Triumph over the ordinary


Fans of the recently ended Showcase show Kenny vs. Spenny, which pitted two friends against each other in merciless competitions, can celebrate the television return of Kenny Hotz with his new show, Triumph of the Will (TotW).

In TotW, Hotz does away with the co-host routine and instead challenges himself to seemingly impossible feats, attacking them with the kind of reckless disregard that has made him famous.

“My show is about suffering, reality and human nature, and my audience expects you to suffer,” says Hotz.

And suffer he does.

In one episode, where he decides to give up pork, Hotz tries to get into the mindset of a pig by joining them in a barn.

“I was living in crap and piss, and it was a nightmare, and I don’t think that really translated in the episode, how disgusting it was that I was in there.”

Hotz also attempts to break into a slaughterhouse dressed like a commando — an effort which is thwarted when his crew loses its nerve and runs, leaving Hotz stranded.

In the end, Hotz fails the pork challenge, but this is a rarity in TotW, which is surprising given the difficulty of some of the challenges.

In the first season, Hotz tries to get his 75-year-old mom a date, solicit donations from the Jewish community to build a mosque, literally go from rags to riches in Las Vegas, like the French, become a cannibal and, as mentioned, give up pork.

According to Hotz, while the pork episode was the most physically demanding, the mosque episode was the most difficult in terms of delivering a funny 22 minutes to the audience.

“Everyone I was interviewing was so lame and serious, and I started thinking ‘oh god, what did I do, this show is totally going to suck,’ but it turned out pretty good.”

Indeed, watching the mosque episode was painful at times, as members of both the Jewish and Muslim community told Hotz that his idea would never work and might even deepen the divide between the two communities, rather than heal it. Surprisingly, though, Hotz succeeds in not only building the mosque but also in making the whole affair as funny as possible.

Over all, Hotz is happy with how TotW turned out, even if he wasn’t entirely confident about his fans’ acceptance of his new endeavor.

“I’m lucky these [episodes] aren’t just total crap. I’m not going to say that I’m surprised it turned out so well, but we didn’t do a pilot for the series, so I had no idea what the show was going to look like or be like . . . I just kinda went and did it with my pals.”

Hotz says that, because of the way he went about doing things, just coming up with an idea and shooting it, he took a big risk.

“It’s so difficult in this genre to just land somewhere and go do it; it’s dangerous to land in Paris and try to like French people, or to build a mosque, film it and try to cut it together afterwards.”

Hotz also took a big risk when he left the established and popular Kenny vs. Spenny for what is basically uncharted territory, but, as he put it, it was time to move on, both for himself and the show.

“You know, the more you love something, the more you care, the more you worry about destroying and killing it.”

Hotz says that he realized things were in danger of getting stale during the season six episode “Who can stay on an island the longest?” filmed in Cuba. According to Hotz, he noticed several parallels between this episode and one from the first season, where the duo try to survive in the woods.

Hotz’s decision also had to do with concerns over a change in the broadcaster and the potential for censorship.

“We could have done another season [of Kenny vs. Spenny], but it would have been with these broadcasters who wouldn’t let us be edgy, and everyone would think that we’ve lost our edge. Well no, it’s not that.”

Even TotW has come up against the censors; recently, Hotz was forced to heavily edit the gut-wrenching (literally) episode “Kennibal,” in which he eats human blood, hair, skin, muscle and even organs.

“Most people and most broadcasters just want everything to be easy and on autopilot, and they don’t want to have to deal with standards and practices or the broadcast code.”

Despite his objections to censorship though, Hotz feels like he’s ready to settle down and make a more “grown up” and mainstream show with broader appeal. “It knocks a lot of wind out of you to be constantly dealing with the reality of doing stuff that is fucking insane.”

While the filmed challenges of Triumph of the Will are behind him, Hotz says that the work is not over; now he has to get the show picked up for a second season and that is largely up to the fans.

“We’re so lucky that this shit gets made, but if people don’t support it we’re fucked. Canada is fucked especially. It’s very dangerous for [Canadians] to not support the rare shit that comes out and is great.”

Hotz says that in order to makes sure that shows which push boundaries, like TotW, get made in Canada, fans have a responsibility to talk about them on the Internet, download them from iTunes and petition broadcasters to commission new episodes — if we’re not willing to do that, Hotz has one last message for us:

“Have fun with shitty sketch comedy and Dalton McGuinty jokes.”