Kenny Hotz is a bad person

Funnyman Kenny Hotz is a total narcissist—just ask him.
Funnyman Kenny Hotz is a total narcissist—just ask him.
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Photo courtesy of spaces.msnkennyhotzphotos

Not everyone can claim that they make a living by forcing their best friend to eat his own vomit, but that’s exactly the path that Kenny Hotz’s life has taken. It’s certainly a detour for the Toronto native who began his career as a photographer.

“I went to Waco, Mount Carmel after it burned down, Eastern Europe after the fall of the wall, Needle Park in Switzerland and even the Gulf War for six weeks,” said Hotz in a recent phone interview with the Journal. “I was in Times Square for the millennium, when everyone thought it was going to get nuked and I’ve got all these crazy photo essays,” he said.

It’s not the kind of work experience you’d expect from a man who spent the recent season finale to his TV show Kenny Vs. Spenny trying to find the most creative way to kill a baby simulator (for the record, throwing the doll off a bridge attached to a bungee cord was the best).

But then he adds, “the amount of access you’d get to stuff by saying you’re a journalist and the free goods you get are fantastic for a cheap backpacker,” he said.

When you go up to a cop and say ‘I’m a fucking journalist let me in,’ they let you in even if you’re a fucking nobody, so it works.

“Not that I would suggest doing that because it takes a lot of gall to do.” And suddenly you see how his sardonic sense of humour and prankster instincts served him well as a legitimate journalist.

“I wanted to blow editors’ minds with my photographs,” he said. “I was just taking hardcore pictures and doing crazy shit. Now what I’ve done is merge that photojournalistic instinct with documentary comedies.” And merge that instinct he has. In 1996, Hotz teamed with childhood friend Spencer Rice to make Pitch, a comic documentary that followed the two would-be filmmakers as they tried to sell a script they had written to various celebrities at the Toronto Film Festival. The script was never produced, but the documentary was released to critical acclaim.

“We got more stars in our movie not being able to make it then we would if we ever did,” Hotz said, reminiscing on his filmmaking debut.

But the experience soured him on the screenwriting process: “I actually don’t like writing scripts anymore. It takes too long. Now I’m more into producing content.” The screenwriting may never have stuck, but the documentary approach to filmmaking did. In addition to Pitch, Hotz has made the documentary The Papal Chase. The 2004 film about his trials and tribulations trying to meet Pope John Paul II in order to win a $1,000 bet—and is currently raising money for at least two other non-fiction features (one following his quest to find his mother a new husband, and the other about his attempts to start his own cult).

“I’ve been called ‘Michael Moore on acid.’ But the thing with Michael Moore and [Morgan] Spurlock [the director of Super Size Me] and those guys is that they have morals,” he said.

“I don’t really have any morals,” he said. “They are blue collar guys who are actually trying to help society, whereas me, I’m totally narcissistic and money motivated.” Capitalizing on the recent boom in reality television, Hotz and comic partner Spencer Rice landed their own TV series in 2003.

The concept for their show couldn’t be more simple: playing off their—at times—hostile relationship, Kenny and Spenny challenge each other to a competition every week, with the loser performing a humiliation. As Hotz describes it: “If Pitch was Spenny and I pulling together, trying to sell a script, then Kenny Vs. Spenny is ‘first one to sell the script wins.’” Premiering in 2003 on CBC, the show received high ratings; however, it was aired in an afternoon timeslot that wasn’t appropriate for the show’s edgy humour.

Kenny Vs. Spenny was cancelled by the network after only one season but has since been picked up by Showcase.

“The reality is that CBC wanted a kids’ show and we gave them an HBO, adult show,” Hotz said. “They couldn’t really use us. I was talking about eating out 15-year-old girls at 5:30 p.m. after The Simpsons and that was a problem. But now that we’re on Showcase and I can’t talk about it enough.” The cult audience the show acquired during the brief CBC run has grown exponentially since the switch to Showcase. In addition to giving the show a more appropriate timeslot, the cable network offers Hotz and Rice almost total creative license.

“We have a lot of freedom,” Hotz said, “We’ve never had such freedom. Showcase is the fucking best, I fucking love them. CBC wouldn’t let us do [who can drink the most beer], so that’s why it was the first episode of season two.” But even Showcase has its limits.

“We wanted to do ‘Who can produce more semen,’ and I want to do ‘Who can do more acid,’” Hotz said.

But it seems unlikely, for obvious reasons, that either of these ideas will come to fruition.

“Well, we fight for which [contests] we want to do,” Hotz said in regards to how he’d like the show to be made. “Spenny fights for ‘Who can whack off more’ or ‘Who can anally rape his mother more.’ Whereas I’m more into ‘Who can raise more money for orphan children.’ But it’s a constant battle. Everything we do is a battle.” Once the dust clears and a contest has been decided, Kenny and Spenny are each given control of their own film crew to shoot the episode.

“We each do our own thing. I run off and direct my content and he runs off and directs his … my stuff is all improv. I have to get a huge jungle rat or a stupid pimp costume. It’s pretty set up, so I really have to know what I’m doing every single show … whereas Spenny’s content is a voyeuristic, cinéma vérité, look at this dysfunctional fucking freak getting crushed. So, he’s filming more of a documentary. Spenny’s reactionary, he reacts off what I do, usually. So Spenny really is Spenny. Me, I’m a total ham … I have to stand in front of a camera and for no rhyme or reason just create fucking funny.”

Much of the “hamming it up” Hotz describes has led many to question the legitimacy of the show’s “reality” conceit, but Hotz insists that the program is unscripted.

“I’d say there are a lot of arguments about whether our show is fake or not, and I think that’s because our show’s gotten slicker: faster edits, more cameras, a better set … the reality is that you shoot 30-40 hours and you edit to 23 minutes,” he said. “When you shoot for [that long] and cut it down to 20 minutes it’s hard to have a shitty show.” He added that “Spenny wants everyone to think the show is fake, he really does. When kids come up to him in the street and say ‘Hey, you fucking loser, you suck,’ he wants to tell them he’s an actor. He wants every one to think that we’re actors so that we can get 10 Geminis and stuff but, you know, we aren’t actors. We’ve never acted. ” And of course, there are the humiliations. After each competition the loser is forced to perform some sort of degrading act like biting off the winner’s toenail, or running naked down a busy street in Toronto. It’s a humourous conclusion for the show, but why did they choose to do it?

“Because we couldn’t afford to get rewards,” Kenny said. “I’d love it if the winner of ‘who can stay awake the longest’ got an SUV, but we have no money. It’s also more socially relevant to the masculine mindset.” And as for the worse humiliation he has received, Kenny claimed “Pissing my pants sucked. They all suck. Even Spenny biting my toenail sucked. Here’s what happens, I’m like ‘here bite the fucking toenails off my feet,’ and then the next thing I know I’ve got his mouth on my feet. What did I get myself into? Or, when Spenny was bobbing for apples in my toilet, I’m like ‘get your head out of my toilet. I shit in there.’ I don’t want Spenny’s head anywhere near my toilet, because he probably licks it when I’m out of the house anyhow, who knows with that guy?” All of this brings up an interesting point: if Kenny and Spenny have been friends and colleagues for so long, is their relationship really as antagonistic as it appears on TV?

“It totally is,” Hotz said. “We don’t spend that much time together when we aren’t shooting the show. It’s hard to.” As to why the two continue to work together, Kenny said, “You know, it’s like we’re family. I’ve known him my entire life. It’s like why did Laurel stay with Hardy?” But he added, “I don’t think Spenny really knows how bad he looks, still. He’s very delusional. He’s a strange egg. There really is only one Spenny … but, it’s his fetish to be abused by me. So, how much could he hate it? Look at Jackass, with Johnny Knoxville in an outhouse turning upside down, getting covered in piss and shit. No matter what Spenny does, believe me, it’s a lot less of a hassle.”

But even if the show has strained the friends’ relationship, it has also become considerably more popular in the past year. The program has already been picked up for a third season by Showcase and Kenny promises that it will “make second season look like ‘The Barney Show.’” The two have become celebrities in Canada, and as their reputation builds, Kenny and Spenny have become part of the great tradition of Canadian comedy, a position that Hotz has mixed feelings about.

“Canada is responsible for some of the greatest comedy and some of the worst comedy worldwide,” he said, “Like SCTV, those guys are like The Beatles to me. That’s to me the greatest show in the history of television … and Train 48 is the opposite. There are a lot of shows in Canada that are so fucking bad that I think it’s actually bad for your health to watch them,” he said. “They are so fucking bad that it’s atrocious. Now, every country’s got that … but there are problems in terms of the ratio between how many shows are great and how many shows are shit.” Not completely dismissive of Canadian television, Hotz added that there have been some good programs like “SCTV, Kids In The Hall, The Hilarious House Of Frightenstein and Trailer Park Boys. I mean, there are great shows, but it’s, like, one every five years … and also the system in Canada is around to increase Canadian culture. I don’t want to increase Canadian culture, I want to increase my fucking bank account.” So, if you want to help increase Kenny Hotz’s bank account, watch Kenny Vs. Spenny Sundays on Showcase at 9:30 p.m.

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