occasional piss on the way to thwarting crimes. Naturally, the clever, very broad sketch concludes with Superdrunk confronting a terrorist (Mark McKinney, dressed in stereotypical criminal fashion with a striped shirt and bearing a round cartoon-style bomb) who is threatening the Statue of Liberty (Thompson, once more in drag).

Amid some excellent new, concept-driven pieces (a three-part time travel sketch, a surreal short film called "Carfuckers," and another sketch where Foley and McDonald fight over Dave's imaginary girlfriend), several favorites of mine (and most of the audience) made appearances. McKinney's amazingly horny Chicken Lady shows up to perform phone sex with trucker Thompson, and McCulloch's obscure-trivia-obsessed child Gavin once more invites a pair of unsuspecting Jehovah's Witnesses into his home, tormenting the duo with the most insipid and mostly incorrect facts ever spouted. While I could have done with a new visit from the "evil" Sir Simon Milligan and his manservant Hecubus -- perhaps my two favorite characters from the old Kids show -- and maybe even one from Mississippi Gary, the fact that so many of the old favorites showed up made the show a great delight for me.

And then there was the head-crushing. You don't know how alternately beautiful and weird it is for someone to stand on a stage with a video camera, point it at your section -- and then crush the heads of every person contained within between his thumb and forefinger. McKinney's Mr. Tyzik not only takes out the balcony, but each of the Kids to close the show, even himself. It's a whole new way of dying on stage, and by doing it this way, the Kids don't.

There were some down aspects. The sound was uniformly terrible, and many lines got dropped or were obscured by distortion because of the mikes. The screen projecting the film material was perfectly suited height-wise for the crowd on the main floor, but for we poor souls in the balcony, the top quarter of the screen was cut off by the hanging lighting rig in front of the stage, and so most of the heads of the characters were lopped away. A decided lack of props outside of chairs actually hurt some of the sketches, even if the use of the video screen helped make up for this aspect. And in the Chicken Lady sketch, is it just me, or was that chair she sat on supposed to explode a mass of feathers out of it? Whatever it was supposed to be, that sketch ended on an anti-climax, basically playing against the purpose of the whole premise by having nothing happen. (The Chicken Lady famously explodes in orgasm.)

But these are just minor things compared to the massive amount of energy and panache with which these veterans brought their material to their audience -- almost like they were ready to stun the comedy world with a new television version? Or maybe a new movie? One can only hope, and I will definitely be there if they are.

This time, though, I will buy my snacks well ahead of time. I can't miss out on Kevin McDonald getting raped a second time.


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