Joel Willis Cracks Dad Jokes For a Living

There is no such thing as the perfect parent. The media brand The Dad understands that; it helps folks around the world learn to laugh at the daily ups and downs of fatherhood through comical memes and videos. Cincinnatian Joel Willis brought the website to life less than a year ago. He now partners with fathers across the globe to create content by dads, for dads—and anyone else who needs a good laugh.

Illustration by Zachary Ghaderi

How did the concept for The Dad come about? I started writing for Scary Mommy, which is a [The] Dad equivalent for moms. [I was] leading their short-form humor team and the owner of that company asked if I’d be interested in starting a dad branch. I was very interested in that concept and if I’d be able to create a brand that dads would be interested in seeing.

How did you make that transition? We wanted to create this not as a mom brand with the pronoun switched. Our two goals for The Dad are to entertain, to provide a source of entertainment for parents who are just exhausted, who don’t take themselves too seriously and just want to have a laugh about it. We also wanted to create a sense of community for modern fathers where they feel like they’re a part of something.

Being a Cincinnati-based father, how do you relate to dads around the world? I think the relatability of the parenting humor is almost universal.

What’s the future of The Dad? We’re living day-to-day. It’s been an all-out sprint. In the early days the focus was on creating content that would go viral for this rapid growth phase where we were accumulating over 200,000 followers a month. Last week we reached over 18 million people. It’s just hard for me to get my head around.

What’s your biggest advice for dads, as a dad, running a site about being a dad? Take the time out of the day to have a laugh, and not just at the expense of your kids, but with your kids. We’re always saying parenting is basically impossible, but at the end of the day we’re all doing the best that we can. Even though it’s extremely difficult, it’s worth it…don’t take any of it for granted.

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