TORONTO – The six men and two women who make up Picnicface are every bit as silly as the Halifax-based comedy troupe’s name implies.
Browsing through the group’s dozens of weird and wacky videos on YouTube shows Picnicface’s humour is almost always absurdist. It’s also very popular, with more than 70,000 subscribers to the Picnicface YouTube channel and one clip having surpassed 24 million views.
Starting Wednesday, the troupe’s sketch comedy moves to TV with a 13 episode run on the Comedy Network.
“We don’t use the show as a platform to sneer at trends or celebrities or try to shock people,” says Scott Vrooman, 33, of the group’s comedy style.
“We’re really trying to make people giggle, and hopefully some of the time they’re not even going to understand why they’re giggling. That would be ideal.”
Vrooman, who has a master’s degree in economics from Dalhousie University, is the oldest of the group’s eight members, while Evany Rosen is the baby of the bunch, turning 24 next month.
Although members have come and gone since the troupe started in 2006, the seeds for Picnicface were sewn when a couple of university kids started doing weekly improv shows together.
Now, Picnicface is releasing the new TV show, a book and their first feature film — which are all coming out this fall.
“It’s been kind of a gradual ramping up and then last year has been just an explosion of work,” says Vrooman.
Their film, “Rollertown,” was the opening film at the Atlantic Film Festival in Halifax on Sept. 15.
The book, which Vrooman describes as an “absurdist primer” on Canada, will be distributed by HarperCollins this fall.
As for the TV show, about a third of the program is comprised of mini plots in which the actors play themselves. Interspersed between are more traditional sketches.
TV veteran Garry Campbell, who has worked on shows like “MADtv” and “Kids in the Hall,” helped the Halifax group iron out the show by dissecting which parts of the sketches were working and which parts weren’t.
“Really building something and producing 13 episodes of a series … takes a lot more than just throwing out first thoughts,” says Vrooman.
“You’ve got to take all of those ideas and properly organize them.”
But for the group, the purest, most fun part of comedy is still their brainstorming and improv, he says.
“We really embrace taking risks, and I feel that’s been part of our success,” says Vrooman.
“We aren’t afraid to fail. Halifax has been a good incubator that way too, and during those live shows we can just try out the weirdest stuff we want. Through years of doing that we’ve kind of honed our instincts.”