It was supposed to be the Kids in the Hall’s big breakout. Instead, the Canadian comedy troupe’s debut feature film Brain Candy bombed at the box office, putting the final nail in the group’s coffin for the remainder of the ’90s.
Yet the film became a cult favourite and now the group is ready to revisit the film’s dark, surrealist script.
On Tuesday night Dave Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney and Scott Thompson will reprise the many characters they played in the 1996 film, performing a “stage reading” for the Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival. A yet to be announced celebrity will narrate the proceedings.
“We didn’t put our hit characters in it. But we put Cancer Boy in it,” says Bruce McCulloch, recalling the purposely offensive character the group created for the final episode of their much-loved television series. “I love us for that.”
The film’s loose plot involves a group of scientists who invent an antidepressant called GLeeMONEX. Their corporate overlords push the pill into production before it’s ready with catastrophic, and hilarious, results.
McCulloch can’t recall how the idea of a stage reading came about, although he had done one in San Francisco for David Wain’s similarly absurdist cult-comedy, Wet Hot American Summer. “It felt like the right time,” he says. “It’s like revisiting an old, weird friend.”
Acrimony surrounded the film’s production. Creative fissures between group members compounded personal tragedies; Foley had already moved on to his role on NewsRadio and wasn’t credited as a writer on the film.
Brain Candy captured a weird, turbulent time in the group’s history, says McCulloch and threw it on the big screen for all to see. “I can see what people might not like about it,” he says. “It’s not super approachable. But it’s dark fun.”
The Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival presents a Live Staged Reading of Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy – Tuesday at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, 190 Princes’ Blvd at 8 p.m. Tickets $39. See torontosketchfest.com for more details.
And there’s more …
Along with the stage reading, Kevin McDonald will be screening an alternate ending to the film. It was cut in editing in favour of the more upbeat one that ended up in the final cut. “I saw it in the editing room many years ago,” says McCulloch. The footage has floated around online but never been released commercially and not even the group have access to the original.
“It feels in character that we’re screening some pirated footage that none of us really have.”