Comedian Chris Gethard on writing about fatherhood [Video]

Comedian Chris Gethard on Writing About Fatherhood [Video]

In Open Book - Everand Originals by Ashley McDonnell

Comedian Chris Gethard on writing about fatherhood [Video]
After writing two books about fatherhood, comedian Chris Gethard knows a thing or two about parenting: Namely, that nobody really knows what they’re doing. In Dad on Pills, Gethard writes about his darkest fears as a dad who struggles with mental health; in his newest piece, The Lonely Dad Conversations, he interviews many of his dad friends about their experiences raising a child. In the video below, Gethard elaborates on the most impactful and surprising things he learned while putting together The Lonely Dad Conversations.


Hello everybody, my name’s Chris Gethard. I’m here on vacation. You can probably hear the birds chirping, and the waves crashing, as you see me huddling in the shade under a tree. Because when you’ve got someone as pale as me to the beach, that’s the safe thing to do. Let my family go enjoy the sun, like normal human beings, and I huddle under the shade, where life is safe.

Hey, I was asked to make a little video breaking down five different things that I learned in the process of writing my new book, The Lonely Dad Conversations. And I’ve been thinking a lot about it, and it’s really daunting, because I learned a lot of things. But I can try to break down some of the basics for you, over the sound of the construction noise, and the wind, and the thumping techno beats.

The number one thing I learned is, nobody’s nailing it. And I think, especially as guys, we’re all trained to have this competitive side and inherently compare ourselves to each other and our performances to others. And I was really struck, like, I have one neighbor named Jerome, who I interview in the book, and he’s a great guy. And other friends in my neighborhood were like, “Oh, well, if you’re doing this, you gotta interview Jerome, because he’s nailing it, and it seems like he has energy, and he seems like he’s the one that’s really crushing the dad thing.”

And then I interviewed him, and instantly he was like, “I don’t know what I’m doing, and I’m tired all the time.” And, you know, I even got the weird sense it put a weird pressure on him that the rest of those make those jokes now, and oh, I guess nobody’s nailing it. We’re all just desperately trying to figure it out as we go along. And that brought me peace and comfort. Not that I want to know that my friend Jerome is stressed out, but it’s good to know that I’m not the only one. We all think we’re in it alone, and we’re not.

The number two thing I learned, which is really interesting, that I had not thought about at all before writing the book, was that so many people kept bringing up the words “introvert” and “extrovert.” And I was not prompting this, but it happened with my very first interview with my friend Keith Haskel, and then Keith kept bringing it up. “Oh, well I’m an extrovert, and having a kid forced me to learn how to be an introvert.” And then vice versa, I’m an introvert. And then I realized, “Oh, that’s a huge part of parental stress that I hadn’t heard verbalized before.”

Oh, sorry, there’s a guy loading beach chairs up behind me, and there’s a party boat coming in as well.

I hadn’t heard this verbalized before, that your kid doesn’t know your backstory, you know? Your kid doesn’t know your comfort zone. And your kid doesn’t know how you like to act out in public, and at parties, and around other people, or in quiet times. Your kid comes in and needs what they need, and you gotta roll with those punches. And that might mean that if you’re an introvert like me, you gotta come out of your shell. If you’re an extrovert like my friends Keith and Jerome and Jersey Dave, you might learn how to go in the other direction. But this idea that your kid bends your personality in ways that aren’t comfortable to you, that was something new that I learned.

I learned a lot of other things that were smaller. I learned that you gotta be really careful with baby sign language. That if you go overboard, you can paint yourself into a corner. That relates to a chapter with my good friend Jersey Dave, which I think is one of the more fascinating things in the book.

What else did I learn? I learned that sometimes you don’t expect your least cheesy friends to say the most cheesy things, but it’s necessary. Murf made me cry in the course of our interview by saying some things that he was like, “I know this is cheesy, but I’m gonna say it ‘cause I think it’s true.” So sometimes it’s good to hear those things, sometimes it’s good to figure those things out.

Let’s see, that’s four, I was asked to do five. What’s a good fifth one that I learned? Oh, another one that I learned is that — just on a less thematic level and a more logistical level — I learned that, because of my background on The [Chris] Gethard Show and Beautiful/Anonymous, I’m very good at getting people to talk. This book was contracted to be 18,000 words long, which is a decent chunk of words, but not that much. And I think it came in over 50,000. And it turns out I can really get people talking, and that’s not just on Beautiful/Anonymous, that’s not just on the old Gethard Show. That’s a skill I’ve now honed, and people really open up when you ask them how they’re doing, and when you actually slow down and listen to the answers. And I think, maybe, we don’t all do that enough.

So there’s five things I learned. And I’ll give you a bonus. I’ll leave this one without context, because this is something that’s said in the book in the course of an interview that I think is very true, but that I think you need total context, so I’ll just put it out there as a teaser with no pontification: A lot of modern dads are just really trying hard to nail being a cool lesbian mom. And that one feels really true to me. But that one you need to sit and read the book or listen to the book for the full context. So there it is.

Now if you’ll pardon me, I’m going to get back to sitting here on a beach in the shade not really participating in tropical paradise because I’m a pale, bearded, bespectacled loser.

Hear how Murf made Chris cry and find out why every dad just wants to be a cool lesbian mom in Gethard’s Scribd Original, The Lonely Dad Conversations.

First and foremost, comedian Gethard wants you to know that being a dad is fun and deeply rewarding — but it’s also stressful, draining, lonely, and tons of other bleak adjectives. This compilation of interviews Gethard did with his dad friends (and one mom friend) is full of candid, vulnerable insights about parenthood that men typically don’t acknowledge, let alone share.


You can also read Gethard’s first Scribd Original, Dad on Pills.

Gethard writes about his darkest fears as a dad who struggles with mental health (like that his son will also have a giant forehead full of suicidal thoughts) with humor and heart. For fellow mentally ill parents, Gethard’s hilarious personal essay is a reassuring pep talk, full of compassion, empathy, and kindness (and, OK, sometimes a few punches to the throat).


The Lonely Dad Conversations is a Scribd Original and is available exclusively on Scribd. It’s included in our subscription service as an audiobook and an ebook. You can find more Scribd Originals from other authors like Anne Helen Petersen, Stephen King, and Roxane Gay here.

About the Author: Ashley McDonnell

Ashley is an Everand editor who loves Ernest Hemingway, “The Hunger Games,” and EDM. When she’s not reading, she’s making nerdy podcasts about anime and manga and learning to DJ.