Dads are back in a big way on tv this year as Kevin Can Wait and Man With A Plan put fatherhood front and centre on network sitcoms.
In Man With A Plan, Matt Leblanc stars as a dad who trades career roles with his wife. When she gets a big offer to go back to the office, he switches to doing some work at home and takes over the majority of at home duties.
It’s a fish out of water, Mr Mom styled sitcom that, according to some in the dad community, plays off of tired old “dadn’t can’t do it” stereotypes. Kevin Nealon plays Leblanc’s older brother on the show, and dismisses that criticism.
“I don’t know that it’s stereotypes, but we’re talking about a character here who has a certain outlook,” he told me in a phone interview. “I think there’s comedy in everything whether it’s stereotyping, or this particular father role, or the kids, it just depends the spin you put on it.”
It’s hard to toss Nealon on the pile of people who perpetuate the myths that dads can’t do it. He yearned to be a father, and sharing that hole in his life with a makeup artist led to meeting his wife.
He was doing a tv show and they both were in the make up room waiting to go on. While he was getting his makeup done, he was small-talking with the artist and said “You hear of a lot of single actresses in Hollywood adopting kids, do you ever think a single guy could do it?”
Susan Yeagley, now his wife, perked up at that part of the conversation, he looked over, they started small talking and hit it off. Nealon, now 63, is father to a son, Gable, who will turn 10 in January. It’s a late in life joy similar to the story Tom Arnold tells about becoming a dad after 50.
So Nealon sought out fatherhood, and when it finally happened he wrote a book targeted at dads and how they feel shut out of the child-rearing equation.
“A lot of it is kind of learn as you go. You learn what works for your family or for your kids which is what a lot of what this tv show deals with, you know, playing it by ear,” he explains.
“For me, because I was a father later in life, I wasn’t so high strung about taking care of the kid, I was much more relaxed. I wasn’t like hopped up about going out to clubs and missing stuff, because I’d already done that. I was ready for this in my life. “
So he gets it. He understands what it means to be a dad, but as a comedian, he also gets that certain off kilter sense of humour that dads bring to the family unit. That’s very evident in his career choices.
Here’s how you can catch up with Kevin Nealon playing some interesting father figures on Netflix:
And while you’re at it, dig into Matt Leblanc‘s catalog on Netflix too:
Disclosure: I’m a member of the Netflix Stream Team.