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9 questions with Jeff Clark

From crooning as Gary Starlight at Bread & Circus World Buskers Festival, to spinning yarns as The Story Vending Machine at KidsFest, this stay-at-home writer/performer dad juggles all his roles beautifully, writes KINETA BOOKER.

What sort of dad are you?
I’m probably a cross between stay-at-home-dad, funny dad, cringey dad, grumpy because-I-have-a-deadline dad, and (occasionally) cool dad.

What thing surprised you most when you became a parent?
How much they take in and reflect back at you. You learn a lot about yourself when you see it in your kids.

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How different are you now from before you had children?
My days are more structured, I’m more choosy about the work I say “yes” to (which almost always turns out to be a good thing), and I have less hair.

Your top parenting tip?
It’s also one of the top rules of improvisation: say “yes, and…” as much as you can. Which is just another, fancier way of saying “listen, pay attention and don’t try to block things” – it’s easier to add to an idea and steer it somewhere than stop everything and start over.

Favourite family tradition?
The game Cluedo is always an epic production. We have theme music, we play our characters throughout (often with silly voices) and an accusation is truly a dramatic event. 

What social media advice do you have for parents?
I think parents already get a HUGE amount of advice they don’t ask for, so I’m not going to pile on there. What I will do is ask some social media questions: What do your kids think about being on social media? Where did this latest study/advice/article come from? Who will be able to see this? How long will it be out there? Why are you looking at your phone?

How do you juggle being a working dad?
Juggling is a good word for it. Writing is a reasonably flexible job, but there’s nothing like having the deadline of 3pm to motivate you to get it done. It can be impossible to get anything done with the kids around, and other times it’s really easy – and occasionally better (since I can ask them for ideas). Most of my performing work happens in the evenings or weekends when I can generally get away for a bit without too much trouble.

The thing you enjoy most in everyday life with your family?
Introducing them to a hobby, or a book, film, or game that I love and seeing it light them up too.

You’re known for entertaining kids and parents alike. How entertaining do your own kids find you?
Let’s just say my family are very patient. But seriously, I think my kids are much the same as anyone else’s: they think I’m cool some of the time and totally embarrassing the rest. I’m lucky in that sometimes when I perform they get to hear other kids say they think I’m cool and then they can say “that’s my dad.”

Jeff Clark has been making things up for as long as he can remember. He joined Christchurch’s Court Jesters in 1996 and has been working ever since as an improviser, actor and writer. In July, his kids play The Princess and The Frog (and the Robber!) debuts at The Court Theatre and Jeff will be making up stories around Kidsfest as The Story Vending Machine. 

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