Canada’s premier comedy troupe returns to American TV Friday with their series “The Kids in the Hall: The Devil Comes to Town” on IFC.
Like Sonic Youth, they’ve pretty much outgrown their name. But they continue to base a lot of their humor on well-drawn characters, about half of them women.
That’s meant cross-dressing has been part of their act like no other act since Monty Python.
Told at the TV Critics Press Tour in Beverly Hills earlier this month that they continue the practice more than most male troupes, Bruce McCulloch agreed. “More than most women, actually.”
But, like Python, it grew out of being unable to hire actual women to play the female roles in the skits.
“Yes, that is how we started out doing it,” Dave Foley says.
“I think we started from a place of failure for a long, long time. Despite the fact that our bio says Lorne Michaels discovered us, there was a long period before that,” McCulloch says. “And I think we were the only ones who would do it. And at a certain point, when you’re losing money to perform every night, it’s pretty hard to bring in people.”
Every time we had women we tried to bring into the group, they would get hired by [others],” Foley says. “Second City would hire them, and we’d have to start playing the women’s roles or write nothing but scenes about guys.”
In “Death Comes to Town,” McCulloch says, “Dave plays a great woman, and Scott [Thompson] plays a great woman.”
But as something about them has changed.
“They are not in their twenties,” he says. “They’re playing stuff that’s age-appropriate, essentially. And that was one of the reasons we created a lot of new characters.”
Because the troupe is older, less competitive and has dealt with a cancer bout by Thompson, they may have a warmer approach than they had in, say, their motion picture flop “Brain Candy.”
“I think we cared about the characters more in this one than we did in ‘Brain Candy,’ ” Kevin McDonald says.
Thompson put it another way: “If you think of both ‘Brain Candy’ and this as murderers, ‘Brain Candy’ was a murder committed by a sociopath, and ‘Death Comes to Town’ was a crime of passion.
“The Kids in the Hall: Death Comes to Town” plays Fridays at 10 p.m. on IFC.