Last week dealt Halifax's comedy-loving community a crushing hand—Bell Media, owner of the Comedy Network, had decided that they wouldn't be renewing Picnicface's avant-garde show for a second season. Immediately the group—Mark Little, Evany Rosen, Bill Wood, Cheryl Hann, Scott Vrooman, Andrew Bush, Brian Macquarrie and Kyle Dooley—got moving. They made www.savepicnicface.com, linking to a petition that has over 6,000 signatures at the time of this writing, pictures and art from fans, support videos from Kids in the Hall's Dave Foley and Picnicface's executive producer Mark McKinney. They believe that with a strong showing of support from fans, Bell may reconsider and realize the error of their ways. And the fan support has been staggering. "Our contacts at the comedy network emailed us the day after the campaign started and asked if we'd change the email addresses we'd given our fans to send their tears of rage to," says Cheryl Hann. "I guess the head of Bell's inbox was flooded with messages from very sad teens. We love you, you sad, sad teens! We hope that the people who have been so wonderful and supported us up to this point will be as mad as we are and let the people at Bell know. The fan-made pictures, drawings and videos are definitely going to be what helps us accomplish our goal. But, you gotta have a petition, right? It's 2012!"
The fact that Bell decided to give the show the axe is puzzling, and Picnicface believes it may have been a difficult choice, one that they may still yet have a chance to reverse. On their petition site, they say, "We are also pretty sure the renewal was a very close call as negotiations were far down the road, there was a strong lobbying effort by many supportive executives at the Comedy Network, and viewer ratings were steadily growing."
"I think in the end it came down to the numbers. Viewers, money earned. You know the drill," says Hann. "The strange thing was that we were all flown out to Toronto and put up for a month to workshop a second season. The omens were all good until the day we got the news. It was a bit of a shock, to say the least. We're pretty bummed. I mean, it's not that we feel, 'Oh, we're the best. We deserve a second season. How dare they cancel us?' It's just that we know the show was improving, the audience was growing and we were coming into our own. It takes time to do that. It takes time to move beyond your influences, to find your own voice and to gain supporters. We're just trying to convince them to give us that time. That second chance."
The group had written two sample episodes before the cancellation and Hann explains they were moving in a more plot-driven direction, still keeping their envelope-pushing irreverent style. "We wrote some new sketches. One called Chinese Prom Shop which is sort of like Gremlins, except the cool creature you get is a dirtbag called Rick who gives you really bad advice about how you should prepare for the prom. I was working on some new Feminist Morality Tales, in the vein of the bulimia sketch. Thinking about some women's issues like body image, mother-daughter relationships and how those could lead to sort of absurd real-world problems."
If that appeals to you, and frankly I don't want to know you if it doesn't, start typing, doodling, crying or filming. Picnicface has been a staple in Halifax for too long for things to fade out now, there are so few groundbreaking shows on the Comedy Network in the first place, let alone shows that have such strong east coast ties.
"I'm not sure what we'll do if this campaign doesn't work. We obviously all love each other and love working together, but it might be time to go our separate ways and focus on individual projects," says Hann. "We'd obviously always be open to the idea of getting back together, touring, doing live shows or collaborating—Evany and I just did a two-woman show at the Winnipeg Comedy Fest under the name Human Penis, so we'll always work together."
"We feel we weren't given ample time to grow," says Hann. "It takes time to surpass the things that have influenced you and come into your own. It's only then that you can really go whole hog and create the things you're meant to create. We know we were improving. We know we have a lot more to say. We just want a chance to say it."