It’s a cold, snowy night in Toronto. Melancholy, an 8-year old girl, is spending the night at her Uncle Kevin’s place. Uncle Kevin is Kevin McDonald of The Kids in the Hall. After a day of Josef von Sternberg cosplay (he dons an ape suit like Marlene Dietrich in Blonde Venus), Uncle Kevin sets Melancholy up in his den to watch a DVD of a movie he was in called Lilo & Stitch.
But Melancholy isn’t interested in Lilo & Stitch. Instead, she finds an old VHS tape labelled Mouth Congress and her curiosity gets the best of her. As she watches the first five minutes of this bizarre rock band on stage, she is captivated. Kevin catches her in the act and admonishes her for snooping, but she is hooked. For a bedtime story, she insists on being told the history of Mouth Congress.
Scott Thompson directing Abigail Nadeau
Kevin, an active participant in the band’s history, reaches back into the far corners of his mind to tell the tale of two boys, Scott Thompson and Paul Bellini, both gay misfits from small towns. He tells how the two met at university and immediately began making short films together, and how eventually Scott joined a group of comedians named The Kids in the Hall.
Mouth Congress, Kevin tells her, was busy making recordings and doing live shows, but eventually the Kids in the Hall landed a TV deal and the band took a back seat to the TV show. Bellini gathered all the tapes and neatly stored them away in a closet, the end. Now it is time for bed, Uncle Kevin tells Melancholy. She asks if they might ever reunite, but Kevin says that it is unlikely, considering how old they now are. But it might be possible for her to dream of their reunion.
Kevin McDonald relaxes between takes.
So Melancholy drifts off into a deep sleep. She dreams that Scott and Paul are rehearsing for a new live show. Then she dreams about the live show itself. In her dreams, it is brilliant and successful. There is nothing so sweet as the hopes of a child. It is the best dream she ever had. Who knows, maybe in the morning, she will awake and resolve to start her own crazy rock band.
How was it made?
Mouth Congress was formed in a basement in November of 1984 when Paul Bellini rented a beatbox from an audio store. He wanted to experiment with sounds and try his hand at songwriting with his sister’s boyfriend, guitarist Rob Rowatt, and her high school buddy, bassist Gord Disley. Their cacophony immediately drew the attention of Scott Thompson, who at the time was on the cusp of joining a local comedy troupe called The Kids in the Hall. Since they only had the beatbox for a month, they recorded dozens of sketches for songs. Then, about ten months later, they made their stage debut with Brian Hiltz’s band I Want functioning as back-up. From start to finish, Bellini either tape-recorded or video-taped everything the band ever did, from jam sessions to costume fittings to lyric-writing sessions to live shows. This dragged on for about 4 years, so you can imagine how much media he accumulated. But by 1991, both Thompson and Bellini were so preoccupied with their work on The Kids in the Hall television series that they quietly put all the Mouth Congress media into a deep, dark hallway closet. They didn’t forget about it, though. For years, Bellini pondered the idea of making a film about the band. Then, in 2011, he dug all this stuff out of the closet, showed it to Thompson, and the two men set about trying to shape it all into something.
They approached their friends, Josh Levy and Robi Levy, experienced filmmakers, who suggested that they do a revival show and use that as the basis of a documentary. So on February 21, 2016 they produced a show at their old stomping ground, the legendary Rivoli Cafe in Toronto. The footage was amazing, but something was still missing. Bellini’s attempts to edit the footage were not successful, until someone - either Thompson himself, or bass player Tom King - suggested that it needed a framework, sort of like when Peter Falk tells his grandson a story in the movie The Princess Bride. So on Dec. 10, 2016, they asked fellow Kid in the Hall Kevin McDonald to play a kindly uncle who tells his 8-year-old niece, played by Abigail Nadeau, the whole story of the band.
Why make it?
Mouth Congress was very much a ‘do it yourself’ band, as was the nature of the mid 80s. Both Bellini and Thompson enjoyed this ragtag aesthetic - recording on a tape recorder sitting on a freezer in the basement; putting up xeroxed posters in the neighbourhood; buying costumes at the Salvation Army; using equipment from 20 years earlier. They loved the rough edges, as it fit with their message of self-realization. Whereas The Kids in the Hall was a professionally produced big-budget television show, Mouth Congress was an assembly of brilliant scraps artfully arranged. This movie is a hilarious tribute to that long-lost era of DIY creativity.
Who is it for?
The proper response would be that it is for our fans but since we never released anything, there are none. Why don’t you be one of the first?
Why does it matter?
Mouth Congress matters because it is entertaining, it is original, it’s old but also new and put together with mad love and ingenuity. The DIY spirit of this film will speak to a generation of young artists hungry for knowledge of the pre-internet world at the beginning of the home video revolution. Much of it was made using the same means as the comedy we were producing at the time with the nascent Kids in the Hall. In fact some of our characters were even born in the raw lyrics of the band. People were barely ready for the Kids in the Hall in 1989. They certainly weren’t ready for Mouth Congress. They might be now.
What the critic had to say about Mouth Congress
“Scott Thompson’s Mouth Congress blows the Rivoli away at their first show in 24 years,” wrote Richard Trapunski in the February 22 2016 edition of Chart Attack. “Like the now-basically-mainstream alt comedy scene Kids in the Hall inspired, Mouth Congress's unabashedly queer, sex-positive, humour-driven art-punk sounds just as good, if not better, in retrospect.”
Scott Thompson is an internationally known comedian and founding member of The Kids in the Hall. Scott is currently touring The Buddy Monologues, a show based on his best-known character is gay raconteur Buddy Cole. Other credits include The Larry Sanders Show, Providence, RoboRoach, The Pacifier, The Colbert Report, Hannibal, and The Simpsons.
Paul Bellini is a writer who began his career with The Kids in the Hall, though fans of the show know him best as the show’s iconic Towel Guy. Other writing credits include This Hour Has 22 Minutes, My Dad the Rock Star, and She’s the Mayor. His feature film An Irrelephant was selected to screen at the Las Vegas ComedyWorld Film Festival in 2018.
Kevin McDonald is a founding member of The Kids in the Hall. Other credits include Friends, Seinfeld, Ellen, The Drew Carey Show, That 70s Show, and Lilo & Stitch.
Abigail Nadeau is a remarkably assured young actress who was eight years old at the time of production. Her credits include Karma’s a B*tch!, The Adventures of Napkin Man, and Night Cries.
Josh Levy began his career by co-writing and directing the feature film Hayseed, which was an official selection for Perspectives Canada at the Toronto International Film Festival in 1997. Other credits include doUlike2watch?, Locker Room, Supermodels, Backpackers, and The Immigrant.
Robi Levy is a producer whose credits include Jawbreaker, Locker Room, Masculathon, and The Immigrant.
Rob Rowatt writes music and plays guitar, bass and keyboards for Mouth Congress. He is also a filmmaker whose 2014 feature The Honeymoon appeared in several film festivals across North America.
Tom King writes music and plays bass, keyboards and vocals for Mouth Congress. He is a musician and filmmaker based in Toronto.
Steve Keeping is a drummer who plays with Mouth Congress. He has also played with The Hopping Penguins and sadoceanspacebear.
Gord Disley writes music and plays guitar, bass and keyboards for Mouth Congress. He has also played with Die Screaming, No Life, and Black Museum, and currently lives in Montreal.
Brian Hiltz writes music and plays guitar, bass, keyboards and drums for Mouth Congress. He is a musician who has played with I Want, The Realists, and currently plays with Rock-A-Barons in Halifax, NS.
Dan Galea is a comedian and producer. He was a founding member of The Sketchersons and currently stars in his own talk show, The DG Special.
Risks and challenges
What does it need to be complete?
We need $20,000 to make it real. The movie is a hodgepodge of mediums. The first half hour is a mixture of a professional video shoot done on a RED camera intercut with archival footage. The archival footage is a combination of Super 8, VHS, VHS-C, V8, and DV footage. The rest of it was shot on commercial-grade digital video cameras, and there are even a few shots captured on a cell phone camera. So the need for colour correction - which will smooth things out and make it all look consistent - is overwhelming.
Similarly, the sound elements come from multiple sources - boom mikes, LAVs, a sound board mix, voice-overs recorded in a sound studio, and various camera microphones. As well, the entire film is scored with Mouth Congress instrumentals, which were mostly recorded in the 80s on a Tascam 4-track mixer, or else on teeny tiny tape recorders. It will take a genius to smooth out all of these various sources.
Finally, we need opening and closing credits, as well as inter titles identifying certain songs or dates and places. The sum total of all this post-production is about $15,000.
Beyond that, we will need about $5,000 to hire a lawyer for an errors and omissions vetting; entry fees for various film festivals; and funds to assemble DNC and publicity kits.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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