God, I love the Kids in the Hall.
It's probably the most fannish I've ever been about anything - message board posts, a lame amateurish now out-of-date web site....I even lucked out and caught one of the final tapings in 1995 with a couple of online pals, including uberfan Barb Carr. Ever since that first hour-long special on HBO, I've been hooked harder than a fanboy on pre-Crisis DC Comics. Heck, I even had the chance to talk on the phone with the great Bellini (who was like Mike Sterling, only with sex appeal). Even caught their Tour of Duty appearance in St. Louis four years ago. However, I always tend to wonder - was it an age thing? Was there merit in the KITH? Or was it one of those hey-it-hits-that-closet-rebel-in-me kinds of phenomena?
However, thanks to the DVD revolution, I now own the first three seasons of KITH, and I can tell you - believe the hype. This was - and is - good stuff. Better than its contemporaries, and still fresh and exciting.
Part of the strength is that it brought together five sensibilities that normally might not seem sympatico: character-based improvisation, Jerry Lewis-esque silliness, a John Cleese-ian ability to hide severe aggression under a civilized veneer, surreal and unusual thinking, as well as a strong background in acting and...well, gay themes. Compared to the first three seasons of its major competition (sketch-wise), it is militant and revelatory, opting for intelligence over recycled cliches and soap-dropping jokes. (It also helps that KITH opted for the "no-parody" policy - it helps it avoid being overly topical, and has avoided the painful dating that ILC seems to have experienced).
It's also one of the things Lorne Michael has touched that hasn't turned to crap. Although his hand is seen very early on in the first season, by the third, we see the KITH slowly turn on their sponsor. (If Dave isn't doing a dead-on in Season Three's "Whatever", then Mark's turn in Brain Candy definitely seals the coffin). In KITH's sketches, they presented fully formed characters - in fact, one of their greatest contributions was character development in sketch comedy. (Plus, even though people speak of the KITH - like Python - being cross-dressers, it is done not for cheap laughs, but to make some pointed observations on relationships and sexual politics).
I think I've answered my own question - now, it's back to checking out this KITH blog...and waiting expectantly for Seasons 4 and 5.