Monday, June 12, 2017

Jerry Seinfeld Talks Fatherhood

Jerry Seinfeld recently sat down for an interview with Mr. Porter ahead of Father's Day, where he was asked about fatherhood. Here are some highlights from the interview:

What kind of father would you say you are?
"I’m not that involved in their school stuff. I’m not involved in their social stuff. I am just always around them and I’m very good at drawing them out, you know? I think some fathers struggle with, “My kid doesn’t want to talk to me,” or, “I can’t get them to engage with me in conversations,” especially as they get into the teen years. I’m always able to get that conversation going. If you start asking them: “What’s going on? What’d you do today?” Nothing – they’re not going to give you anything from that. You need to get in there and I’m good at that. You know, “Did you laugh today? What did you laugh at today?” I’ll ask them a better question than, “What happened at school today?”"

What kind of father would your children say you are?
"I never lose it around them. The one time I really, really got upset was when my daughter was watching the Kardashians on her phone in her bed and I could not take that scene. For someone who for their whole life, television was the Olympics of being a comedian. It was only for the very best. You had to have everything. You had to go through all the different hierarchies of your career to get to television. I’m offended by reality television on many levels and that show of course is the premier example of reality television. These people are not doing anything interesting. I lost my temper with that one."

How naturally did parenting come to you?
"Not naturally. There really needs to be better instructions. For relationships and for parenting. There’s a lot of very basic things that you could tell any guy who’s getting married. I would say it wasn’t until I was married 10 years that I really could put out a nice short manual that I would clip to your sleeve. Here’s what you do, here’s what you don’t do. Wifeology needs to be taught. And Dadism needs to be taught."

What advice would you offer, then?
"Number one, as often as you can, say to your wife, “What can I help you with?” Until she tells you that you’re saying it too much. This is a good father and a good husband. Because you don’t know what needs doing, but there’s something. So ask. A second tip? Anything she’s holding, grab it. Take it. Obviously [if it’s] heavy. Not a phone or her glass of wine. “Right, give me that!” And don’t look for fairness."

What do you think makes a great dad?
"It’s about: “I’m going to take care of you in a way you’re not even going to understand till I’m probably dead.” That to me is what being a great dad is. Just dealing with everything you have to deal with, to hang in there. You’re not going to understand your father till way, way deep in your life. You’re not going to understand what he did, the value of what he did."

You keep your act clean. As a father, is that important to you – to keep the tone elevated?
"Yes, very much. I know everybody’s going to learn the words and everyone’s going to use the words, but in this house around your parents, there’s going to be a respect – for yourself and your comportment and your manner."

Do your kids find you funny?
"Yes, although they can be a tough audience. I had this joke the other day that I tried on them that I thought was really funny which was: “Here’s a statement never heard in the history of New York City: ‘Hey why don’t we get a new awning?’” They just looked at me and they went, “Dad, that’s not funny at all.” They were wrong. I tried it at a nightclub and it got a huge laugh."

Do they ever watch Seinfeld?
"My daughter did and I’d watch her watching it, but I don’t know what she thought of it. And I don’t know if my sons have watched it. I’m really trying to give them just a little bit of the privacy that I had as a child. My parents had no idea what I was up to, ever. I think that’s good. They should have their own life that I don’t know anything about."

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned about fatherhood?
"How completely worldview-changing some of these small moments can be. Like, my son is learning to play the Superman theme song on the piano as a present for my birthday. Catching him doing that, that completely changes your life. He knows I love Superman so he decided he’s going to do that as a present. Tonight I think is the performance. We’re celebrating my birthday tonight."

Read the full interview at Mr. Porter.

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