TORONTO - It's been six years since Canada's beloved comedy troupe, the Kids in the Hall, dusted off old fan favourites like the Chicken Lady, Buddy Cole, and Kathie and Cathy and took them on a tour of North America.

The Kids - Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney, Scott Thompson and Dave Foley - aren't really kids anymore, and neither are some of their best-known female characters, but they're back on the road and having a blast.

"I'm a bigger gal than I was before," Thompson said with a guffaw on Monday from Austin, Texas, where the Kids were preparing to take to the stage during the first full week of their multi-city North American tour wrapping up June 5 in Toronto.

His Cathy - a receptionist whose friend and colleague, also named Kathie, is played by McCulloch - is in fact being pressured by her pal to consider a chemical solution to her expanding waistline.

"The other Kathie has discovered crystal meth as a way to keep her weight down," he says. "She's trying to convince me to do it, but my Cathy, you know, she's been through a marriage and a divorce and her ex-husband has custody of her eggs. Things haven't worked out quite the way the girls expected, but they still keep plugging away."

The Kids are in their 40s now - three of them are fathers - but they still sound like giddy teenagers discussing their Monty Python-inspired brand of silly and surreal humour.

Their CBC show was a big hit for the public broadcaster from 1989 to '95, and still boasts a cult following among university students and in comedy circles thanks to frequent showings of "The Kids in the Hall" on the U.S. Comedy Network.

They've written a wealth of new material for the tour - Thompson estimates about 85 per cent of the show is brand new - and have been delighted to see fans reacting to it as positively as they are to the old favourites.

"It's been great - the fans are going crazy," Thompson says. "What's really amazing is our audiences so far have been young. They have discovered us on the Internet or YouTube or through DVDs, and that's been really unexpected and gratifying. We're talking to their generation and we're talking to people in our own age group too."

A reunion tour was something they'd wanted to do for years, McKinney said, and the prolonged Hollywood writers' strike made their dream a reality since many of the projects they were working on were suddenly on hiatus.

"It came up kind of suddenly," said McKinney, who won Gemini awards for writing and acting on the Canadian hit show "Slings and Arrows," and most recently had a role on the cancelled Aaron Sorkin show "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip."

"We were looking for a way to do something but it's always very frustrating because we have five careers now and we're all doing different things. The writers' strike opened up this window, so we jumped."

McKinney took a moment from all the lighthearted Kids talk to rail against the Tory government's proposed Bill C-10, which would allow the government to withhold funding to film and television projects it deems offensive. The bill is currently being debated in the Senate.

"Much of what we did on 'Kids in the Hall' would never have happened under Bill C-10 - we got lots of letters of protest all the time because we weren't user-friendly comedy and we were accused of crossing the line," said McKinney, whose best-known Kids characters are the insanely lust-addled Chicken Lady and an eastern European man who likes to imagine he's crushing the heads of passersby.

The bill, if passed, will simply give Canadians in the entertainment business even more reason to flee to New York and Los Angeles, McKinney says.

"Could you find a better way to scare the talent out of this country?" he asks. "If I want to be censored, I'll go work for ABC."

He's the first to admit, however, that the Kids' penchant for dressing up in drag to play the wives, mothers and girlfriends in their comedy routines used to be puzzling to American audiences, who assumed all five of them must have been gay.

"They failed to grow up with Monty Python the way we did, and the great tradition of drunken uncles dressing as ladies on Canada Day, and so they assumed all of us were gay," McKinney says. "But I think the younger generation gets it. They are really responding to us."

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