The BBC Dad’s Weird Year as the World’s Most Famous Parenting Meme

Robert Kelly's interview interruptus is the most viewed piece of content on the BBC Youtube Channel.

by Raz Robinson

Life has been “fun, and sometimes weird,” for the Korean politics professor who became the subject of a viral video after his two children stormed into his office while he was being interviewed by the BBC on live television. Affectionately dubbed “BBC Dad,” Robert Kelly went begrudgingly viral. The year that followed was, for the father of two, rather odd. On the anniversary of the incident, he detailed what it’s been like for Lowy Institute blog. The TL; DR version: weird.

Since his kids hilariously disrupted his interview segment, Kelly hasn’t actually discussed the incident publically very much. Most of his public statements are about the sorts of thing that one might expect a Korean politics professor to talk about: Korea mainly. Still, Kelly doesn’t seem to lament the experience and actually has more fun stories than bizarre ones.

His post-viral year-in-review post starts by addressing some of the most burning questions and ridiculous accusations he’s been faced with since the video of his interview went viral.

“No, we did not stage this. Our children were 9 months and 4 years old, respectively, at the time. I cannot imagine trying to coordinate anything this complicated with children of that age. Sorry, it was just a legitimate family blooper…. Yes, I was wearing pants. I did not stand up because, as they say, the show must go on. Had I stood up and broken out of frame, any semblance of professionalism would have been lost. I was hoping throughout the 45-second interruption that the BBC correspondent, James Menendez, would simply end the interview and I would be saved.”

Kelly finds his family’s notoriety shocking, but not altogether negative. Fans of the video often stop Kelly and his family just to get proof that they’ve seen or met him. He may be the only person to make the C-list by accident. Some go-getters in Brooklyn even made an utterly pointless cartoon based his family life. Kelly is dad-chill about all of it.

“I was photographed buying milk at Costco once, because apparently BBC Dad’s calcium consumption is a hot issue…Total strangers routinely ask us for pictures or autographs, or just photograph us anyway. A cop in South Korea once pulled me over to ask for a selfie…. It is quite a curious sensation to be a quasi-celebrity, especially when you haven’t really done anything to earn it…. As it is, we are famous simply because our children are cute and precocious, which is pretty much how everyone’s kids are. But whatever the reason, my wife now tells me I cannot go outside wearing grungy clothes because someone will recognise me. A loss for me but a gain for civilisation, I suppose.”

Usually, people who go viral spend the following months or years just kind of riding that wave, but the biggest upside for the Kelly has very little to do with money and more to do with his occupation. In fact, in the post, he made it abundantly clear how little money the video specifically has made for his family.

“Yes we have profited from it a bit. In the months after the video, we were solicited a lot for commercials and things like that. But most of the offers fell through…. I am solicited more frequently for my opinion on North Korea and North East Asian security and I get invited to interesting places I would not visit otherwise. This is flattering. And it is fairly amazing how far the video travelled…. I was asked to speak at the Omani National Defense College in Muscat. The coordinator had seen the video, and so had most of the students at the event. Who knew BBC Dad was a hit in the Arab world too?”

Kelly wrote that he’s thankful that, unlike most viral videos where the person in the video is being humiliated, hurt, or scared, his video went viral for something “positive.” Still, he did admit that “the politics of it” have been strange.

“There was not much of this, but the political scientist in me caught it. From the right, one of the very first messages (of the thousands we received) was from a neo-Nazi type calling me a “race traitor.” This was predictable; anyone in an interracial relationship has experienced it. But, to be fair, there was little of that…. More curious were the responses from the left, which tried to read some kind of race-gender narrative into the video. So my wife’s scuttling along the floor (in a vain attempt to stay out of frame) became some sort of metaphor for white-male social power in Asia…. The episode was just a family blooper.”

Kelly closed his post by talking about the overwhelmingly positive response that other parents have shown him in the wake of the video.

“We received thousands, perhaps ten thousand, communications following the video. People wrote emails, called us, solicited us via social media, sent us gifts, and so on…. Parents in particular saw themselves in our shoes, struggling to balance work and life. As work becomes more flexible due to smartphones, super-light laptops, the cloud, and so on, it increasingly follows us home. I do a lot of my job from my home office, including most of my TV appearances. Many of the comments we received were from parents who had had similar experiences, such as locking themselves in the bathroom so their kids could not interrupt a radio interview…. We were very moved by them [the responses].”

Though getting an update on BBC dad is surely fun for fans of the video, Kelly said that the blog post will likely be his last public statement about the incident.

“Peak interest in it has passed,” Kelly wrote ruefully, “making way for the next dancing cat video