In July, the Halifax-based sketch comedy troupe performed at Just for Laughs, the world’s largest comedy festival based in Montreal. And now they are about to hit the big time. The troupe’s first feature film, Rollertown, premieres at the opening gala of the Atlantic Film Festival in Halifax on September 15th. Six days later, their much anticipated sketch comedy show “Picnicface” will air on The Comedy Network
Formed in 2006, the eight member troupe includes Andrew Bush, Kyle Dooley, Cheryl Hann, Mark Little, Brian MacQuarrie, Evany Rosen, Scott Vrooman and Bill Wood. Their popularity as campus comedians took off in response to performances of original sketches at the University of King’s College’s improv nights.
At the time Brian, Cheryl and Mark were students at Dalhousie while Evany and Kyle attended King’s. Riding on that initial wave of enthusiastic student audiences, the troupe began performing a weekly live sketch show Sunday nights at a local Halifax bar, Gingers Tavern. Quickly, the downtown shows became so popular that fans had to arrive hours ahead of time if they wanted to catch the act, as Gingers kept filling to capacity long before show time.
As well as doing live sketches, Picnicface started making short comedy films and posting them on YouTube which broadened their fan base to outside of Halifax. Their 2007 video Powerthirst become an internet sensation and has been viewed over 23 million times. The popularity of Powerthirst on the comedy website www.funnyordie.com brought Picnicface to the attention of the sites founders’ American comedy superstar actor Will Farrell and writer/director Adam McKay (Anchorman, Step Brothers and the other Guys) who invited them to perform at one their shows in Boston.
With their success of their YouTube videos, the troupe started to garner attention from television studios. In 2008 Andrew, Mark and Scott wrote a script for their first feature length movie called Roller Town, a slapstick parody of the late 1970’s roller skating movies. That summer they filmed a preview of the movie. Since they didn’t have a studio or a producer they sent the preview to potential funders. In 2010 they secured enough funding and shot the movie in 20 days in Halifax! I think the crowd-sourced funding is a neat point to include here-
“Halifax was just the logical choice for both the movie and the show. The residents are friendly, the film crews are top notch and the backdrop is gorgeous. This city has been so good to us. If we shot anywhere else we'd essentially be ignoring one of the most valuable members of our troupe. Halifax is the 9th member of Picnicface.,” explains Andrew Bush.
Picnicface’s loyalty to Halifax goes both ways and no doubt there are hundreds of fans in Nova Scotia’s capital city and across the Maritimes, chomping at the bit, waiting to check out their premiere at the Atlantic Film Festival as well as their Comedy Network debut. Yeah, go Picnicface!