The Kids in the Hall were never hip. It's the secret to their success.
"They were about empowering misfits and outsiders," stand-up Mae Martin says in the new documentary "Kids in the Hall: Comedy Punks," part of a reappreciation effort that also includes new episodes of their long dormant TV series.
"Punks," which starts streaming May 20 on Amazon Prime, chronicles the troupe's emergence from the shadows of "Saturday Night Live" and "SCTV" with the kind of irreverent, non-topical humor practiced by Monty Python's Flying Circus. All five original members look back through interviews at Rivoli, the Toronto club where they first bonded.
Like most successful comics, they take an almost giddy pleasure reminiscing about their early days bombing in front of a handful of spectators, persevering through trial and error.
"We were faking so much, trying to find our lane," Bruce McCulloch says.
Fame seemed to be the last thing on their minds. McCulloch remembers taking a phone call in 1986 from "SNL" scouts who were in Toronto and planned to stop by one of their live shows. Sorry, he told them. We're sold out. Maybe you can get tickets from a scalper.
The "SNL" team did wind up finding seats. And the show's creator, Lorne Michaels, eventually produced a separate show for them, "The Kids in the Hall," that ran from 1988 to 1995 on HBO.
Eric McCormack, Reggie Watts and Mike Myers are among those who look back at the run with fondness.
"They were the only troupe that reflected Gen X," Fred Armisen says in the film.
Much of the second half of the two-part doc deals with how success drove a wedge in the group, especially after Dave Foley made his sitcom, "NewsRadio," a top priority. The rest of the troupe had to file a lawsuit just to get him to participate in their 1996 feature film "Brain Candy."