The Sweet Story Behind the Kids in the Hall’s Bleakest Sketch

If ‘Doomsday DJ’ didn’t make you cry before, it will now
The Sweet Story Behind the Kids in the Hall’s Bleakest Sketch

The Kids in the Hall have served up a number of wildly depressing sketches over the years, from the time they mined the unlikely comic potential of an alcoholic father’s verbal abuse in “Daddy Drank,” to the controversial “Cancer Boy” bit from the movie Brain Candy, to the Season Four episode that opened with a somber news report about a fatal car crash (RIP Ted Riley). 

But perhaps the bleakest of all the Kids in the Hall sketches is “Doomsday DJ” from the recent Amazon revival series, the one that finds Dave Foley playing a post-apocalyptic FM radio host who stubbornly keeps his morning show going despite the “mostly lethal” weather that keeps him confined to a bunker. Not to mention his recurring bouts of existential despair whenever he’s not on mic.

“Doomsday DJ” quickly became the season’s “breakout sketch,” tapping into the world’s COVID fatigue by perfectly encapsulating that feeling of having to outwardly project normalcy during a crisis, while completely falling apart in private. Part of what made the sketch so effective was its choice of music: the discordantly sweet 1971 folk-pop hit “Brand New Key” by singer-songwriter Melanie. 

The DJ plays the same song over and over again, possibly because none of his other records survived the world-destroying “DNA bombs” (Foley later revealed that it was actually because the DJ’s “entire record collection was stolen by bands of scavengers, and the only record that was left was the 45 of ‘Brand New Key’ that had slipped behind the couch cushions, ”although these details were ultimately cut from the show). 

Foley first performed the routine for a live variety show in 2017, but the script was considerably different; “Doomsday DJ” was originally inspired by the 2016 election, and contained several references to the Trump administration. But even in its earliest form, the song was still the same. According to Foley, “I never considered any other piece of music for it. It just seemed perfect.” When it came time to adapt the sketch for The Kids in the Hall, he even declined to give the producers any alternate options for songs because he was so determined to use “Brand New Key.”

Sadly, Melanie passed away last week at the age of 76, prompting Foley to share his thoughts about her death on social media. In his post, Foley describes how the song pick wasn’t meant to be ironic or derisive, but was born purely out of a genuine love of the track. For Foley, the song was a childhood favorite; he actually “wore out” a copy of the 45 record (not unlike the character in the sketch), and he specifically chose the song because he “wanted the most joyful possible piece of music to contrast the DJ’s bleakness.”

Which somehow makes the famously sad sketch all the more heartbreaking.

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