For Twin Cities comedy dads, fatherhood means learning to take things a little less seriously
On March 28, Gabe Noah and his wife, Alison, welcomed their first child into the world. The next night, he was on stage in front of a room full of strangers, making jokes about what his life was like 48 hours earlier before he was a father.
Welcome to the world of dad comics.
When most people think of “dad comedy,” they think of bad puns and bright white tennis shoes (the official footwear of dads everywhere). Not in the Twin Cities comedy scene. Here, more and more comics are splitting time between slinging jokes and changing diapers.
For Noah, being a dad has meant changing how he approaches his subject matter, whether that means easing up on some of his old jokes or tailoring them to reflect his new lifestyle. “I mainly talk about my life in my act, so I knew it would change,” he says. “I fear I’ll be Tim Allen by September. And yeah, it makes some of my jokes about drug use or shitting or testicles feel a little silly.”
But just because he now has his very own mini-me running around doesn’t mean Noah is ready to completely loose his edge. “I never wanted to be a ‘wife and kids’ comic,” he explains. “And I don’t think I will be. But obviously they are a big part of my life, so it just makes sense that they would become a big part of my act. That being said, [being a husband and a father] makes the jokes where I shit on my wife seem meaner—but she is mean to me, too, so I’m going to keep doing it.”
While some comedians wait to have children and start a family until they’ve become firmly established in their careers, others start their standup careers with a family. Rick Logan, for example, is a veteran of comedy clubs all over town (he started as an improviser with the iconic Brave New Workshop company in the ’90s) but didn’t start doing standup until he was in his forties. “The idea of doing standup comedy scared the crap out of me,” he laughs. “Me and a friend used to go down to Acme on Monday nights to watch their open mic, and every week we’d try and convince each other to try it. Finally, we agreed to get onstage and give it a shot.”
Logan took to standup quickly, winning Acme’s Funniest Person Contest in 2008 and building a reputation as one of the funniest up-and-coming talents in the area. But for Logan, a father of three, the lonely road to standup stardom was less appealing than being a family man. “I’ve heard people refer to me as a hobby comic,” he says. “That term used to bother me, but now I’m actually okay with it. I’ve got a day job, a family; I don’t need to go out and be touring away from all of this.”
While he may not be aspiring to travel the globe in search of fame, Logan has managed to become somewhat of a local celebrity. Fortunately (or unfortunately), his wife and kids have no problem keeping him grounded when he’s home. “I have three daughters, and whenever I’m talking to them they’ll ask me if I’m actually trying to have a conversation or if I’m working on a new bit,” he says.
When asked if he cringes at the term “dad comic,” Logan laughs and offers some advice to younger comedians that only a father could appreciate. “When I see younger guys having kids now, I think about how some of their eyes glazed over back when I first started doing jokes about my kids. Now I tell them, ‘welcome to the club!’”
Two members of the younger class of comedians who are now a part of the dad club include Valley Meadows partners Chris Knutson and Zach Coulter. Knutson has actually been a father for a little over two years, and became a viral sensation thanks to a video he made about his new baby meeting a teddy bear for the first time. For him, embracing dad life was empowering.
“Once I had my son, I gained a confidence on stage that I didn’t have before,” Knutson says. “I became less focused on pleasing the audience because having my family at home was more important. It was great that the audience couldn’t hold my happiness hostage anymore.”
Coulter’s journey into fatherhood has just begun—his wife gave birth to their first child less than a month ago. While it was a major change, it is one that Coulter has embraced wholeheartedly. “I knew that I wanted to be a dad, and just made the decision to make everything else work with that,” he says.
While he’s currently too busy with feedings, diapers, and burpings to think much about his stage career, Coulter says that the shift in his outlook on comedy has already become apparent. “Before, nothing really mattered because I only had to worry about myself (when it came to comedy),” he explains. “Now everything really matters.”
Though Coulter is the first to point out that comedy can be an unforgiving business, he attributes all of the greatest gifts in his life to his decision to perform comedy. “I have my wife, my best friend, and my child because of comedy, and I wouldn’t change that for anything.”