King of dad jokes

‘How-to Dad’ Jor­dan Wat­son teaches Vir­ginia Fal­lon how to turn a funny idea into a full­time job.

Sunday Star-Times - - FOCUS -

First things first: It’s not a Swan­ndri. There’s been plenty of things that have baf­fled How-to Dad Jor­dan Wat­son since his in­ter­net fame took off but the cloth­ing is­sue is one of the most sur­pris­ing.

‘‘City peo­ple don’t know the name of what I wear: it’s stub­bies and a bush shirt, not a Swan­ndri.

‘‘I want to ask them, what the hell? Are you even a Kiwi?’’

Peo­ple might not be able to name the clothes but they recog­nise them from Wat­son’s ‘‘How-to Dad’’ se­ries of tongue-incheek par­ent­ing videos.

Dressed as a ‘‘typ­i­cal Kiwi bloke’’, his clips such as ‘‘how to wash a baby in a sink’’ and ‘‘how to make a baby clean the house’’ have racked up mil­lions of YouTube hits and launched a full-time ca­reer for the fa­ther-of-three.

Ahead of his de­but as a Sun­day Star-Times colum­nist next week, the 30-year-old has locked him­self in his kid-proof of­fice for a phone in­ter­view. There’s a child cry­ing in the back­ground but mum is home to sort this one out.

Wat­son has just got back from a Tues­day morn­ing fish­ing trip, some­thing he says sounds much flasher than re­al­ity. ‘‘My steer­ing snapped the other day across the chan­nel and I had to use a bait board as a rud­der to get home.’’

The be­gin­ning of the How-to Dad em­pire has been well doc­u­mented: in mid-2015 the Auck­lan­der – who has a back­ground in tele­vi­sion pro­duc­tion – de­cided to make a video for a mate about to have a baby.

Us­ing five-month-old daugh­ter Alba as a happy prop and wear­ing his ‘‘comfy dad clothes’’, Wat­son demon­strated var­i­ous ways to hold a baby – the baby Je­sus, the box of beers and the rugby ball – and stuck it on Face­book.

The dead­pan de­liv­ery struck a chord – less than a minute long, the clip gar­nered 250,000 views in 10 hours and in­ter­na­tional head­lines. The video’s views on YouTube now to­tal more than three mil­lion.

That was it for a while, although mates urged him to do more. ‘‘I didn’t do any­thing for six months, I was like the nek min­nit dude, a one minute won­der, but it was al­ways in the back of my mind.’’

Even­tu­ally he launched a Face­book page – ‘‘I was re­ally an­noy­ing, tag­ging ev­ery­one in it’’ – and three years later he’s quit his day-job and the How-to Dad brand has be­come a busi­ness.

Go to any small ru­ral New Zealand town and you’ll find a mil­lion How-to-Dads, ac­cord­ing to Wat­son. ‘‘Park up out­side the bak­ery at lunchtime and they’re all wear­ing the shirts and stub­bies, they’re ev­ery­where.’’

His on­line char­ac­ter was mod­elled on those la­conic ru­ral types that so re­sem­bled his own fa­ther, an eel fish­er­man – and the son of an eel fish­er­man – from Te Kauwhata in the Waikato.

‘‘Small town New Zealand is quite con­ser­va­tive, es­pe­cially the guys, and my dad was very much one of them. I was the kid play­ing rugby but wanted to be part of the school pro­duc­tion too.’’

Nick­named Hori for his fix-up jobs, Wat­son se­nior was both proud and be­mused of his son’s suc­cess.

‘‘We went out fish­ing to­gether and he goes a bit quiet and says, ‘I don’t get it re­ally. I mean, some of those videos are funny but I just don’t get it’,’’ Wat­son says.

One of four kids, Wat­son says they were a close fam­ily. His hap­pi­est mem­o­ries of his fa­ther were from camp­ing trips.

‘‘We were the fam­ily with an old, rusty chest freezer on the back of the ute . . . the peo­ple who took over two camp­sites and built an em­pire. It wasn’t glamp­ing – it was Hori glamp­ing.’’

Putting the baby in the sink or a wheel­bar­row is all good for a laugh but Wat­son ac­knowl­edges he gets away with it be­cause ‘‘Dads get away with more than mums’’.

‘‘If a mum was to ab­so­lutely recre­ate my videos shot for shot, they’d be trolled and at­tacked.’’

All par­ent­ing is hard and the aim of the How-to Dad se­ries was to make things a lit­tle lighter for ev­ery­one, he says.

‘‘I would say dads get it eas­ier – not if you’re Clarke Gay­ford – but in gen­eral dads get it eas­ier.’’

Wat­son’s videos aren’t all about par­ent­ing any more – skits on Kiwi slang, the dif­fer­ences be­tween flags and a bit of te reo have all been pop­u­lar.

And he’s proud that some of his most pop­u­lar videos didn’t fea­ture the kids, an im­por­tant fac­tor as his three daugh­ters grew up. ‘‘I don’t want to be drag­ging my 10-year-old out to do a video. The kids love it at the mo­ment but that will change.’’

As well as re­ceiv­ing al­most $85,000 in NZ On Air fund­ing in 2016 for a five-episode web se­ries, two books and paid ad­ver­tis­ing have kept Wat­son how-to-dadding full time.

The col­umn will be a new chal­lenge, de­spite the books he’s launched.

‘‘Ba­si­cally my books are pic­ture books where I’ve taken screen shots from my video and writ­ten new jokes to them.

‘‘This would be the first time you get to read from my weird, try­ingto-be-cre­ative brain and I’ll write about any­thing I’m do­ing as a a dad. To­day I went out fish­ing in the morn­ing, I’m sure I can swing that into a great col­umn.’’

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