Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Happy Birthday Dave Foley

For all his excellent work over the years - be it in obscure Canadian movies or the combination cult classic yet simultaneously middle of the road American sitcom NewsRadio - there's really only one reason Dave Foley's birthday is being celebrated here today and that's for his part in the revolutionary sketch comedy program The Kids in the Hall...

PhotobucketFrom the first time the opening notes of Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet's theme Having an Average Weekend played until the final credit rolled away 102 episodes later, I never once encountered a bad moment anywhere in a Kids in the Hall episode - and I've seen all of them, many times over. Quirky without being inaccessible, innovative without being pretentious, respectful of its genre without being derivative, as well as being oddball, surreal, and a laugh-riot, Foley and his castmates - Kevin McDonald, Bruce McCulloch, Mark McKinney and Scott Thompson - seemingly did the impossible, by producing a funny Canadian television show and thereby keeping some of this country's burgeoning comedic talent at home before the inevitable brain drain could sweep them inexorably south.

Even their 1996 movie Brain Candy - which suffered somewhat in the transition of their unique skills from sitcom with live studio audience to film - pushed the envelope of what could be done in cinema by having five people playing all the major characters in what would otherwise have been a cast of dozens; following its poor performance at the box office but before its cult status could kick in, the troupe undertook a tour with a live show and an appearance at the 25th Annual Just For Laughs comedy festival in Montreal, as well as pursuing their own careers.

In this instance, Foley could be seen as the early victor, as NewsRadio managed to limp through five seasons despite the network's constant changes to the show's time slot and the devastating loss of the cast's biggest star, Phil Hartman, who my regular readers will remember was murdered by his sick bitch of a cokehead wife in May 1998*; had NewsRadio been on during the Internet era, I feel certain the fans could have preserved it.

In recent years, Foley has appeared in another Canadian sitcom (the tragically short-lived Robson Arms) and turns up regularly on The Late Late Show with TV's Craig Ferguson; he's also had memorable roles on Celebrity Poker Showdown, Blast from the Past, and Sky High - as well as providing his voice to such animated features as South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut and Pixar's A Bug's Life, Toy Story 2 and Cars. More recently, Foley reunited with his old troupe-mates in an eight-part series on Canadian television, entitled Death Comes to Town.

*I'm not over it yet, and I may choose to never get over it.

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