Almost 27 years to the day since it all ended, and in the very place where it all began 11 years before, The Kids in the Hall felt like it was the perfect time to start the ride all over again.
They (well, four of the five – the wiry, wild-haired Kevin McDonald was absent) were together at the Rivoli Theatre, the mainstay of Toronto comedy where the group showed their first sketches in 1984.
Standing arm-in-arm on stage, having managed to cram in a few hundred cheering fans during one of the most volatile and bizarre times for sketch comedy in the genre’s history, they couldn’t have chosen. a better time to do so.
Among their jokes, aimed mostly at themselves (“We’re horrified by our appearance,” Scott Thompson said early that night. “Like, who opened the door to the nursing home?”), they were there to celebrate the launch of a new sketch comedy TV show – their first attempt on the small screen since the original eponymous series ended in April 1995.
But despite the weather — and the absence of McDonald’s that night — it was not a meeting for the Kids.
They continued to write together and perform live together – everything the band was originally intended for, until they unexpectedly and unwittingly stumbled into the world of television, a journey described in their documentary The kids in the room: Comedy Punks, which launched on May 20 on Amazon Prime.
According to The Kids’ “cute” Dave Foley, they stayed together because their sketch group worked the way sketch groups were always meant to work.
The Kids in the Hall has given its members a space to flex their comedy muscles, a group of like-minded comedians to bounce ideas off of, and a reason to keep doing comedy even when the jobs aren’t. there — a particularly important part of the equation lately, as sketch comedy went through a boom and bust.
“In our heads, whenever we were together, we always felt like these, sort of, 20-something punks,” he said. “You know?”
“I think it sort of crashed, but I think it’s coming back,” Thompson added of the sketch world. “And I hope we will be part of it.”
This accident, and subsequent comeback, not only disrupts comedy sketches’ road to hit bands like The Kids in the Hall helped define, but fundamentally changes the comedy we consume — and how comedians come into the world. ‘industry.
“The Golden Age” of Sketch Comedy
The bottom fell out of sketch comedy after two successive “golden ages,” explained Nick Marx, an associate professor of film and media studies at Colorado State University and author of Sketch Comedy: Identity, Reflexivity, and American Television.
The first happened in the 80s and 90s, when series like Children in the room, Mr. Show, The Ben Stiller Show and In living color proved sketch’s ability to attract viewers, established its format as based on at least semi-regular distribution, and cemented it as a pipeline in the comedy industry.
But everything changed with YouTube.
“This golden age of ’90s sketch comedy that I’ve identified brings us to about the end of the heyday of television as the dominant type of entertainment,” Marx said. “Once YouTube comes along, it becomes something else.”
When sites like YouTube offered a platform directly to the public, without the need for a broadcaster, it allowed anyone with internet access to find an audience.
And while Marx said it supported other mediums, it both overloaded and flowed, sketch.
“The rise of social media and YouTube has made it harder for new sketch comedians to break through and do the same consistent half-hour and hour-long show that we saw from people in the 90s do,” Marx said. “Because that’s not how people consume media anymore.”
While people enjoyed sketch TV shows when it was the only way to consume them, YouTube allowed people to skip 22-minute shows to find their favorite skit online, hurting ratings.
This meant that even shows that still managed to air were cannibalized by their own success. Aurora Browne from Baroness Von sketch show — a series of Canadian sketches including amazing social networks virality eclipsed their airplay ratings – explained in an interview that his brother-in-law thought it was just an online show.
“I emailed my family after that saying, ‘Just so you know, there’s quite a show going on,'” Browne said.
Line sketch boom and bust
But some were able to do it, and lead the sketch to its second golden age.
Saturday Night Live, Canadian television producer Lorne Michaels’ late-night series first aired in 1975. In October last year, the second episode of SNL’s 47th season – with guest host Kim Kardashian – drew 5.27 million viewers, according to Hollywood Reporter.
Marx says that SNL has become a landmark of shows in the United States “And it’s becoming the thing that all sketch shows compare themselves to. They’re either trying to be the new SNL or rewrite the rules of what SNL has already done that.”
DC Pierson, founding member of Derrick Comedy – best known as the band where musician and actor Donald Glover got his start – explained that while they found fame on YouTube, that was never their goal. When they started in 2006, the early days of YouTube, there was hardly any map to build a career and earn money consistently on the platform, so they mostly used it as a way to showcase their work, instead of an endpoint or career on its own.
The internet has brought massive attention to sketch comedy, but has already almost entirely undermined sketch show – the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for sketch groups in the past.
“It’s like a bit of a lost sketch, but it’s won,” he said.
And then almost as soon as the boom started – after giving birth to Britanicks everything Eagles turn people into horsesat Derrick’s Girls are not trustworthyat Picnicface Lust for power (a Canadian internet sketch group, which later received a sketch show that was canceled after just one season) – it was over.
After a while, the platform couldn’t handle the large number of sketch groups all trying the same thing, and it became impossible to go out or reach an audience that didn’t feel like wading through a glut of content.
“The golden age of the line sketch, when the craziest idea could achieve eight-figure views, is clearly over,” reads one. 2018 WIRED article. “To put it in Monty Python terms, the line sketch is the parrot at the bottom of a cage: it’s hard to tell if he’s dead or just dazed. But he’s definitely flat on his back.”
Now on TikTok
In recent years, it has begun to make a comeback. canadian TallBoyzproduced by Bruce McCulloch of Kids in the Halls, completed three seasons, as did HBO’s A Black Lady sketch show. Somewhere else, I think you should leave and Ziwe have found a way to leverage their social media presence in enduring shows by creating a single identifiable character that keeps audiences coming back for more content.
But the sketch of the actual venue has thrived, Pierson says, is online — on video-sharing app Vine when it existed, and the similar TikTok now. Comedy on the app, which has already fundamentally changed the way the music industry worksis dominated by a single user performing a skit with multiple people while pointing his phone at himself.
That, says Pierson, is a sketch – even if people aren’t aware of it.
“People looking at it probably don’t know it’s a sketch and the person doing it probably wouldn’t even necessarily describe it as a sketch,” Pierson said. “But it’s a sketch.”
One such creator is Tyler O’Dea from Newfoundland. The sixteen-year-old has amassed a TikTok after more than a million in just over a year and a half performing skits, although he only tangentially considers himself a skit comedian.
“I would say I call myself a sketch comedian, but a different type of sketch comedy than This hour has 22 minutes or stuff like that,” he said. “A kind of sketch comedy subgenre.
O’Dea isn’t currently making money from the app — TikTok’s The Creators Fund is not available to Canadiansand he’s also too young to participate – but he sees a future in it.
Because instead of being a springboard, the sketch has become an end in itself.
“I think sketch comedy isn’t just the gateway to comedy. I think it’s a real branch of comedy, and you could make a career out of it as much as you can with stand -up, writing or something else.”