Dad Knows Best

Go inside the mind of YouTube sensation 'Pittsburgh Dad.'

"That wasn’t a mascot convention!” exclaims Pittsburgh Dad. “Them were furries!” There go the ultra-local, familiar jags in Pittsburgh Dad, a Web series created by Christopher Preksta and Curt Wootton. As the titular Dad, 33-year-old Wootton wears giant glasses and uncomely outfits as he humorlessly rants about everything from lawn care to movies. His monologues are short, breathless and punctuated by a sitcom soundtrack. Unlike Preksta and Wootton’s retro-science fiction hit Mercury Men, Pittsburgh Dad is statically shot on an iPhone 4S. Nevertheless, the makeshift series has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times on YouTube, causing nearly every Pittsburgh native to cackle with familiarity. Wootton talked with us about life as an irate (fictional) father.

How did this whole thing come about?  
I’ve been doing impressions of my family since I was a kid. While we were filming Mercury Men, we entertained the cast and crew with an impression of my father and grandfather — just to keep energy up. So after the series debuted, Chris and I were searching for our next project, and he said, “Hey, let’s just film that character you were working on.” So we stopped at Goodwill and bought some corny glasses and some Dad-esque shirts, and threw a couple episodes on the Internet.

What’s it like going from Mercury Men to this?  
It’s a lot more laid back — not that I didn’t have a blast on Mercury Men, but we were always on a time crunch.

So, what’s your process?  
Throughout the summer, we have the titles of the shows we’re going to shoot. Then we write a couple of pages of little jokes. We’ll go and film. We do an improv round, which is where some of the gold comes from. Chris picks out the best takes, and then we add a laugh track and we’re done.

How did the laugh track come about?  
It’s been there since the beginning. Chris and I found a couple of laughs on his computer — you know, like stock laughs — and I said, “Why don’t you throw that onto the episode?” And it just works.

This show seems ripe for live performance.
My training is actually in theater. We are planning on doing a live stage show, sometime in the future. We’re just coming up with a viable script that is suitable for a stage production. We’ve mentioned it on WDVE. We haven’t officially announced it, but it’s something that seems fitting.

What’s ahead for Pittsburgh Dad?
We don’t want the show to get stale. We want to continue with this format, as long as the material’s fresh and we get a good response. We were even thinking about bringing in the characters we’ve been talking about, turning it into a sitcom.

How would you describe Pittsburgh Dad?  
He’s an everyman type father. He’s blue-collar — working class. He’s trying to raise a proper family, keep his property intact, and deal with the trials and tribulations of life in Pittsburgh. My father was raised in Bloomfield. He absolutely loves the show and is one of our biggest supporters. He still claims that he doesn’t act like this, but as anyone who knows him will tell you, it’s absolutely dead-on. I don’t think there was a Christmas where a cat wasn’t in the tree. We had pets the entire time growing up, mostly cats and dogs; my dad never wanted any of them. If he’s not yelling at animals, something’s wrong with the day.

Do you find yourself becoming your father?
I guess we’re all slightly doomed to become our parents — but I’m not to the extent that he is. ’Cause I don’t even have kids.

Are you looking into other ventures?
We are always on the lookout for the next project. It’s just so easy to go out there and do it yourself. If we can create another show, that’s great. I really enjoy drama. I really like action-packed roles, like sci-fi. And I totally adore comedy. I’ve written a lot of comedy. I’m a student of all aspects of acting. I want to stay in Pittsburgh. I love it here, except for the winter. The people are great; the city’s great. If I can make a career here as an actor, then I will.

If Pittsburgh Dad were real, would you hang out with him?  
No. (Laughs) He’s the type of character who can never relax; he could be lying on the beach, and he just couldn’t relax. He’d be thinking of something that he should be doing. It would be very unnerving.

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