By Patrick L. Smith
Since the beginning of time, mankind has been forced to compete for survival. This spirit of competition has reached a pinnacle in the relationship of two best friends who battled against each other. Why?
Entertainment for the students. Revenue for the college.
Algonquin hosted the co-stars of hit cult TV show Kenny vs. Spenny, Kenny Hotz and Spencer Rice, on Oct. 18 when the two appeared onstage in the Algonquin Commons Theatre.
“I wasn’t expecting it to sell out,” said manager of theatre operations Ken MacLeod, adding that although he wasn’t sure what to expect when booking the show, he figured it was a brand of humour the college could enjoy.
And, true to form, it didn’t take long for the duo to settle into their usual dynamic, with Hotz’s well-known deprecating comments towards Rice being the first words to come out of his mouth once he got onstage.
“Spenny’s triple-fisting tonight,” he said, referring to the can of Guinness, bottle of Molson Canadian and the mixed drink that Rice brought to his seat.
The simple stage décor, comprised of two sofa chairs and a projector, set the tone for the night. The pair hosted what Hotz called a “very casual” show which, at times, had the feel of a chat with friends in a living room.
The two spent the night interacting with the sold-out crowd, swapping anecdotes and interspersing their chatter with relevant clips from the show to punctuate their points.
“I love Kenny vs. Spenny,” said police foundations student Connor Biddiscombe. “I’ve watched them since season one and also their follow-up projects.”
And unfortunately for Rice, Hotz’s needling brand of humour continued throughout the night.
At first, his attacks were rebuffed by Rice, with Hotz making a throwaway comment about Rice’s hair looking like a “Ringo mop” and Rice retaliating by donning a Beatles baseball cap for the remainder of the show.
“How can I not fuck with the fucking guy?” Hotz asked before the show. “He’s asking for it.”
As the night wore on though, the vitriol reached levels that Rice couldn’t handle.
“I don’t care anymore,” he said. “I show up, you make jokes about my mom, my grandparents… You haven’t started on my great-grandparents yet.”
Having directed his apathy towards Hotz, Rice turned his attention to the crowd where an off-colour comment in the crowd caused him to take a stand for gay rights in a quite literal sense. He rose from his chair for one of only two times on the night to lay into a student who shouted a homophobic slur at him.
This marked their fourth tour date at various Ontario educational institutions. In the three days before the show in Ottawa, they made stops at Sheridan College in Oakville, McMaster University in Hamilton and Cambrian College in Sudbury.
“It’s our biggest fanbase. It’s our rowdiest fans,” said Hotz. “I wanted to see how relevant we still were. There’s a scene in the Three Stooges movie where the stooges come out and they didn’t even know they were famous. I just wanted to see if we were still relevant.”
Rice’s views on the subject were much simpler, though.
“Honestly, we’re doing these college things, to me, because we had an agent who booked us in these college things,” he said.
Although Kenny vs. Spenny has not released any new episodes since 2010, both Hotz and Rice have still been busy putting out new shows. The former has produced a sitcom, Testees, as well as a reality show in the same genre as Kenny vs. Spenny entitled Triumph of the Will.
Rice, meanwhile, was the lead actor and writer for a sitcom entitled Single White Spenny. He also wrote and directed a documentary about the porn world, titled X-Rayted.
None of those shows had quite the popularity enjoyed by their joint effort show, although Triumph of the Will certainly captured some of the same audience.
“It’s very hard to do my type of content with a broadcaster in Canada,” said Hotz.
“The problem is, my stuff is too fucking crazy. The last show I did, I basically ate a dead guy so who’s going to let me keep doing that stuff?”
On the other end of the spectrum, Rice was disappointed with Single White Spenny, distancing himself from the show Hotz referred to as “Single Season Spenny” as far as possible.
“Single White Spenny wasn’t my show, first of all,” said Rice. “It was, initially, and the broadcaster took it away because … there’s a conservative air so that show was not great.”
His excitement for X-Rayted was palpable, although Rice still felt that the Canadian television market did him no favours.
“It was so edgy that they literally delayed the premiere of it so Parliament wouldn’t be in session,” he said. “They were that nervous. The result is that nobody saw it and it’s a million dollar calling card for me.”
“For so long, seeing them together and the chemistry they had on camera, then seeing them apart … it didn’t feel right,” added Biddiscombe.
Kenny vs. Spenny enjoyed a seven-year run on networks including MTV, Showcase and Comedy Central. But they got their start on CBC, airing immediately prior to The National with Peter Mansbridge.
Rice had a theory as to why they were able to achieve success despite CBC’s restrictive broadcasting content.
“My theory is that we got to build an audience before CBC knew what they had bought into,” said Rice. “Showcase was smart enough to realize, fuck, they’ve got an audience. Then we took it as far as we could. All good things come to an end.”
And although Rice seemed pleased to be able to move on from the show, Hotz still has big plans for the future.
“There’s talk of a movie,” he said.
“If I can make the craziest fucking movie ever, and it could be the funniest thing to ever come out of Canada, I would love to do it. There’s talk about it, it’s just really hard for us to find the right group of people to do it with.”