Comedian Doug Moe’s stage may be the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Manhattan — but the heart of his one-man show is all Brooklyn.
“Doug Moe is a Bad Dad” is based on his parental anxieties in Windsor Terrace and Park Slope, but it’s also about trying to stay cool — even while belting out “A Ram Sam Sam” at a children’s sing-along.
Moe checked in with reporter Kate Briquelet and talked about how acting like a “jackass” is key to winning kids over.
Kate Briquelet: So, Doug Moe, what makes you a “Bad Dad”?
Doug Moe: Dads are thrust into this weird world. They don’t really know what they’re doing, but they’re supposed to seem like they do.
When my daughter was a little younger, we’d go to music classes in Windsor Terrace — one of those things where you’re singing really dumb songs and thinking, “What am I doing?”
If I half-ass it, do I seem cool? Am I ruining the future of my child? I’m trying to be enthusiastically participatory, but I’m also still self-aware. The show is all about that — the anxiety about being a bad dad.
KB: The sing-along anxiety makes it into your show. How did you get through it?
DM: In real life, it’s much better to make a jackass out of yourself. You can’t really look cool waving a scarf around and singing, “Guli guli,” so you may as well try to have fun. Also, after you have a child, you’re not cool. It’s all over. Cool stopped happening as soon as you put on the Baby Björn.
KB: How can dads cope with their new, totally uncool status?
DM: You can spend some time in a coffee shop like you used to… except with a kid.
I recommend Brooklyn Commune on Greenwood Avenue and Steeplechase in Kensington. You do things in the summer, like going to Celebrate Brooklyn. My friend and I saw Sonic Youth last year and brought our kids. You become the person that the childless people tell, “I can’t believe you have a kid here.” If you play it right, the kids become worldly.
KB: What does your five-year-old, Phoebe, think about your show?
DM: She hasn’t seen it. It’s not for kids. But she insisted on putting my postcard in her folder and she promoted it to her kindergarten class. Some of the parents did come, so that was nice of her.
KB: What improv techniques are useful when you’re a bad dad?
DM: A major one is “Yes, And.” You agree to what’s been established and you add more information. It’s how a scene becomes a scene. For instance, “This bakery is really slow today.” We know we’re in a bakery and this person’s opinion is that it’s slow.
There’s a spirit of agreement. When you have a kid, they have lots of stuff they want to do and weird opinions. Use your “Yes, And” attitude. You’re much better off if you can tap into your kid’s kooky theory.
This also goes back to making a jackass out of yourself. I recently met my friend’s 4-year-old daughter and we were walking by a scrawny black dog. To win her over, I said, “Oh my god, look at that bear!” She corrected me. Kids like to lord over you with their knowledge.
KB: The people are clamoring for your show to come to Brooklyn. When will it happen?
DM: I’ve gotten a lot of requests from parents, but I’ve got to milk the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater as much as I can. You know, when I first moved to Brooklyn in ’96, I told a cabbie, “I’m going to Fifth Avenue and 11th Street.” He said, “That’s not Brooklyn, that’s Manhattan. I’m from Canarsie. Park Slope, Brooklyn Heights — that’s Manhattan.” But I’d like to think: Aren’t we all one city?
Reach Kate Briquelet at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling her at (718) 260-2511.