Mark McKinney: A Kid in The Hall

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Last week I talked to Mark McKinney in advance of The Kids in the Hall's "Live As We'll Ever Be" evening of sketch comedy coming to the Cobb Energy Centre on May 24. It wasn't easy picking out which "kid" to interview, because they're all highly talented writer-performers, even though they seldom shine as brightly in their side projects as they do all together. Here's a reprise of McKinney's most memorable recurring characters.

"Mr. Tyzik"

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Also known as the "I'm crushing your head!" guy, the vaguely Eastern European nutjob is one of the most familiar figures in the Kids' rogue gallery of regulars. His battle with the "I'm pinching your face!" guy is similarly amusing, but I like the elaborate "rehab" cliches in this one. Incidentally, I asked McKinney if the character, who frequently appears in extreme close-up, "works" in a live show like their tour, and he said "He does work live! You have to come see how!"

"The Chicken Lady"

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Most of the Kids' drag characters are affectionately written "real" women (who tend to be as ridiculous as the men). McKinney's Chicken Lady is a conspicuous conception, a sex-crazed sideshow freak prone to parroting catch-phrases like "Chicken Lady loves life!" I couldn't find the Chicken Lady's priceless blind date with Dave Foley, but the "phone sex" sketch isn't bad, with a terrific supporting performance from Scott Thompson.

"Darill (pronounced 'Da-RILL)"

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McKinney's portrayal of a touchy-feely artiste doesn't get the loudest laughs of some of the kids' characters, but it's a pitch-perfect portrayal of the denizens of old-school PBS shows and public access TV. "All great art contains an element of tragedy. As you remember from last week, the unicorn was stuck on the aircraft carrier and couldn't get off."

"Mississippi Gary"

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Blackface is a sticky source of comedy, and in his first appearance as an elderly bluesman, McKinney acknowledges that his impression is pretty asinine. ("Well, I seem to have injured myself doing the Hambone.") The character has an infectious appeal, though, and makes a terrific foil to the surburban dimwits and office drudges who usually populate the Kids' sketches. Here Bruce McCullough gives a typically hilarious performance as Mississippi Gary's unlikely girlfriend, "Kathy with a K."

"Tanya the Temp"

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McCullough's "Kathy with a K" regularly appears opposite Thompson's "Cathy with a C," and their favorite figure to gossip about is McKinney's temp Tanya. McKinney seldom has much screen time in the sketches, but delivers such a hilariously precise performance that Tanya's an unforgettable character.

Note: McKinney and McCullough play an amusingly dimwitted pair of police officers in the "Police Department!' sketches, but I couldn't find them.

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