Melting any substantive piece of work down to its parts is no easy task, especially when the product in question just so happens to be one of the most beloved sketch comedy shows of all time. Over the five years it aired, Kids in the Hall introduced viewers to all manner of memorable moments, which we’ve already detailed in our list of the show’s 20 Best Sketches. But the Kids, which included Dave Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney and Scott Thompson, made their most enduring mark with their recurring characters.
Some characters, like the “Nobody Likes Us Guys,” came and went with a season, while others, like the Kathies, spanned the entire series, revealing a little more about themselves, their lives and their pasts with every sketch. The Kids truly inhabited these roles, peeling back each character’s layers little by little to reveal the absurdist heart beating underneath. And they were especially good with women. These were not merely men in drag, as Monty Python had been when they played older ladies, but actors fully realizing female characters. The wigs, makeup and clothing were window dressing that accentuated the comedic skills within. The Kids played their women as straightforward—and hilariously—as they would their men.
Kids in the Hall gave rise to dedicated fans the world over, each of whom likely has their favorite characters from the series, which is why I’m girding my mental loins for the inevitable feedback. But here are Paste’s picks for the best recurring characters the five twisted minds from the Great White North created during their time on the air.
Fans might be likely to choose Danny Husk (Thompson) instead of his boss at AT & Love (Foley), but the latter shouldn’t be overlooked. The balding, portly, no-nonsense businessman kept Danny and his other employees at the catchall conglomerate on their toes. But at the same time he couldn’t help getting swept up in the absurdist mayhem that constantly threatened to interrupt the workday. He may not come to mind for some viewers as a recurring character, but whether he was falling in love with Danny’s musk, calling him out for being former porn star Blade Rogers, or dealing with “brown stuff” pouring out of his mouth, the AT & Love Boss’s exasperated delivery and his professional friendship with Danny made him a classic character.
Throughout the series, poor inquisitive Gavin (McCulloch) experienced all sorts of personal hardships. First he watched much older men woo his single mother; later he dealt with her death and having to move in with his alcoholic and womanizing father; and then there was that time he got a pet turtle, named it Mom, and watched it die too. But it seemed nothing could really silence Gavin. The loquacious elementary school student with the coke bottle glasses and the colorful sweatsuits just couldn’t keep his mouth shut when he found a new audience, whether that happened to be a butcher or a neighbor painting a chair in the driveway. No one could stand Gavin’s longwinded and rather illogical conclusions to his own questions for long, though. He even scared away door-to-door evangelists with his constant yammering about everything and nothing.
Foley and McDonald played numerous recurring character duos, like Francois and Jacques or the “Nobody Likes Us Guys.” But their time together onscreen as “a couple of sisters” and “not two clearly insane people” aka Jerry and Jerry Sizzler produced some of their wackiest moments. The Sizzler Sisters had a preference for wearing stolen wigs, riding donkeys and calling everybody they met “pricks.” Beyond this characterization, though, it was the manic pace at which they moved through life that helped make them so memorable. The show even provided a touch of depth to Jerry and Jerry when it revisited them after Foley’s Jerry sought psychiatric help and established a normal life. Before McDonald’s Jerry arrived to tear it all down again, that is.
When it comes to #RelationshipGoals, nobody beats the salt of the earth love that is Gordon (McCulloch) and Fran (Thompson). From the moment they appeared in the first season, when Gordon awoke Fran by slurping a jug of water after eating her “goddamn bastard brine,” fans followed along with their adventures, whether that was Gordon teasing Fran about losing his job and getting her own, the annual family vacation or difficulties they had with their young son Brian (Foley). Even though their often-contentious relationship might not be what the younger generations aspire to for their own lives, Gordon and Fran loved each other fiercely. They just had different ways of showing it.
Where Gordon and Fran were the middle class version of conjugal bliss, international B movie star Francesca Fiore (Thompson) and her hilariously named lover Bruno Puntz Jones (Foley) were nothing but glamor, adventure and intrigue. The two appeared together in all sorts of sketches, which ranged from drawn out narrative films to more absurdist moments, like the time a narrator tried to correct Fiore’s poor English pronunciation. No matter what, though, Thompson and Foley’s devotion to their performance made these two a fascinating and funny couple to watch. It didn’t matter if Francesca needed help chopping up a military officer’s body or divorcing Annoying Tea Guy (McDonald), Bruno was always there to offer his steadfast support.
Simon (McDonald) didn’t exactly seem like he had what it took to live the evil life, but he sure tried to convey it nonetheless on his cable TV access show “The Pit of Ultimate Darkness.” His take on evil, which seemed to pertain more to rude behavior, showcased the underlying sweet and goofy nature that informed McDonald’s character. Of course, Simon had help from his mischievous sidekick Hecubus (Foley), who often conflated “evil” with “pranks.” Even though Simon was supposed to be leading the show, it often seemed like Hecubus might actually be the one in charge. He constantly fooled Simon, including the time he “channeled” different personalities from the other side, or messed with his date.
The hilarious (and horny) Chicken Lady (McKinney) is the physical result of what happens when a farmer has sex with a chicken. Part-woman and part-chicken, she conveyed her dual nature both vocally and physically, jerking about here and there, and causing anyone who encountered her to feel uncomfortable. The nervous character had a randy streak; she could be turned on by practically everything around her, including new male dancer Rooster Boy or the Hobby Horse at the local mall. The silly character gained greater background when the show explored her origin story, and she drove around rural Ontario with her friend the Bearded Lady looking for the farmhouse where she was born. Her flashbacks reveal what makes the Chicken Lady such a wild and weird character, and a fan favorite for a reason.
There are lots of characters on this list that come in pairs, but Cole (Thompson) always stood alone. His sketches were mostly composed of monologues delivered atop a bar stool, or one time on his prison cot. Cole regaled viewers with his fabulous life and opinions, and what made him such a memorable character, besides his swaggering ego, posh attitude and cleverly placed lisp, was what he discussed. Cole never shied away from talking about issues important to the LGBT community, before that community really even had a prominent, positive place in the spotlight. He waxed poetic about gay marriage, gay bars, and more, his whip-smart observations and biting, sly delivery offering up a refreshing—but always hilarious—perspective.
McCulloch and McKinney’s cops served as the show’s bumpers for a significant amount of time, but Foley and Thompson’s prostitutes (Joceyln and Maudre, respectively) helped share that load for part of the series. They appeared in short sketches that delved into the funnier side of life as a Canadian woman of the night. Besides using their bodies to earn a living and pay their pimp Rudy (McDonald), or helping him test out his new cocaine, there was that time they were on a hidden camera show. Between Joceyln’s French Canadian accent and Maudre’s tough talking ways, they formed a unique friendship strengthened by their different line of work.
Officemates Kathie (McCulloch) and Cathy (Thompson) have to be two of the show’s most beloved characters. The pair sat back to back at AT & Love, and never seemed to get much work done because they couldn’t help but gab. Their gossiping ways dealt with all manner of office topics, like the new girl who can eat anything without putting on a pound, the new guy who might—or might not—be gay, and that pesky temp Tanya. Besides appearing in sketches together, each character took on greater depth when they appeared in more focused narratives. In one, Cathy ventured out to a predominantly black nightclub for a solo evening on the town, while in another Kathie recalled a bad romance she had with a bluesman, Mississippi Gary (McKinney).
Amanda Wicks is a freelance journalist specializing in comedy and music. Follow her on Twitter @aawicks.