The Kids in the Hall’s staggeringly loyal fan base (whose only lapse in judgement was when they allowed 1996’s Brain Candy to die miserably at the box office) ensured that their 2002 Tour of Duty would be a smash. Knowing that such a tour would require a time capsulation (a previous tour was chronicled vérité-style in Same Guys, New Dresses), WIN Media pounced on the opportunity to bring fans the magic that is their stage show. Taped during a performance at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver (i.e. “home turf”), Tour of Duty is something of a mixed bag of crowd favorites and piping-fresh new material. A few of the skits don’t exactly knock ‘em dead—the Dr. Seuss Bible skit, which opens this set, is something of a struggle, and Danny Husk, the crushed divorcee who struggles with anger management is too old a joke to really fly. Some others are wonderfully innovative, such as when the Head Crusher takes a video camera out onto the stage and points it into the auditorium (the image is projected behind him on a large screen). Though most of the show is filled with the Monty Python-styled housewives, wise-guy banter and Scott Thompson gay shtick one only expects from a Kids in the Hall performance, there’s also an interesting thread of topical humor aimed at the state of America, Afghanistan and Iraq after 9/11. First, two television infomercial phonies trying to sell the Patrioticom (after mentioning how much pussy fire-fighters get), and then Thompson takes center stage and recontextualizes Islamic fundamentalist misogyny under the terms of his own solipsistic sexuality, to the horror of many in the audience.
Tour of Duty is essentially a live stage show captured by a television crew of 11 cameras. So, while the lighting is often too harsh and whites often very hot, the video quality is about what one would expect from such a venture, nothing less and certainly nothing more. Audio is on the same page: good for what it is but the raised voices frequently result in distortion. Strangely, the disc comes with three audio options: Dolby Stereo, Dolby 5.1 Surround, and DTS Surround, the difference between the three being negligible to my ears, at least from an aesthetic standpoint. We'll put it this way: if Mark McKinney's crowd-pleasing Chicken Lady skit doesn't leave you clutching your bladder with laughter in Dolby Stereo, don't expect switching to the DTS soundtrack to remedy the situation.
Considering the most likely target audience for this DVD is the ostensibly fanatic base of Kids in the Hall worshippers, the extras for Tour of Duty were brightly considerate. "Hey! You get to go inside the Tour bus! Wow! It's your chance to personally play the straight man for all five cast members in a Q&A segment!" But perhaps the most blatant fan-boy item is a target icon you can turn on during the feature which, when pressed, will take you backstage to get a privileged glance at McKinney adjusting his obscenely padded bra or Thompson playfully smacking Kevin McDonald on the ass (for good luck, I assume). On the meatier side of supplemental features are a pair of songs by the show's guitarist Craig Northey, one song by Bruce McCulloch ("Never Trust") and a lengthy skit that's practically as funny as anything that made the main program.
Tour of Duty is the perfect souvenir item for any Kids in the Hall fan too cool for the T-shirt...or anyone itching to see Dave Foley in goth Liza Minnelli drag.