Toronto, Canada – In the mid 1980s, Saturday Night Live Producer Lorne Michaels discovered a Comedy Troupe that would become synonymous with 1990s sketch comedy, especially here in Canada. In October 1988, The Kids in the Hall was aired for the first time, and was quickly picked up for their own series, which officially debuted in 1989 and ran until 1995. The five member, all male cast played all the characters on the show, including fan favourites like “Chicken Lady”, “Kathie & Cathy” and “Sizzler Sisters”.
One of the outlandish comedians from The Kids in the Hall is none other than Bruce McCulloch. McCulloch was born in Edmonton, Alberta Canada. While he is best known for his acting and comedy from The Kids in the Hall, Bruce is also a director (“Superstar”, “Stealing Harvard”, and multiple television shows among others), and a writer having penned for “Saturday Night Live”, along with many other television shows and movies.
On January 12, 2023, Bruce McCulloch & Friends strutted into Toronto’s iconic The Rivoli. The Rivoli is a fairly young locale in a city where some venues date back 75 years. It is worth noting that the club, which was established in 1982 is a venue on Toronto’s iconic Queen Street, that Dave Grohl calls one of his favorite places to play, in his 2022 memoirs “The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music”.
Tagging along with Bruce during this event are fellow guest comedian Cassie Cao and the comedy group The Lusty Mannequins. Brian Connelly, ex-guitarist of Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet also joins Bruce McCulloch as he performs songs and stories. Fun trivia, the Canadian, award winning rock band (the aforementioned Shadowy Men) are best known for their track “Having an Average Weekend”, which was used as the theme song for McCulloch’s The Kids in the Hall.
As I maintained my typical early arrival before a show, I strolled into The Rivoli about 30 minutes ahead of the doors opening. I had never been to a show in this location, let alone cover an event here and when I arrived, I noticed a very chill, relaxed atmosphere in the restaurant/club, which was a very welcome surprise. It allowed me to grab a pint of stout, and ensure my new camera was ready to go. Five minutes before doors, there was still no line, despite being a sold-out event. A little confused, I asked the bartender to confirm the time for door opening, and sure enough, doors would open in five minutes. At 7:00, I headed into the venue, alone, and grabbed a few shots to ensure my camera settings good for the small, dark club. With a standing capacity of about 200 patrons, I could never imagine seeing Dave Grohl in such an intimate setting.
By showtime, the venue was packed, as the sold-out status indicated. The varied, age spanning crowd (by the looks of it, we had folks here ranging from the ages of about 19 – 65) was very upbeat with the sweet sounds of chatter and laughter, as they awaited the opening act. The atmosphere was so chill, even Mr. McCulloch himself, in his everyday street wear, was mingling and chatting with the attendants.
Right on cue, Canadian Comedian Cassie Cao took the stage in a red hoodie and black leggings. Cassie’s stand-up had the crowd in stitches as she joked about her Asian heritage, her parents, and even pornography. Cassie has written for Kim’s Convenience, Second City and The Blue Man Group among others and can be seen on Amazon’s Season 6 of The Kids in the Hall (more on that later).
Next up was the four-member, Second City alumnus’s, The Lusty Mannequins with their hilarious sketch comedy act. Consisting of Ashley Comeau, Karen Parker, Alastair Forbes, and Connor Thompson, the comedy troupe came out strong with their 1st skit, about two couples and their learned ways of stress relief. It was so ridiculously hilarious, I wasn’t sure how they would improve on their performances through the rest of their set. Happily, they proved me wrong with absurd skits about the loss of loved ones, Dementia, and others. They even had Mr. McCulloch, who was standing off to the side watching the act, laughing.
Ahead of Bruce McCulloch’s arrival on the stage, we see a guitar off to the side. Atop a wooden stool, on the dimly lit stage, sits a hot steaming cup of tea and a glass of water. As the lights go down to signal the start of the main event, Shadowy Men guitarist, and long time friend of Bruce, Brian Connelly hits the stage and starts strumming his Gibson ES-345, and out pops Bruce McCulloch, like the many hilarious characters he made famous on The Kids in the Hall, singing whimsical pondering thoughts like “Never trust a man who says trust me!” While I’m here to work, and try to maintain my composure as a professional, I fail, two seconds in as I burst out laughing. In this case, the phrase is something I always say to people. I just add “I” at the beginning. And off we go for an evening of insane nonsense.
Within the approximately 60-minute set, we get barraged with comical monologues, stories about family trips to Pismo Beach, and “Trainwreck” Edibles. The Lusty Mannequins’ Connor Thompson joins Bruce at one point for a trip back to Queen Street in the 1980s, and we even get jokes about the venue. The hilarity gets so out of control at times that Bruce’s guitarist friend can’t keep a straight face and McCulloch himself seemingly forgets some of his lines as he frantically tries to get himself back on track. It’s complete off the cuff fun, and it has the whole venue in fits.
Bruce McCulloch’s antics, body movements, and facial expressions are gold! Perhaps the silliness of it all is not everybody’s cup of tea. Sometimes, comedy is a fickle beast. But for the audience at The Rivoli, and myself personally, it was a hilarious, entertaining evening.
At the show’s end, McCulloch gives a sincere “Thank-You” to the people, showing that he’s not just a lunatic.
Originally, the event was a one-night engagement, but a second show was added recently for the following evening. No doubt due to the sold-out Thursday show, but also, because this is Bruce McCulloch!!!!
The Kids in the Hall was given a new series in May of 2022. The original cast, with all original skits can be seen on Amazon Prime, along with the original episodes from the 90s.