"It's hard to put on the Chicken Lady stuff and get up to that psycho pitch," says the Kids in the Hall comedian, who is also the creator of the horniest sketch character on two drumsticks. McKinney can't explain the inspiration behind the overgrown hen who likes to ride her neighborhood grocer's mechanical rocking horse to explosive ecstasy while confused children stare. But he still recognizes her popularity.
"People watch the reruns on TV and have favorite characters," McKinney says. "We totally get that and play up to it." The group's self-titled show -- which started on Canadian television, graduated to HBO and ended up briefly on CBS -- remains a constant presence on Comedy Central. McKinney and fellow Kids Dave Foley, Scott Thompson, Kevin McDonald and Bruce McCulloch had already split up by the time their show became a stabilizing force for the station. But the troupe continues to gain followers, as its members discovered when they toured the United States in 1999. (A backstage look at that tour, Same Guys, Different Dresses, is just out on DVD.)
The Kids are on the road again. "We found we had some creative life left, and we have a seminew show," McKinney says. "Some stuff we wrote [with] all of us together improvising. After [the Kids' 1996 feature] Brain Candy, we sort of disbursed. I never thought we'd come together like this again. We're five guys with different careers. Some of us have had great runs, but there's still something creative and unique about how the troupe works. Last time, we didn't have much time to plan the tour. This time, we're all on a tour bus and talking after the shows," he says. "Maybe this will lead to something."
The quintet hooked up this year after word spread that no one would be shooting a television pilot or otherwise playing the showbiz game this spring. McKinney, who won a Genie (akin to an Oscar in Canada) and a Canadian Comedy Award for his performance in the McCulloch-directed movie Dog Park, has devoted himself mostly to theater roles in New York. He will take the off-Broadway one-man play Fully Committed to Toronto after the Kids' tour and has begun the audition process for what would be his first Broadway musical.
"There's an unspoken combined professional mentoring among us," McKinney says of the Kids. "If I talk about a project in front of them, it's a subtle reality check to see how they react. It's pretension-free.
"And being a parent now, I'm able to handle the other guys' creative tantrums much better," he jokes. "You do start to consider the age thing. Not that there's anything gross or frightening about being a forty-year-old sketch comedian. But there are three diseases that afflict comedians later in life. There's the quest for dignity, that 'I won't do that anymore' thing. There's the old 'clown can cry' syndrome. And," he adds, "there's a tendency toward fascism.
"The other thing we have to guard against is a tendency to get dirty," McKinney says, adding that "Scott likes dirty, but Bruce is probably the dirtiest."