My father, Des, was an intelligent, hardworking guy. He was a housepainter who ended up working at the Nestle factory for 30 years. It was the classic left-school-at-15 thing – that’s what you did back in the ’50s.
Dad had simple tastes. He didn’t go in for travelling much. Very happy to stay home. We lived in Warrnambool, which is three hours west of Melbourne. He thought it was paradise, and the older I get the more I probably agree with him.
He was forever telling me, “Get out of bed, you lazy bastard!” I’m not at that point yet. With my son, it’s like, “Stay in bed, can you, for God’s sake! Why are you up at 6am?” His big thing was to work hard. He’d say, “It doesn’t just happen – you’ve got to make it happen”. That inspired a line I had about the dole: you don’t just start getting it – you hav to apply for it.
When I first quit university, my dad was worried I was going to be drawing money off him for the rest of his life. My idea of being a comedian confounded both my parents, who thought, ‘Oh, my God, he’s going to spend his whole life trying to juggle on street corners with a hat!’ Because I wasn’t the life of the party at home. I’m not a naturally extroverted person. But dad would say to me, “You’ve always got a bed at home – remember that.” And that was actually pretty reassuring in the early days.
I never really had a yearning to be a father. I didn’t see kids at the park and think, ‘Oh, I want one of those!’ But when my wife and I started going out, I was 31 and she was 22, and she was like, “We’d better get a move on or you’re going to be too old to be a father”. And look, as soon as my son came along, it does change your life. As I’ve said about fatherhood, you’ve finally got something you’re prepared to die for – and often you hope that day is today.
The hardest part is just the fact you’ve got to be less selfish. You’re sacrificing your own pleasure for theirs basically. I’ve got a set of golf clubs that I haven’t used for . . . it’s very rare now that I’ll say, “Yep, I’m going out now to spend six hours hacking my way around the local course”. Their joy becomes your joy, and you’ve got to accept that.
They’re good for material. I mean, they’re so funny and clever in their own way. I wanted to have one more. I’d say to my wife, “I think one more would be really good for my act”. But that wasn’t a good enough reason, apparently.
I’m often the fall guy for their comedy. My seven-year-old daughter was performing a song about my man boobs the other day. They’ve got license to be funny around me. And they make the most of that license.
Screw-ups as a father? One time, I was in the backyard, on my phone, and I heard a thud behind me. My youngest daughter, who was three at the time, had fallen off the step up to the trampoline onto concrete. She had a bump on her head the size of a bloody tennis ball. I wasn’t very popular with my wife, who said if I hadn’t been glued to my phone it wouldn’t have happened, which is probably true. Another time I was at the aquarium with my son and we were engrossed in an arcade game. I looked up and my two-year-old daughter had gone. I thought, ‘Where the fuck is she?’ I started running around, and I’ll never forget the look on the cleaner’s face when I said to her, “Have you seen a baby?” She popped up about five minutes later, by which time I’d had about four heart attacks.