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Picnicface Q&A (Part One)

A “high-octane” interview with Picnicface’s Evany Rosen, Kyle Dooley, Brian Eldon MacQuarrie and Cheryl Hann, recorded in Bill Wood’s backyard, July 2011.


  • Carsten Knox
The Coast: How did you wind up using this house for the “Picnicface’s home” set?

Kyle: We were shooting in this other location that was supposed to be our home. It was really funny. It was weird and new age.

Cheryl: It was like, “Youth! Young people live here!” It was brutal.

Kyle: Synthetic youth habitat.

Cheryl: Young people don’t hang surfboards on their walls. Old people who wish they were still young hang surfboards on their walls.

Evany: The only thing we kept was a not-life-sized, but large-dog-sized stuffed tiger. We were like, well, we need this. This is what youth do have!

Cheryl: I think it just got dressed really fast, because it took us so long to decide what we wanted and what would be happening.

Evany: Somehow emails got lost in the wash and “surfboard” was the only one that got through.

Cheryl: Our set-dec team is amazing. They didn’t mess up. We did something.

The Coast: I see a lot of laptops are open. Are you guys still working on the script for the show?

Evany: It’s too late for that.

Cheryl: We’re on quintuple white drafts of our scripts. We have been writing, way past where we should be.

Kyle: We’re on the 15th round of drafts. We want to tweak a little thing, that constitutes a whole other script. They give it a different colour and number code.

Cheryl: We have a lot of tree-murder guilt about the paper going around.

Kyle: We all wrote the series itself. Everyone is making tweaks to their own things.

Cheryl: A lot of stuff is being improv-ed. It’s a lot harder to tell at this point what’s good and what’s not. You can kind of tell what makes you laugh or what makes the director laugh.

Brian: That was one of the things we talked to Mark McKinney about. He was saying that usually sketch troupes have a hard transition from stage to TV, but because we did so much online stuff, that kind of put us ahead of the curve. Because we do have that internet prowess we’ve been doing OK.

Cheryl: I’d call it a prowess. Why not?

Evany: Is that what the tiger represents? It’s our internet prowess.

Kyle: It’s our digital ferocity.

Brian: I got my quote in, see ya. [Brian steps away.]

Cheryl: The whole article should just be Picnicface: Prowess.

The Coast: How does the TV show compare to the internet stuff versus the live performance stuff?

Evany: You want to have an edge when you produce a sketch show, because there are so many. It’s hard to watch any one for all 22 minutes and go, “This is all solid.” And that’s not to say we’ll achieve that either, because it’s near impossible. But we used to have “threads” in our live shows, some version of a storyline where we were self-referential as Picnicface, and that would move through the story and affect the sketches or not. We’ve written one of those for each episode. Some that are heavily interwoven with the sketches and some that are separate. Those will break up what will feel more like our online content, the [adopts a car-salesperson voice, slapping one hand against the other] fast-paced, "high-octane" sketches. What other words can I used to describe them? Absurd. Whimsy.

Cheryl: Also don’t print “high-octane.” We are not Nascar.

Evany: We are most often described as “high-octane” over any other phrase.

Kyle: We tried “low-octane” but it didn’t last.

Cheryl: It’s a pretty well-balanced combination of the internet stuff and the live stuff. I feel like the elements that work for each have been taken into account.

The Coast: Have you seen evidence of Picnicface videos inspiring other people?

Evany: It’s too hard to believe that that it’s actually true. It would be rad if it was.

Cheryl: There was a Ford Truck commercial that was a lot like Powerthirst a few years ago and we were all like, “Oh, cool!” But maybe Powerthirst was part of pop culture, coming together to this head. Loud and fast and that was what was happening.

Evany: The phrase you’re looking for is “high-octane.”

Cheryl: That’s exactly the phrase. And Stephen Colbert did the Reverka joke on his show. And I was so, like, “Yeah,” but then I was calmed down and told that someone else probably just thought of the same thing.

Evany: I don’t think Stephen Colbert steals jokes.

Cheryl: Yeah, I don’t want to say that at all. I was felt happy for myself for a brief moment. But to be fair, I don’t think he writes his whole show by himself. Unless he is a computer.

The Coast: What did you learn about TV that you didn’t know before?

Evany: Certainly I didn’t know, even going from live to the internet, how much less time you have to be funny on television. Even when we were like, “We’re just going to sit in this awkward moment for about 30 seconds,” and Garry Campbell, our writing mentor, going, “No you’re not. Because people will turn off their televisions and find seven other things to do.”

Cheryl: Thirty seconds on TV is not the same as 30 seconds in real life.

The Coast: And what about Roller Town, how does it compare?

Evany: Did you see The Tree of Life? You can take all the time you want, apparently. Pretty cool, but not “high-octane” at all.

The Coast: Has this been fun to do, and is this a natural growth for Picnicface, to do a TV show?

Cheryl: Yes, definitely to the first one. Super fun. And I think yes to the second. If we weren’t going to progress to this point I don’t know what else we would be doing. Cooler internet videos.

Evany: Something “high-octane,” no doubt.

Cheryl: Yeah, right into the centre of a Nascar engine.

Kyle: Yeah, it’s good to have goals, I guess. You don’t want to be a comedy troupe whose goal is to have a bitchin’ stage show, forever! Or bitchin’ internet videos, forever! I want to be recognized on the street in Halifax.

Evany: Forever!

Cheryl: No, I don’t want that. I think what we all want to be is funny, and to become increasingly funny. I feel like this is helping with that.

Evany: It would be great to have a bitchin’ television show, if we can achieve it. That would be a wonderful growth.

Kyle: It would nice to be a working actor for a living, for several years. If not forever. That would be a good thing.

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