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Kids in the Hall aren’t kids anymore

From left: Kevin McDonald, Bruce McCulloch, Scott Thompson, Dave Foley, and Mark McKinney call their latest set of Kids in the Hall performances the “Rusty & Ready” tour.

From left: Kevin McDonald, Bruce McCulloch, Scott Thompson, Dave Foley, and Mark McKinney call their latest set of Kids in the Hall performances the “Rusty & Ready” tour.

There is no pressing reason Kids in the Hall should be reuniting for the “Rusty & Ready” tour, which kicks off with two shows at the Wilbur Friday. They’re not pushing a new project or taking advantage of an anniversary — which they could, since the sketch troupe was officially born 30 years ago in Toronto.

Nor is the motive purely financial: Each of the five members is busy enough with television and live work. So what keeps pulling Mark McKinney, Dave Foley, Scott Thompson, Kevin McDonald, and Bruce McCulloch back into mutual orbit? Mostly the joy of creating together.

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“It’s a treat now,” says McKinney. “There’s really nothing like being in a troupe that’s been together for this duration with the shorthand we have. That’s not an experience we can go and replicate, you know? So we’re almost more pathetically grateful each and every time.”

When the Kids were at the Wang during a 2008 tour, their most recent, the chemistry was obvious, both on stage and off. They were loose and playing off of each other, and backstage, they appeared to genuinely enjoy each other’s company. Since then, they’ve gotten together to make the Canadian miniseries “Death Comes To Town” in 2010, and reunite again last year for a live reading of the script for their 1996 cult hit “Brain Candy” and to appear on Foley’s CTV sitcom, “Spun Out.”

That television appearance led to the new five-city US tour. “We wanted to come up and support Dave in this adventure, and it led to a week of hanging out,” says McKinney, “and when we hang out for a week, we start coming up with ideas. So that’s what we did. That was really fun.”

“Rusty & Ready” will feature some old favorites — McKinney will bring back The Chicken Lady character from the Kids’ classic CBC/HBO sketch show — but there will be a roughly 60/40 split in favor of new material. “It feels like we’re an old rock band now, but we’re not just touring the greatest hits,” says McKinney. “The emphasis recently in the tour we did in 2008 and this one was to write as much new material as we can because the dynamic and the comic compatibility is still there.”

The new stuff might wind up somewhere on TV, but McKinney doesn’t want to get ahead of himself. The troupe will have the conversation about a new project at some point on the tour, but “that’s not the goal right now,” he says. “The goal is just to write new stuff, have fun, and tour because we can afford to do that and there’s still an audience. It’s marvelous.”

‘It feels like we’re an old rock band now, but we’re not just touring the greatest hits. The emphasis . . . was to write as much new material as we can because the . . . comic compatibility is still there.’

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“Death Comes to Town” wasn’t the roaring return to television the Kids may have hoped for, but it didn’t put them off potential TV projects in the future. “At this point, we might not get a major studio to release our thing,” says McKinney, “but there’s so many ways to do TV now, and I think even if ‘Death’ wasn’t received as well as the original series, we still have entirely new generations of people who seem to turn up at our shows.”

McKinney doesn’t mind revisiting sketches or characters but says the troupe doesn’t feel obligated to do it. It’s the new material, which he describes as longer, more theatrical pieces, that really throws sparks for him. “You do it until you get bored of it again,” he says of the older material. “But there’s no ‘have-tos’ in this. Now that we have so much good old material, so much material from the show, we could swap the new material out, and we don’t do that. It’s great to get out there with a scene which you just have gotten right, which is just out of the oven.”

The Kids are older now, and that may be reflected in what they are writing now, but the important elements are still there. They fall into the old habits easily, poking fun at each other’s tendencies. “It’s everything from watching Scott spill his coffee to Dave arriving late for rehearsal to the first tense discussion Bruce and I have about a beat in some scene we’re doing together,” says McKinney. “It all just kind of adds up to soup and then eventually pierces the membrane and then we are Kids in the Hall again. It comes to life.”

Nick A. Zaino III can be reached at nick@nickzaino.com.
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