Entertainer Robbie Doherty usually slips into his kid-friendly persona Silly Robbie for stage shows across Prince Edward Island, but the COVID-19 pandemic has put a hold on those performances.
Now, Silly Robbie is entertaining children with his own show on YouTube called Silly Robbie's World.
"It's all about using your imagination to try and have as much fun as we possibly can," he said. The show is aimed at children two to seven years old.
We all would like to go outside, but there is a lot of fun things we can do at home if we just use our imagination. — Robbie Doherty
Silly Robbie has a couple of puppet friends Lucky, Eddie and Willie the Wisdom Whale, who go with him on his adventures.
"Sometimes I find myself getting into a little bit of trouble, but they're always there to kind of talk me out of it and guide me in the right direction," he said.
"It's all about sending good messages like living healthy, loving ourselves and treating others with respect — three definitely really important things the world could use right now."
All of the episodes have been shot in an apartment in downtown Charlottetown.
His original plan was to post 10 episodes, but when COVID-19 started to spread, that plan changed.
Doherty's day job is with the television channel Sportsnet, along with his friend Jesse Wachter — who is the producer for Silly Robbie's World.
But when sports events were cancelled, the two found themselves at loose ends — so they decided it was time to fast-track Silly Robbie. Luckily, Doherty said, they'd already filmed quite a bit of the series, so they didn't have to worry about physical distancing.
"There is a lot of children that are going to be at home, they're going to be looking to do things — maybe getting a little bit bored," he said.
He took what they'd filmed and edited it down to five episodes, all about using your imagination, learning how to do activities and taking them to the "next level," he said.
"One episode, we build a spaceship in my workshop — but then it's not just about building the spaceship. We then close our eyes, use our imagination and we really go to space with it," Doherty said.
"A lot of it is just trying to help kids say 'Hey it's too bad, we all would like to go outside, but there is a lot of fun things we can do at home if we just use our imagination.'"
With COVID-19 keeping most people inside their homes, he said is good not only for kids but for everyone when it comes to positive messaging.
"When it comes to kids a lot of them are going to be cooped up and a lot of them don't understand why they can't leave, but this just kind of teaches them a good way how to deal with it. Even though they are stuck at home it doesn't mean they can't have fun," Doherty said.
The P.E.I. government has made it clear musicians and entertainers losing out on income can also apply for financial support, but Doherty said he isn't considering applying at the moment. He said the whole series was shot with a $0 budget.
"I am really proud of what we can do, working with minimal resources," he said.
The series has come together quickly thanks to a lot of help from his friends. His wife Jill Doherty is the puppeteer behind Lucky, music producer Rob Reid voices Willie the Wisdom Whale and Jessica Gould put together an animated introduction.
"It's a really homegrown production," he said.
The videos are not monetized — meaning YouTube does not pay him — but Doherty said if a kid watches the show maybe they will see his poster while out with their parents and will want to come to a show.
"It just kind of eliminates I think people trying to make a greasy dollar by putting a video up for kids and not caring about what the messaging is, not caring about the content and just trying to make a quick buck," he said.
Doherty said he wants to offer kids and parents an alternative to mainstream kids' programming.
"This is really just a way, to honestly, just to provide some really good wholesome but entertaining and fun content for kids, especially right now," he said.
Doherty said he has more episodes coming out soon. Episode 6 will be all about self-isolation.
"It is going to have a very different look and feel, but I think it will have a very, very positive message."
All of the series is on YouTube, and Doherty is also releasing them on his Silly Robbie Facebook page.
"I know it is getting a little bit harder and harder to be patient, but now is a good time to just really practice using your imagination and finding ways to have fun that perhaps you never had to before," he said.
"Trust me, there is good in everything and I think now is a really important time to try and find it."
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