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Pretty Fly For a White Dad

Jimmy Mak is a silly dude.

I imagine the photos accompanying this story sell that sufficiently.

And while the two-decade Shadowbox veteran has made a career of shamelessly playing nerds, jocks, girls, and cops, Mak has now turned author, penning a collection of poems, memoirs, and self-deprecating anecdotes built around one of his most favorite pastimes: mortifying his daughters Riley and Roz.

As if they didn’t cringe enough just hearing the stories of their father earnestly performing as “Phantom J,” in Steubenville, the break dance capital of the River Valley, now they will have his proud dad humor committed to permanent press in the soon-to-be-released Daddies Shouldn’t Breakdance.

But, the book isn’t all of parent trying to embarrass child—Mak also digs deeper, examining his own role as a son, husband, and a brother, recalling colorful tales of his childhood growing up in a hectic household where tough jokes and sibling slaps were run of the mill. His careful placement of earnest poetry makes it that much easier to chuckle at passages of prose such as, “I don’t remember how it started but I do remember Misty dumping some very hot mashed potatoes on Jerry’s arm,” and “I will never forget that sound of the banana peel slapping my brother’s face.” Not to mention sections that feature titles like “The Bubba Jim Chronicles,” and “No Trouble in Little China.”

This month, he put down the cardboard on a loading dock at Shadowbox and gave (614) the back story behind the book.

Okay, so first question: Daddies really shouldn’t break dance, right? Um, I believe I answer that with the title of the book. That’s like asking Maya Angelou, “Hey, do you really know why the caged bird sings?” (I just realized I inadvertently compared myself to Maya Angelou. I apologize and it won’t happen again.)

I feel like it’s every father’s duty to embarrass his children. Perhaps even more so as the father of two girls. Is putting out a book the ultimate way to just scorch the earth in that sense? First off, I never set out to embarrass them. I set out to humiliate them. I figure if they can survive my sense of humor, they’ll be more ready to tackle a world where Kim Kardashian is a celebrity and Donald Trump could be President.

The Kickstarter description is: “A celebration of life’s absurdity, featuring humorous essays, short stories, uncensored observations and poignant poetry.” Poignant poetry? You really are trying to make your kids die from embarrassment, right? Honestly, I was just going for alliteration. I tried “Puffy Poetry,” “Pulchritudinous Poetry,” and even “Poetic Poetry,” but none of those felt right.

Was there any inspiration from other kids’ books? There’s plenty of them out there. How did you feel yours differed? This book is very much for adults. I would compare it to the style of Dave Barry, David Sedaris or Paul Feig but you know, with more f-words.

Is the audience for this book mostly dads? Or families as a whole? Hopefully the audience for this book is everybody. Yes, there are a lot of stories about being a Dad, but there are also stories about being a kid, being a brother, being a neighbor, being a husband and being a dude just trying to figure it all out.

How about your dad? Tell me about how his humor influenced you. Were you embarrassed of it then, but now you appreciate it? My Dad loved the old slapstick-style comedians and used to wake me up way too early on Saturday mornings when there was a Marx Brothers or Laurel and Hardy or W.C. Fields movie coming on. I didn’t know then that it was career training. He used to totally embarrass all of us at restaurants. He had these fake tiny dollar bills and would always pull them out and tell the server he was going to leave them a “small” tip. My whole family did facepalms before facepalms were a thing.

When the book is officially out, how will your girls receive it? I assume you will bring it up, and dust if off every single chance you get, right? Well, they influenced a lot of it so if the book is not well received I’ll make sure they know it’s their fault.

Finally, give me one sentence of advice for other dads out there—that sums up this book in a nutshell:  Never forget that your kid is just you without hindsight.

Daddies Shouldn’t Breakdance will be available via Amazon this fall. For updates, visit kickstarter.com/projects/639106502/daddies-shouldnt-breakdance.

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Travis Hoewischer

I've been working in journalism in central Ohio for more than a decade, and have been lucky enough to be a part of (614) Magazine since the very first issue. Proud to live in a city that still cares – and still reads.

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