Canadian TV Producer Gets Caught Up in Global Funny Business

Breakthrough Entertainment is looking to follow Just For Laughs and transform Canuck comics from local phenomena to names on a universal stage.

WHISTLER, B.C. – Canadian indie TV producer Ira Levy recently witnessed on the Palais jumbotron at MIPCOM the Quebec comedy show Just For Laughs: Gags turning heads cruising along the Croissette.

“There’s a candid camera show produced by Just For Laughs, and there’s all these buyers looking at the big screen and they’re all watching the show,” Levy, an executive producer with Breakthrough Entertainment, recalled.

The takeaway: Canadian comedy producers can follow Montreal’s Just For Laughs comedy festival and grab a global audience for their TV shows, especially in the digital age.

“Language is always a factor. And there’s subtleties. But we’re seeing a broadening of the audience to a world audience,” Levy said.

Breakthrough already has international TV hits like the dark comedy Less Than Kind and Crash Canyon, an animated prime time adult comedy developed by Joel Cohen, a veteran writer and associate producer of The Simpsons.

The latest global contender from the Breakthrough stable is Picnicface, a mash-up comedy that stars an eight-member sketch comedy troupe that jumped from YouTube to Canada’s Comedy Network.

“If Monty Python basically had a baby with Kids in the Hall, and dropped a lot of acid, and it was the 21st century, their offspring would be Picnicface,” Levy said.

As with earlier Breakthrough series, Picnicface pairs up emerging comedy talent with experienced show runners, as Mark McKinney (Kids in the Hall) executive produced the comedy.

After the Halifax-based sketch comedy troupe grabbed a following online on College Humour and FunnyorDie, Breakthrough came on board to develop the TV series, with Gary Campbell (Mad TV) in the writers room.

Breakthrough is also at work with Spencer Rice, half of the Kenny vs. Spenny TV comedy duo, on a feature-length documentary about monogamy for Canadian pay TV operators Movie Central and The Movie Network.

The light-hearted Canadian film will take on celebrity serial cheaters like Tigers Woods and Elliot Spitzer and explore why they strayed from their spouses.

Levy calls the Spencer Rice project, which will also be released theatrically, potentially the worst date movie ever.

Rice grew up in Los Angeles, with his mother an actress and his parents splitting up early.

“When his (Rice) dad passed away, Spencer opened a shoe box and found a napkin his parents signed that allowed them to have an open relationship,” Levy explained, underlining the baggage Rice brings to the project for comedic relief.

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