We all have stories that we love to tell about our family. The ones about our dads seem to be the funniest and most entertaining. Now that I am a dad I can think about my childhood and try to relate to what my daughters are experiencing at their age. Do they think I am funny? Am I a push-over? I wonder if I will ever know what they truly thought about how I was as a parent to them. It would be interesting to read what they thought if they ever wrote a book about me as a father.
For film director, writer, and comedic actor, Ben Falcone he penned his thoughts in a book about his father and shares his own stories about being a dad. Being A Dad Is Weird: Lessons in Fatherhood from My Family to Yours is a funny and intimate look at fatherhood that combines stories about his own larger-than-life dad and how his experiences raising two daughters with his wife, Melissa McCarthy, who wrote the Foreword, are shaped by his own childhood.
The book is hilarious and who would doubt it especially if the book was written by the guy who is the actor and writer/director of the films The Boss and Tammy? I had the great pleasure of chatting with Ben about the book, his relationship with his father and what it means for him to be a dad.
Ben lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Melissa and their two daughters.
Art Eddy: I want to say congratulations on your new book, Being a Dad Is Weird: Lessons in Fatherhood from My Family to Yours. I really enjoyed reading this book. Your stories from the past and the present really hit home to me. I love your writing style. What inspired you to write this book?
Ben Falcone: I had an unusual upbringing. I guess we all did, right? My dad is a good sport. I used to tell stories about my dad at parties. So basically parties with my family and friends would basically become more of a roast. I would sort of roast my dad. People tended to enjoy it.
Then I was like maybe my dad doesn’t like it. I didn’t do it once and he was like, ‘Hey why are you not telling these stories?’ So then I thought I should write down some of these stories. One quickly became two and then four. Then I started thinking about what made him the way he is and how I am as a dad today. It really became a fast thing to write. I actually just wrote it to give to my dad as a present. I wasn’t thinking about getting it published, but it all happened later.
AE: You share stories, lessons and life experiences as a son and a father. Did you chat with your dad about some of these stories you were working on for the book and what was his reaction from the book?
BF: He was into it heavily from the beginning. My dad likes the stage. He likes to be heard. He likes when cameras are pointed at him. He is one hundred percent into it. I thought I would get some resistance or he might get upset at some of the graphic and honest telling of stuff that happened way back like when he falls into a Christmas tree or whatever. He was like that is great buddy, let’s keep that in there. He mostly didn’t want things to be cut out.
AE: Right off the bat any parent can relate to your book when you shared the story of trying to watch your daughter perform at a school play in what you awesomely write as a “sea of Steve Jobs’ legacy” meaning that iPhones and iPads are in your way. Do you feel that now parents don’t live in the moment like our parents did back in the day?
BF: Yeah, I do feel that. Just recently I saw a spring sing type of thing at our kid’s school. A bunch of parents hit the video button on their phone for the whole thing. It was like a 25 minute show. You are not going to watch a 25 minute show. When are you watching that?
I feel like back in the day when there were film and cameras you had to think about what picture do I really want? Now we can get them all the time. I feel like it is unfortunate with parents because you just want to be there for your kid. We all have this urge to catalogue and archive everything, but I think it is a dangerous urge that keeps you away from actually communicating and giving your kids an actual thumbs up while they are up there.
AE: I love how you are very honest in the book and you even say at one point to not have your kids read your book. So let me ask you when are you going to let your daughters read your book?
BF: (Laughs.) Oh man. I wonder if there is a way to hide from them for a long, long time. Georgie can’t read it because I say somethings about Christmastime and the truths of those things. My little one can’t read it for sure. I swear all up and down in the book. It is pretty blue. I don’t know if it is blue, but I do use swear words. Maybe when they are both 23.
AE: Kind of like post college? You can be like okay now you can read this book.
BF: Yeah. Now here is the secret book. I am sorry. Enjoy.
AE: What were some of the first few thoughts that popped into your mind when you found out that you were going to be a dad?
BF: The first thing that popped into my head and I literally said it was, ‘Holy S#it.’ (Both laugh.) It is one of those stunners. It wasn’t so much asking Melissa to marry me, but it was more after she said yes. It was one of those, ‘Oh my gosh. This is happening.’ moments. I was really stunned, but then I was really, really excited for sure. I always wanted to be a dad and it has been the best thing that has ever happened to me. That and Melissa for sure.
AE: How do you balance work and family?
BF: Well it is tricky. I would first say that I want to give a shout out to Sylvia, our nanny who is amazing. We had her since basically Georgette was born, which was right about when Bridesmaids came out. She is one of the best people that we know. The first thing we recognized was that we needed help. It was help from a really kind and nice person. So big ups to Sylvia.
I tell people that the work can go on and on. I tell people that I am working with that I am out. I am out and you should be out. Go home. Everyone go home and be with your family. Sometimes if I have a lot of work going on I will get home and put the kids to bed. Then I will finish work when the kids go to bed. That is okay. I just definitely need that time.
I personally can’t just try and finish everything up and I missed them all day. I take them to school every day. They have been razzing me that I don’t pick them up every day. (Both laugh.) I tell them that I am doing pretty good. They tell me that other parents pick their kids up every day. Melissa and I put family first. Whenever we do a project and have to travel we take the whole family with us. We travel as a little weird group. We call ourselves a little circus.
AE: What are some of the core values you look to instill in your kids as they grow up?
BF: I want them to be decent people. The biggest thing and I always say to them is when I ask them what the number one thing is. I say it too many times and they say, ‘Okay, be kind. We got it.’ (Both laugh.) I say yes be kind, but I also say don’t let people walk all over you. If they are kind, which they are, then everything else theoretically for me anyway should fall into place.
The world can kind of be complicated. There is a lot going on at any given time especially when they are older and start having to make their own choices. I really do stand by the idea if you are kind person and if you do your best to try to do a good job every day and you won’t do it every day. You won’t achieve it, but if you try then you are going to be okay. That is the one moral value that I tell them over and over again until their ears bleed.
AE: What advice do you have for new dads?
BF: I would say enjoy it. It is the best thing that you can do. I think in our society we want to do a good job all the time. You should strive for that, but I really would say enjoy it. It is the best thing that is going to happen to you. Enjoy every minute of it.
You always see the old guy when you have a new baby will say, ‘Watch out it goes away in the blink of an eye.’ It is true. My kids are already ten and seven. It is going way too fast. I wish I could stop the clock. That would be my biggest advice. Just enjoy yourself.
Life of Dad Quick Five
AE: Do you guys have a favorite family movie that you all love to watch together?
BF: It does change from moment to moment. What has been cool is that we used to watch all kiddo movies, which so many of them are just great like the Moana’s of the world. Now that they are getting a little older we started introducing them into movies like Big with Tom Hanks. That might be the one that we watch. I was concerned our seven year old wouldn’t love it. They both loved it. They ask questions about it. We just have to fast forward a few couple parts. I think there actually something fun about watching a movie that you enjoy. You know where the part is that you have to scoot over. I think Big would be our favorite right now.
AE: Do you guys have a favorite song that you all like to sing to or dance to as a family?
BF: We are heavily into David Bowie these days. The girls love Davie Bowie. They are all about Space Oddity. They call it ground control to Major Tom. I am trying to get them into Heroes and Changes. They like those, but that is the one we all sing. They all dance when Melissa puts on World music. They all go crazy.
AE: Describe the perfect family vacation.
BF: Some place quiet, but where there is stuff to do. So it would be like Hawaii or Paris. We like going to New York, but we just want to go to a place where it can be quiet. The most fun for me is when we just get to hang out and the kids get to be weird. They tell us their opinions about stuff and we are like, ‘Oh my gosh really?’ That is most fun thing for me for sure.
AE: Was there a book or movie that inspired you to get into the entertainment business?
BF: As a kid I had watched a lot of stand- up even though I never ended up doing stand-up because I was a coward. I really loved Robin Williams, George Carlin, Eddie Murphy and Richard Pryor. I watched every episode of the show Cheers. So maybe it was that. I started to know every line. I think that took me on the path of writing. My mom would come in and ask why I was watching it because you know all the words.
AE: Who would you love to work with on your next project?
BF: There are so many people. Tom Hanks comes to mind since just seeing Big when I think he was like 32 at the time. He comes to mind for sure. Meryl Streep. Let’s throw her in there. I would really want to work with our friend Octavia Spenser. We have known her forever. Somehow we haven’t worked together. I could go on and on, but those are the three that I would start with.
Follow Ben on Twitter at @benfalcone and purchase Being a Dad Is Weird: Lessons in Fatherhood from My Family to Yours wherever books are sold.