Death comes to town ... and he's a bit of a loser 0
Death is coming to town, and he's wearing a red codpiece and a matching vest.
And the vest used to belong to the Friendly Giant.
If that sounds like something the Kids in the Hall might dream up, it could be because they did.
With "Kids in the Hall: Death Comes to Town," the comedy troupe that redefined weird for the 1990s is back on-screen for the first time in 14 years.
The eight-part series, premiering Tuesday, Jan. 12, on CBC Television, reunites Dave Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney and Scott Thompson for the first time on film or TV since their 1996 movie, "Brain Candy."
Co-creator and producer McCulloch describes the show as a blend of "unbridled comic joy" and "stranger stuff."
The Kids have always been into unbridled comic joy and stranger stuff -through the series that ruled sketch comedy from the late 1980s to the mid-1990s, as well as three tours in the past 10 years.
And with the Kids back on CBC, where they started, it's appropriate that an odd piece of network history has come home with them.
"The red vest that I'm wearing actually belonged to the Friendly Giant," says McKinney, who plays the title character. "We found it in stock. That stuff was all sold off as the CBC got shrunk, and it went to this stock house in Toronto.
"And people's reaction to it was extraordinary. I would tell people about it on set, and they would creep forward and touch it and go, 'Yeah!' "
The codpiece, he says, belonged to "the Unfriendly Giant."
With "Death Comes to Town," the Kids have abandoned short-form comedy for an eight-part serial that blends murder mystery, courtroom drama and soap opera.
And it all starts when Death rides into the northern Ontario town of Shuckton (North Bay) on a bus and decides to hang around, with grimly funny results.
"It's kind of the 'Brain Candy' model," McCulloch says. "We play all the good parts, and there's the odd special guest like Dan Redican ('Puppets Who Kill') or Colin Mochrie. But we tried to do most of it. And we don't do this that often, so why not?"
The multiple roles played by the Kids range from the pompous mayor to a morbidly obese, housebound ex-hockey player and a senile pizza deliverywoman.
But it won't be a parade of favorite characters, McCulloch says.
"I've always been cognizant of how comedians age, and I've seen some people try to appear younger in their performance," McCulloch says. "I think when I started figuring out the landscape for all these characters, their ages are appropriate.
"I play the belligerent mayor, and Dave Foley plays my drunk wife, and she's kind of a thick, boozy broad. We're playing people relatively our age. I'm not playing a rock star. I'm playing an attorney. I'm playing a mayor. I'm playing a big fat guy."
"Death has been bad-joked to death," McCulloch says. "This is our version of it, and Mark's in a red codpiece, and his gut is in all its glory."
He also rides around town on an electric-powered mustang bicycle gaily festooned with human bones.
He's like Clarence the angel in "It's a Wonderful Life" -a low-rank Death whose beat is the boondocks because he's not ready for the big time.
Like the heavy-metal Satan whom McKinney used to play on the sketch series, this Death is a bit of a loser.
"I always used to like to make the dark characters as stupid as I could make them," McKinney says. "They're self-centered and easily bored and self-seeking. They're kind of spoiled and petulant.
"There's more than one Death, and he's gotten stuck on this crappy circuit. I don't want to give too much away, but there's a reason central to the story why he's on this crappy circuit, and it all took place in Shuckton, this little town."
The idea for the series started with McCulloch, who says he was intrigued by the idea of a supernatural force walking among us. Then, as the other Kids bought into it, it became a group writing project.
In the early years, McCulloch says, the Kids were known for occasionally ferocious creative differences.
"We were battling the world, so we sometimes battled each other."
This time around, he says, they got along without a lot of tension.
"I really can't tell if this is the beginning of a new phase or a swan song. I don't know what we're going to do next. We come and go as a group, and that's kind of our strength.
"But it's interesting to work with these guys as older men. The sins of the past kind of go away as time batters us all and makes us better people."