Monday, June 11, 2007

Dads Find Humor in Parenthood

Sometimes, the things we experience as parents are so over-the-top ridiculous, so very far away from the visions we had of what adulthood would be like, that there’s nothing to do but laugh.

That’s what two fathers — Clay Nichols and Brad Powell — want us to do when viewers visit their web site, DadLabs, which features tongue-in-cheek videos about fatherhood, including a video of one of the two dads trying out a breast pump. Ouch. “Daddy Clay” from the DadLabs agreed to field some questions:

Meredith: There are quite a number of dad-related web sites out there, from snarky blogs like Offsprung, to how-to father education sites like Family Man Online. How does your site, DadLabs, fit into that world? And why did you two decide to start it?

Clay Nichols, Dad Labs: We would be more snarky, but we’re not that smart. We have lots of children, and they ate our brains. We do think that fatherhood is funny — poop is funny, breast pumps are funny, tub time is hilarious — so there are a lot of humor pieces on our site. We try to mix in the occasional bit of information or experience that might be useful. Most of the dads we know are funny and committed, totally goofy and gaga for their kids, with some good stories and maybe even a piece or two of advice to share. We try to be like that.

We started out (along with our third partner — director Troy Lanier) to make movies. We agreed to get together on Monday nights, after the kids went to bed, to pitch ideas and work on scripts. But we could never get past talking about our pregnant wives, sleep deprivation and blow-out diapers. So our “Due Dads DVD” series was born (the second in the series: “The Man’s Guide to Labor and Delivery” releases on Father’s Day). The DVDs spawned the website, and away we went.

Meredith: Why did you opt to use videos to make your points?

Clay: The new tech makes it relatively easy, we want to be famous filmmakers when we grow up, and guys seem to like video.

Meredith: How have readers responded to your videos, some of which show you guys in self-deprecating positions, like using a breast pump?

Clay: Most of the responses we have received are from parents (moms and dads alike) thanking us for a good laugh. Sometimes we get people worried about our safety (I suspect my mother). Some people encouraging us not to leave the day job (too late). And lots of folks sharing their similar experiences (our kids are evidently not the first and only in history to poop in the tub).

Meredith: What inspired your tongue-in-cheek, “What to Say to Bad Parents” video, in which you both offer advice to bad parents on a playground and then are subjected to assaults both verbal and physical?

Clay: I think the video speaks to the repressed desire most parents have felt to “help” or “fix” other parents and/or their kids, and also our somewhat conflicting secret wish to kick “perfect” or “expert” parents squarely in the groin. It’s the push/pull we feel on the playground — I’d love to tell that mom over there what a brat her kid is, but if that dude offers me another tissue for my kid’s nose I’m gonna go seriously postal.

Meredith: Do you think that people taking parenting too seriously?

Clay: We tend to think that sometimes parents let their anxieties and feelings of inadequacy get the better of them. These feelings are often exacerbated by the many, many parenting experts out there. So much of what is broadcast about parenting seems calculated to make us insecure.

At DadLabs, we’re not experts in any way other than by experience, but we think laughing works pretty well for keeping things balanced. We laugh at ourselves plenty. Kids are also hilarious — it’s one of the best parts of parenting, next to the upgrade in snacks. Parenting is way too important to take that seriously.

E-mail Meredith

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