Actor, writer, director and self-confessed ‘Bad Dad’ Chris Dingli has been in the performing arts business for the best part of the past 20 years.
Over the last few years Chris has been writing, producing and performing his own comedic material, which have included shows, such as The Comedy Knights, Bad Dad, Shakeshorts and, his latest, a one-man show, Battleship.
Chris currently divides his time between Malta and London, where he lived for over 11 years.
“I absolutely, utterly and unequivocally did not want to have kids.”
Chris became a dad 3 years ago and admits having children was never something he was very keen on.
“Bad Dad came about as a bit of a therapeutic exercise for me. You see, I really didn’t want to be a dad. This wasn’t a simple fear of responsibility that most people have when they first think about parenthood. I absolutely, utterly and unequivocally did not want to have kids.
In fact, I have a theory which I refer to in the show, that says that whilst the majority of people are naturally inclined towards having kids at some point in their life, a minority aren’t. There’s nothing wrong with that, it just doesn’t suit their nature and temperament. I believe that I am one of those people.
So when our first child was born, I found it very difficult to adjust. Nothing that anyone had told me about being a parent seemed accurate or even remotely true. However, I was resolved to try and be the best dad I could, so I started writing this show as a way of documenting my fears, failures, wins and observations.”
“Parents I spoke to about fatherhood before I had my first child completely undersold it. To anyone reading this who hasn’t had a child yet: It’s insane”
1) What surprised you the most about fatherhood?
“Just how all-consuming it is! I knew that it is a tough job and I expected to be busy, but I hadn’t expected to it to be quite so extreme. I mean there’s no time left for anything else! There are no breaks. I hadn’t expected it to be such a constant, hands-on experience. Parents I spoke to about fatherhood before I had my first child completely undersold it. To anyone reading this who hasn’t had a child yet: It’s insane. Almost every waking moment will be spent sorting out their s**t.”
“The best moments are when they’re both sleeping. Ok, that’s a joke (not really).”
2) What has been the most challenging aspect of fatherhood in your experience?
“Getting used to it. I wasn’t exactly looking forward to becoming a dad and adjusting to fatherhood took a while. In fact, I found it so challenging, I wrote a show about it!”
3) What has been the best moment for you as a father?
“The best moments are when they’re both sleeping. Ok, that’s a joke (not really). This is going to sound really corny, but the best moments are the little ones. An unexpected hug. A smile. Slipping their hand into yours when out for a walk. Seeing them achieve something as simple as managing to eat a mouthful of mushed carrots without first smearing it all over their face. The little things are the best.”
“I’ll admit, I don’t really understand people who shed their personality to become simply “mum” or “dad” when they have kids.”
4) How do you feel having kids has an impact on relationships?
“I think it definitely does have an impact. My wife and I have had to adjust to a very different dynamic in our relationship. Sometimes it’s easy to forget you’re also a couple and not just “mum and dad”.
There’s a relationship between the parents that existed before kids came along and that must continue to be taken care of. I’ll admit, I don’t really understand people who shed their personality to become simply “mum” or “dad” when they have kids. People are so much more than that. I think it’s much more inspiring to your child to show them the multi-faceted, contradictory, flawed, interesting person that you are, rather than simply super mum or super dad.
Of course having kids at home has affected our social life. Most of our friends also have kids of a similar age, but I do sometimes miss having the freedom of just going out whenever it takes my fancy. I am a person who abhors routine and, well, kids need routine. So you can see where there might be some conflict of interest.”
“Cuddles and tickles (are the best)..Until they accidentally kick you in the balls.”
5) What is the best thing you ever bought as a dad?
“A bottle-preparing machine (I can’t believe I just said that). It’s a machine that prepares bottles of milk for you. All you need to do is press a button. I know it makes me sound lazy, but its awesome when preparing a bottle at 2am. Apart from that, my kids are still too young to be playing with toys that I’d appreciate having around the house. Just wait until they’re older though.”
6) Where is your favourite thing to do with your kids?
“Cuddles are the best. Cuddles and tickles. Until they accidentally kick you in the balls.”
7) Any advice for new dads out there?
“Look, it all depends on where you’re starting from. How excited are you about having kids? There isn’t a one-size-fits-all fatherhood experience. Similarly, I don’t think you can dish out advice that will apply to just about anyone, so what follows is going to be rather generic, although I think it holds true.
“It’s cliched, but they really do grow up fast. Good luck and if you need any help, don’t call me.”
To any future dads, I’d say keep an open mind, support your partner (I’m not only referring to the financial aspect here), try and understand your kid (as incredible as it may sound, kids are born with a personality – it’s not something that you create for them) and adjust your expectations and parenting methods accordingly.
Your fatherhood experience may be completely different to what you expected, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Don’t compare yourself to others. Seek advice but be prepared for people to tell you the stupidest things imaginable. At the end of the day, you and your partner will know what’s best for your child (this ties in with the keeping an open mind thing I mentioned earlier).
Try and see my show, Bad Dad, if you can. I think that can help, especially if you’re a reluctant father. Otherwise, try and enjoy it and spend as much time with the kid as possible. It’s cliched, but they really do grow up fast. Good luck and if you need any help, don’t call me.”
“(Bad Dad) has been performed with great success in Malta, London, Birmingham and at the Brighton Fringe Festival and Edinburgh Festival Fringe. In 2018, it will be performed in several cities in the United States, including New York.”
8) What do you think it is that has made ‘Bad Dad’ so successful?
“Bad Dad is a five-star reviewed comedy about winning fatherhood badly. It documents the trials and tribulations of the first year of my life as a new dad. It has been performed with great success in Malta, London, Birmingham and at the Brighton Fringe Festival and Edinburgh Festival Fringe. In 2018, it will be performed in several cities in the United States, including New York.
I think its success boils down to two factors: it’s honest and it’s funny. I’m very truthful in telling the story, warts and all, and I think people appreciate that. It’s also a comedy, which means that even people without kids enjoy it.
Unfortunately this show is no longer being produced in Malta, but I have several other shows that are, including my kids show: ‘Shakeshorts presents A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ which is a 40-minute laugh-out-loud show full of mayhem, songs and puppetry that brings fun and learning to Shakespeare (yes, Shakespeare).”
I wanted to write a show that would serve as an awesome introduction to Shakespeare and that would entertain both kids and adults alike (like Pixar movie would, for example). So I chose Shakespeare’s greatest comedy and adapted it so that it will engage an audience of kids aged 7-12.
It’s an interactive piece, with the kids participating in the action, driving the show. In that way, they come to understand the story, the characters and the themes in the play, whilst also starting to understand some of Shakespeare’s language.The show was originally commissioned by ŻiguŻajg International Arts Festival for Children and Young People 2016 and performed with great success.
It has since been performed in schools and the feedback has been amazing from both kids and adults, who really do seem to enjoy it just as much as the kids!” Read what past audiences have to say about the show here.
What makes you happy?
Rain. Call me nuts, but I love a cloudy, rainy day.
What is your favourite food?
I never say no to pizza.
What is your favourite drink?
I enjoy a strong, black coffee.
What is your favourite TV series?
Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead.
Best place you travelled to?
I have yet to visit a place I didn’t like (although some places I visited in the UK whilst performing on tour there came close!) Favourites include Seattle, San Francisco, Boston, New York, Paris, Rome. I just realised those are all big cities, however, I’m also a fan of feeling cut off from the rest of the world. Some parts of Cornwall feel very isolated. Oddly enough, I’m not a fan of hot islands with scorching summers and mild winters.
What do you admire in people?
Integrity and honesty. I also like people who are comfortable in their own skin and don’t feel the need to impress.
What do you despise in people?
Self-absorption and pettiness. I’m not a huge fan of small talk either. Oh and those people who say things like “I’m sorry, it’s just who I am” when insulting someone else. Like you can’t help being rude!
What are your hobbies?
I’m not much of a hobbyist, although I recently started playing the viola with the Malta Youth Orchestra (yep, they accepted someone of my age too).
Any hidden talents?
I can make a bottle of milk with my eyes shut, hungover, with a screaming baby in one hand and a splitting headache (I said I can do it, but I don’t. I have a bottle making machine for that!)