'Warmer' Ladies for Kids in the Hall

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.

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