10 February 2012

Kids in the Hall, S03E01

I recently purchased the box-set, have just started season three, and have decided to review every subsequent episode of Kids in the Hall. Television criticism, in its current incarnation, seems to have two functions—as a "watch dog" of current broadcasts, to laud programs with which the critics (ideologically) agree, and to berate (and therefore attempt to cancel) shows considered negatively impacting to the public ("dumbing them down," spreading misogynistic values, etc); and to inform readers of past shows they may have missed that deserve a place in the critical cannon. Then what's the purpose of reviewing something like Kids in the Hall, that's long been off the air and still has a well-deserved critical and cult following? The only purpose is a personal one: I have recently become very intrigued by KITH's interaction with "gender" (stemming from the question of "should I be offended by this?"). I have begun to write something longer on this subject, but still have three seasons to go before I can truly draw any conclusions. To make it easier for myself later on, I've decided to document my reactions to every episode/sketch, and posting them in a blog seemed less depressing than just keeping a word document.


Please don't read this if you haven't seen the episode! I hate it when jokes get ruined and I don't want to be that person, especially as these are really good jokes! I'll try to imbed clips when they're available, and someone posted all of S03E01 here, but seriously, just buy the box-set. It's soooo worth it.

The third season's first episode comprises a lot of "non-ending sketches," or those that conclude with a character just standing there or mumbling some adlib after the comedic climax. The opening sketch's "non-ending," however, has a real self-awareness to it: after thirty seconds of goofy absurdism (mocking that "can anyone fly a plane"/"is there a doctor here" fictional trope), the sketch ends with Scott staring around perplexed, one eyebrow raised—What the fuck just happened? He's a reflection of the majority of their possible television audience: the logical, everyday person who doesn't "get" this wacky comedic nonsense. In this sketch, the Kids acknowledge that their stuff is weird and seemingly just a bunch of goofy nothing, but in doing so, they imply that there is something more going on. This commenting on the necessity for sketch comedy to have integrity and do more than go for dumb laughs is a recurring device for KITH—on multiple occasions previously, they've mocked both themselves and the audience in this regard.

Season three has new opening credits. Whereas season one's comprised mostly clips of consumer products (a used car lot, grocery store aisles), and season two featured shots of all sorts of people (fat, short, pregnant), the theme for season three seems to be "people at work." I guess we'll see.

Though one-joke gags, the Cops sketches are the good kind of recurring sketch with a new joke each time, and I quite liked both in this episode. (They're the first two in that youtube compilation.) These two, however, didn't seem to have any new sociological "function" beyond the recurring send-up of the "macho" perception of police officers. I also don't have much to say about the two "Cabbie" sketches—"bluejays" (mocking those "I'm not racist, but…" commentators) and "Lakeshore," which I enjoyed for Scott's performance (and costuming), but it didn't seem to know how to end. I did like its little callback in the approaching-surreal, black-and-white "My Pen" sketch, which I quite enjoyed, but I don't feel compelled to comment on beyond its central gag about our culture's obsessive, selfish materialism.

"Small C" I at times didn't find that funny, but ended up really admiring for its bravery to just keep going with this increasingly absurd tangent. Yes, yes, it's a comment on our culture's celebrity-obsession, but like "Crouton," I am in such awe of these sketch-stories that just keep going and going and to ends that I could never predict. These sketches always catch me off guard, and with the monologues and more surreal sketches, are generally my favourites.

The sketches that really define this episode thematically, however, are "A New Development in the Sauna," "Chicken Lady Show," and the sauna's seeming-bookend, "Nipples."

I don't like Chicken Lady. I don't understand Chicken Lady. Maybe later on there's a really good defining sketch that makes people love this character; maybe KITH is mocking dumb costume-reliant sketches and societal gender-perceptions of women as squawking hens that just want to get laid, but Chicken Lady just doesn't really make me laugh. As a rule I generally tend to not enjoy sketch comedy that relies on extreme costuming gags (I just think about the actor putting on all that makeup; how much time and money it cost and whether it's "worth it"), and Chicken Lady's no exception. It's also verges on "bad recurring sketch territory" (think SNL), built upon, instead of strong, funny, quirky characters able to be put into different scenarios (think Cathy and Kathy), just a single gag (the chicken lady exploding in orgasm) accomplished with predictable build-ups. The first time, Chicken Lady was unexpected, and thus sort of funny, if just for how committed Mark McKinney is to the role (he really takes that acting trick of "embodying an animal" to the extreme), but I really don't get why they keep returning to it. (The third time, I did enjoy Scott Thompson's supporting character.) I also just don't like scenes that take place in strip clubs, because honestly they just skeeze me out. I did, however, appreciate the fact that this sketch, full of male stripping, happens in the episode with KITH's first instance of "female" nudity*; it's a nice sort of parallel, of "equaling" their objectification. (Though I don't think Scott had much umbrage with being objectified.)

*Was there an earlier sketch with non-Foley lady nudity? There obviously have been ladies in bikinis, but I feel sort of bad for not remembering.

"Sauna," though, I really like (even though it didn't really know how to end), as a sort of continuation of "the poker conversation," and an obvious mocking of male perception of/reactions to their own and other male bodies. In "Nipples," which I take to be the same Scott character as in "Sauna," the cultural obsession with female breasts (while male nipples are equally-stimulating areas) is questioned in a way that I have never seen before. And like Kevin's epiphany about penises at the sketch's end—though it plays as such a childish, anatomically-illiterate reaction— why aren't more adults constantly thinking about this all the time?! You put it in your mouth!

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