How My 83-Year-Old Dad And I Bonded Over ‘Stairway To Heaven’

Whole lotta love.

by Alison Zeidman
Originally Published: 
Dave Hill Talks About His Father's Career Advice

You might know comedian/writer/musician/actor Dave Hill from Inside Amy Schumer, @midnight, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, The Goddamn Dave Hill Show on WFMU, This American Life, or any of his other impressive credits. He also just published a new collection of essays titled Dave Hill Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, which explores how his relationship with his dad has evolved since his mother passed away in 2010, how he has matured, and what he’s learned through doing things like singing in Mexican prisons and taking martial arts classes he wasn’t emotionally or physically prepared for.

Growing up, Hill’s father was always quietly supportive of his son’s creative pursuits, even if he wasn’t sure how long he’d need to borrow money. Of course, today the 83-year-old Bob Hill enjoys having a son who travels all over the world to perform stand-up and is nationally recognized for his humor writing. Even Dick Cavett likes him. And Bob’s heard of Dick Cavett.

On Influencing His Sense Of Humor

“He’s not a joker, really. He’s not overly serious, but I think he influenced my sense of humor more in that I was trying to ruffle his feathers. I was maybe trying to upset the balance of the family. With 5 kids, it became sort of my way of getting my own attention.”

On Showing Affection

“He’s a super loving, warm guy. We’re not WASPs, but when I see my dad, we shake hands like gentlemen. We don’t hug really. It’s just a different, Irish-Catholic sort of humility across the board. If I did something my parents were really excited about or proud of, they would be like, ‘Oh, that’s nice.’”

On Supporting His Career (Emotionally)

“It was never dismissed as ‘Oh, that’s silliness.’ When I got into stand-up comedy, on the one hand my parents were like ‘Oh, that makes sense,’ but on the other hand they were like ‘Oh, it’s the last thing — he refuses to get a conventional job, now he’s doing the hardest thing he could possibly do.’ It was more that they just wanted me to be OK and not be homeless or turning tricks or something.”

On Supporting His Career (Financially)

“I think [when I first started having success] my dad was like ‘Oh, he’s not broke, he’s not calling home for money anymore, I don’t care what he’s doing.’ If I was really desperate they wouldn’t let my whole life fall apart, but they just knew I had to figure it out and get on my own path and figure out what I was doing.”

On Stairway To Heaven

“We both love Led Zeppelin — he plays piano and I play guitar, so we made this video of us playing ‘Stairway to Heaven’ together and it’s on YouTube. He got a really big kick of doing that. He’s kind of warming up to the things that I do. He’s not a stern, judgmental guy; he’s just from a background where he would never think of doing the things that I’m doing for work.”

On Giving The Right Words Of Encouragement

“At one point a few years ago he said to me, ‘You’re kind of doing all the things that I would have liked to have done had I not decided to become a family man and have a career and all that.’ So he sort of enjoys living vicariously through my experiences. I try to always give him a call whenever I’m touring, especially internationally, because he gets a big kick out of it.”

On Showing Them Work They Can Understand

“Being able to hand my dad a tangible thing that I did [like a book], that motivates me. I want to do it anyway, but I also want him to see a physical thing that I’ve produced. I could show my parents a book and they know what a book is, but when you say ‘I’m on some show on cable at midnight’ they’re like ‘What? We don’t even have cable. What are you talking about?’”

On How His Dad Feels Being Part Of The Joke

“I know he read the most recent book, and I’m pretty sure he read the first one. He’s made comments that suggest he’s read the first one. This one is a lot more about my dad and I in the aftermath of my mother’s death, and he was hearing from other people ‘You’re really in this book a lot,’ so he was inclined to check it out. And he was really happy with it.”

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