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Editing the Comedic Cultural Divide with Peter Chrapka

Editor Peter Chrapka with Comedian Aaron McCann

In modern entertainment there is one supreme rule; content is king! It makes no difference whether it’s on a streaming service, YouTube, broadcast TV, or produced by a major film studio; if something is created that the public connects with the word will travel like wildfire. The sweeping and benevolent effect of this modern environment structure is that real talent is more utilized and sought out than ever before. Editor Peter Chrapka has worked on pretty much every type of production from award-winning documentaries (That Never Happened) to streaming (Amazon Prime original series The Expanse) and more. Part of his personal acumen for keeping his skills sharp is accepting creative projects out of his normal lane; which is why he accepted comedian Aaron McCann’s request for Peter to edit a “man on the street” style video for Facebook. The final product titled “Culchie in America” quickly went viral, incredibly receiving more than a million views for the premier episode alone. In addition to propelling McCann to a much wider audience, “Culchie in America” offered some welcomed freedom to experiment for Chrapka.

Aaron McCann has seen Charpka’s editing work and was enthusiastic to take such a “high end” approach to a platform like Facebook. After the two discussed style, Peter began assembling a rhythm of hard fast cuts with an energetic music jingle and enough room for laughter in between jokes. Delivering his first cut within twenty-four hours, McCann was astounded at the product and pace. Curt timetables were nothing unusual to the editor but he notes, “Perhaps the most challenging aspect of the video for me was the language barrier. Aaron was born and raised in Ireland. He spoke in a thick Irish accent as he asked people in the streets to define what they thought certain Irish terms meant. It was a challenge to make sure that what was being said would be funny to an Irish viewer. I wanted the creative freedom to make my first cut without Aaron’s involvement so I didn’t ask Aaron for any translations of terms. I used a lot of instinct in cutting this project and I was thrilled at the response when I first screened the cut for Aaron. He was laughing at every joke and complimented me continually. Timing is everything for comedians and editors; I felt that we’d found common ground quite quickly.”

There’s a great deal of wisdom in this comparison between a comedian and an editor. While many entertainment professionals can plant their flag and not move, both of these vocations require a psychological estimation of their audience in order to achieve the desired response. In terms of editing, the massive number of views these videos received also means that Chrapka was able to do this across cultural lines. By paying attention to facial cues, the reaction of bystanders, and other nonverbal indicators, Peter surpassed the literal understanding of many jokes to present the comedic emotion of the interactions. He describes, “Editing comedy is definitely all about timing as well as strategically placing jokes in the right order so that the laughs can build on top of each other. There is a sort of dance when approaching a comedy scene and you have to imagine yourself as the audience member, timing out the jokes accordingly. Getting a chance to explore outside of your comfort zone is always a benefit to an editor because you get to learn new ways of cutting, new rhythms, and face new challenges. I always walk away after experiences like this as a more well-rounded editor, being able to take on projects with a unique experience that makes me an asset to projects.”

McCann on the street filming in Hollywood

One thing is for certain; the popularity of “Culchie in America” and its contributions to the career of Aaron McCann. Chrapka confirms that the kind of immediate gratification transmitted by the tens of thousands of daily likes and positive comments he witnessed every day after the video posted was exciting and vastly different than waiting months (or longer) to see how the public appreciated his work. He does concede that there are very special moments that come from the traditional aspects of his work, such as when he attended the 71st Primetime Emmy Awards this year alongside so many of his peers. Chrapka declares, “It was an awards ceremony I grew up watching and this year I was there with actors and celebrities whom I’d often see on television shows and films. It was surreal when I saw actors there from one of my favourite shows, Game of Thrones, in person. It was awesome to bump shoulders with them. I feel more and more that I am surrounded by great filmmakers and attend some of the biggest events of the year in Los Angeles.”

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