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