Inverness Oran Entertainment

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Cape Breton Chats is becoming a homegrown internet sensation


-by John Gillis

From Hughie and Allan to Howie MacDonald, from Bette MacDonald and Ron James to The Rise and Follies of Cape Breton Island: it’s a well-known fact that Cape Bretoners love humour and love laughing at themselves.  Now you can add Peter MacInnis and Cape Breton Chats to that list.

In the event you haven’t seen one of the eight Cape Breton Chats episodes on YouTube yet, here’s a brief background on how it all began.

A few years ago, Peter MacInnis, a mid-twenties schoolteacher and musician of West Mabou, took his iPhone and his computer web cam and shot a short comedy skit starring himself as all the characters acting from his own short written script.  He shot the story, edited it and posted it on YouTube.  The next morning it had 500 hits. 

“I’d been fishing lobster with my cousin and started thinking about conversations I had overheard between some of the local fishermen and farmers talking about their work or who had a harder life.  It just got me thinking maybe I could do a comedy skit with it,” MacInnis told The Oran this week.

The first two episodes took off on the internet with many people sharing the links and viewing them and giving positive feedback.

 

MacInnis began developing his regular characters – all played by himself.  There’s James, the farmer/husband, and there’s Dougald, a sort of never-do-well son who spends a lot of time partying and on the internet.  There’s Martha, mother to Dougald and wife to James.  Martha is a friendly but sometimes cranky gossiper who’s very much concerned with appearances.  Then there’s the neighbour, Charlie.  He likes his drink of beer or rum – likes to get animated sharing a story, and he likes to borrow things from James.  Now, you have all the makings of some great Cape Breton comedy.

 

“Jeez, Mary and Joseph, every time I watch one of these videos I feel like I’m in a kitchen back home!” writes one fan.  Another states: “Freaking hilarious.  I am a Cape Bretoner who now lives away and my God, when I watched this I thought I was watching my dad and one of my uncles talking.”

About two years ago, MacInnis went to London, England where he taught school.  Just a bit homesick, though, he made three more episodes of Cape Breton Chats, posted them and watched as the shows grew in popularity on the internet.

“At first I was just making these episodes for family and friends.  I never thought it would attract a much larger audience,” said MacInnis.

MacInnis is back from London now and working as a substitute teacher in Inverness County.

Sometimes a student will ask him: “Are you one of those guys from Cape Breton Chats?”  If the students are well behaved he’ll sometimes even share a bit of humour with them.

After the first couple of episodes MacInnis was asked if he would include a female character, and so Martha was born.

“It’s the biggest challenge to create Martha.  One day I was shooting an episode and my cousin and my dad came over (to pick me up to get some work done), and I was in the middle of doing make-up for my Martha character.  You want to see someone get out of his make-up really fast, well you should’ve seen me that day,” said MacInnis.

Last summer a chance meeting with a Cape Breton celebrity led to renowned fiddler Natalie MacMaster expressing her fondness for the show, and soon she and MacInnis agreed they should collaborate on an episode (Cape Breton Chats 7).

“We got together at The Red Shoe Pub and talked it over and set a time for shooting the piece.  Natalie plays another character, not herself.  It was a lot of fun,” said MacInnis.

MacInnis said he’s made three more episodes since he returned from England.  He’s also had an opportunity since his return to continue to perform as a singer/songwriter, get involved in local theatre productions and take on a role in a short film shot on Henry Island by a Canadian film director based in New York.

Despite being quite busy, Peter hasn’t given up on Cape Breton Chats.

“I’ll keep doing them as long as I can come up with something new and everyone keeps enjoying them.  I’m working harder on the story ideas and the editing,” he added.

In the meantime the popularity of the comedies continues to grow.  Episode one has had almost 27,000 views, and his most recent (episode 8) already has more than 2,200 views, and it’s only been posted for a little over three weeks.

“I’m getting a lot of viewers from Western Canada – probably many are Cape Bretoners away from home.  Some of them are telling me they get together with friends to enjoy a drink and watch the shows.  When I get a few more ideas I’ll probably do another one.  I have some ideas about doing one on the fishery or on the different seasons or maybe a Christmas episode,” MacInnis concluded.

 

 


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