Amongst the cultural contributions given to us by The Kids in the Hall are a loathing of ladies who look like poultry, a persistent fear of having our heads crushed and a complete appreciation of the Daves in our lives. That’s a pretty wonderful legacy for the 1988-94 sketch comedy series that exploded out of Canada to become an unexpected cult hit on these shores. And then there’s the show’s music…
Because Bruce McCulloch, Scott Thompson, Dave Foley, Kevin McDonald and Mark McKinney were all huge music nerds, their love for rhythm and melody often spilled over into the series. Sometimes it was more low-key, like the sketch where McCulloch played a record store clerk who transformed Depeche Mode fan McDonald into a Doors fan. At other points, the program used music to point out problems in culture ranging from homophobia to crappy dance hits. So for today’s Daily List, Topless Robot will take a look at the ten best musical moments from The Kids in the Hall. Regardless of whether your personal favorite made the cut or not, I think we can all agree that the tunes from these entries will be stuck in your head for at least a week.
10) Street Singers Forget what the movie Once tells you, the life of a busker is rarely filled with success and romance. A much more realistic take on the experiences of street performers is this third season sketch that follows two struggling singers as they spend their time crooning and eating so much macaroni and cheese that they develop tapeworms. (Point to ponder: did this sketch inspire the Kraft Dinner reference in Barenaked Ladies’ “If I Had $1,000,000?”) These singers may only have one song, but man is it memorable. I defy anyone to watch this and not be singing “fattening up our tapeworms” non-stop.
9) Running Faggot A huge reason why Kids in the Hall was such a groundbreaking series was how it regularly discussed LGBT issues with intelligence and humor in an era long before Glee and It Gets Better campaigns. Whether subverting stereotypes or demystifying hate speech, the show consistently championed gay rights in sketches like the first season’s “Running Faggot.” The tale of a common sense advice-dispensing folk hero who just so happens to be a gay, this piece analyzes the stupidity of homophobia in a way that is funny without being preachy. 8) Happiness Pie A highlight of the Kids’ uneven (but better than you remember it) 1996 feature Brain Candy, “Happiness Pie” explores what happens when Bruce McCulloch’s depressed rock star character gets on some weapons grade anti-depressants. The result? An unbearably catchy ode to “sunbeams and cute little puppy dogs” that offers a nice contrast to all the songs by Morrissey and The Cure that you have on your iTunes playlist. Plus, who doesn’t like pie?
7) Do Re Mi The hills are alive with the sound of…the Kids in the Hall? Transplanting a favorite from The Sound of Music to a Toronto business park, the above sketch is the closest we will probably ever get to a KITH musical. The only thing keeping this version of “Do Re Mi” from becoming a timeless standard that ranks alongside the original is Scott Thompson’s unfortunate 1990s ponytail.Bummer.
6) Bobby vs. Satan All dimwitted, chore-shunning teen Bobby ever wanted to do was to sing the praises of his mother’s fine ham dinners or create “soundshapes” in his garage. So imagine his surprise when he found himself engaged in a musical struggle against the Prince of Darkness himself.The lesson to be gleaned from all of this is that if you ever find yourself in a battle of the bands with Satan, just remember that the key to defeating him is playing “Smoke on the Water.” Though I suppose any Ramones song would work as well.
5) Kids in the Hall Theme Seeing how we are at the midpoint of this list, the time seems right to point out that each episode of Kids in the Hall opens with a memorable musical moment — the show’s theme. Written and performed by Toronto’s Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet, the tune (officially named “Having an Average Weekend”) isa jaunty slice of surf rock that is a perfect fit for the series’ free-wheeling comedy. Just as John Phillip Sousa’s “The Liberty Bell” became permanently linked with Monty Python’s Flying Circus, “Having an Average Weekend” is a pre-existing piece of music that was brought to an entirely new audience once it became associated with KITH. It’s now 24 years later and this theme still feels just as ahead of its time as the comedy it preceded each week.
4) The Terrier Song It’s a simple fact that Bruce McCulloch plus singing equals comedy. So its not surprising that KITH often gave him the opportunity to break into song. For his second of three appearances on this list, Brucio pays homage to the wonders of terriers and gives an unexpected sermon on sexism. More than just one of Gerry and Cookie Fleck’s favorite songs, “Terriers” is the best earworm about death since The Pixies’ “Monkey Gone to Heaven.“ Trivia: fan favorite Paul Bellini appears briefly in this sketch in as Napoleon.
3) Tammy Scott Thompson set his comedic sights on dance music in this 1991 sketch in which his Buddy Cole character turns a young McDonald’s employee named Tammy into a chart-topper. His efforts turn out to be a disaster of Milli Vanilli-style proportions, but not before viewers are treated to “Dance.” Extra nerd credit goes out to this one for visually referencing the Cherons from Star Trek as part of Tammy’s plea for racial harmony.
2) The Best Looking Man in the World Performed by the aforementioned Kids in the Hall house band, Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet, this cover of version of Frank Sinatra’s “Bim Bam Baby” is accompanied by visuals of “the best looking man in the world” trying to pick up girls with his swinging moves. Playing the would-be Casanova is Brock Curley, a Toronto character actor who sadly passed away last November. Even though Brock is no longer with us, it’s nice to know that his swagger will live forever through this minute-long piece of comedic brilliance.
1) Daves I KnowWhen the “Daves I Know” musical number aired in the series’ fourth episode, it marked the exact moment when Kids in the Hall transitioned from a good sketch comedy series into something truly great. The premise — Bruce McCulloch musically relates the various Daves and Davids that are in his life — sounds idiotic. But brought to life it is something joyous, a celebration of ordinary people and the Dave-like qualities we all share. McCulloch would later re-record “Daves I Know” for his terrific 1995 comedy album Shame-Based Man. That version has its merits, yet loses something without the manic visuals. Stick with the original. And remember, even though you share your first name with somebody, you still have your own hands and come from a different mother. Is this a reminder of the similarities and diversities that make humanity great or just a goofy song? I’ll leave that to you to decide.
Chris Cummins is a pop culture writer and Archie comics historian who has contributed to The Robot's Voice, Den of Geek US, Philebrity, Geekadelphia, Uproxx, and Unicorn Booty. He is the co-producer and co-host of Nerd Nite Philadelphia, and is regularly involved in producing and hosting New York Super Week events. In 2014, Chris began Sci-Fi Explosion, a mix of live performance, trivia and funny clips celebrating the weirdest in science fiction that regularly travels around the United States. He wrote the introductions to the compilations Archie's Favorite Comics From The Vault and (with Paul Castiglia) Archie's Favorite High School Stories. You can find Chris on Twitter at @bionicbigfoot and @scifiexplosion.