You know Ben Falcone. You’ve seen his face screwed up in an incredulous expression while serving drinks on New Girl or in horrified pleasure while making not-quite-sweet, 30,000-foot love to Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids. He’s the guy who guilelessly steals the scene. He’s also sometimes the guy who wrote the scene in the first place. The 2016 comedy The Boss, was a McCarthy-Falcone joint. So are Vivian and Georgette, their teenage daughters. The two have been inseparable since they met in 1998 while part of the Groundlings and married since 2005.
With Hollywood productions on hold, Falcone has turned his focus to Instagram, where he’s managed to nail that sweet spot other famous folks can’t quite hit: His posts, which interrogate the weirdness of drive-by birthday parties and the perfection of floppy-haired crooner Harry Styles, are sweet and unforced. He’s a jokes guy and he’s got jokes. He’s also got an agenda; he’s using the platform to raise money for a grassroots organization that has a simple mission, feeding the frontline workers in hospitals.
Falcone says his daughters love the idea, but have yet to fork over any money. “They better start,” he laughs.
Falcone spoke to Fatherly about giving up on regulating screen time, the power of silliness, and how home-schooling became a multi-generational endeavor.
Your Instagram videos are delightful. Who knew that natural deodorant was not a good choice during a pandemic? It’s great how you casually mention that you work out. Very nice, very sly.
I’m not very good at social media and I don’t think I take it all that seriously. But in quarantine, I found myself watching Instagram a lot more. I’m sure you do, too. So that’s when I started making more videos, that was about when the quarantine started. So I can honestly tell you there’s never been a thought of mine put into this. I never thought, this is what the video should be like. It’s more about, here’s what happened to me today. Like my natural deodorant is definitely not working. And then I’m going to drink beer because I really need to do something just to smooth it out.
And you two having that Good Vibrations moment was gold.
Oh yes, Melissa’s dream. One time, Melissa woke up and goes, ‘I had this dream that we’re roommates with Mark Wahlberg.’ And of course I was like, oh jeez. He’s like so good looking. So we started talking about how what if he was our roommate and he was a little snippy with us. Like maybe we weren’t holding up our end of the deal.
Let’s talk about Frontline Foods, a cause that is very dear to you. How did you get involved, and why was it important for you to do something?
And our friend Octavia Spencer was doing it here with some friends of hers. And our friend Joel McHale simultaneously was going out doing Instagram videos about restaurants that he didn’t want to go out of business. So we were like, let’s put two and two together. You know, like, let’s combine these restaurants with the frontline people that need them. So we started doing this little, you know, mom and pop organization. And then we learned about Frontline Foods. Somebody got us in touch with them and they said, we’re doing the exact same thing. And we have a lot more resources. It’s all like tax deductible. It’s a project driven by the passion of all the volunteers. So we’re excited about it. We love supporting it.
We’re all at home and feeling pretty powerless. And so that just seemed like a thing that we could do. We just thought, what an amazing thing when we’re just stuck here and I can’t cure anybody of anything. I can’t. The only thing I know to do is make people laugh once in a while. It just became the thing that started small and now it’s gotten bigger and bigger. We’re delighted.
Speaking of beer, how’s the whole homeschooling thing going?
They’re doing so well in their online school and stuff. I’m really proud of them. But, you know, it’s trying for all of us. Right. And so by about 12:45, I’m like, OK, you’ve earned this one. Done. Let’s go for it.
Melissa is good at math. So she’s been helping with that. Our 13-year-old just does her thing and she finishes writing and then we kind of follow up with her out about that. How did that go? How did that go? And the 11-year-old, it’s a lot more like there’s a zoom and then you have to do an hour of work. So Melissa does the math. And then I do the English.
My parents are in Illinois. My dad was an English teacher. And my mom has a masters in English. And so Georgie, the 11 year old, she calls them both and they do her reading with her. It’s really sweet. And also it’s weird because I’m like, wait a minute, I think I just got like 30 minutes handed to me.
You know comedy. You know the importance of comedy. Why is it important for people to laugh, even during these very dire times?
I know that if I get a good laugh or two in a day, it has always meant a lot to me. But maybe now it even means more to me, you know, because you turn on the news and there’s nothing good going on. I think there’s a silent, invisible fear. It could be anywhere. Did you touch your face today? So I think anytime in any way, anyone can get a laugh out of me, I’m thankful.
I’ll check the news right in the morning. People are angry at each other and there’s a death count. How I find the humor is I don’t ignore it, but I find humor in the small stuff. I definitely find the humor in lovingly annoying my kids. I’ll stay here and work on some new dance stuff. I tell them I want them to check it out. They really don’t want to see it. But I tell them I worked really hard on it. I just make them watch for a minute and they either laugh or leave the room.
What do you do to stay sane?
I’ll do some cardio. I take bike rides with my younger daughter. I’ll take walks with my older daughter. And I’ll just do a 45 minute workout. It has been good for me to sweat a little bit so I don’t scream or cry. So I think that has been helpful. Also if I can do it in the morning that I feel like I earned my beer and also I do enjoy it, letting people know just very casually, without even barely mentioning it, that I worked out.
Just about all parents say that one positive here is being able to spend more time with the kids.
We’re a pretty optimistic bunch around here. The girls clearly miss their friends a lot and Zoom just doesn’t do it. But with that said, to get to spend so much time with them and to get the story out of them that they probably wouldn’t have told you — you hear things that are just so funny and so great and so indicative of their character and who they are right now. I mean, if there are any positives to come out of this whole pandemic, it’s getting to spend that quality time with your kids. This is one of them.
You’re in your second decade of fatherhood. What’s been the single most vital part of being a dad for you?
I think that’s a good question. I think when I see my kid do something cool, that’s just uniquely them that I didn’t expect them to do. Obviously, every kid is creative at every age. But now that they’re 13 and 11, I mean, they’re definitely getting into their own universes. Our 11-year-old got those blue light glasses and she loves the glasses and wears them all day. The older one has just started painting maniacally. I can’t stop her from painting. And it’s great.
How do you handle chores and responsibilities? And having kids who understand that they’re privileged and oh so lucky? It’s an ongoing issue for so many parents.
That’s an everyday thing. I think every parent has that job. You don’t want a kid who feels entitled, who doesn’t have to put away dishes or make the bed. Melissa and I, we stay on them. They have to know that they have to help out. Magic angels don’t come and make their food and then take away their plates. I think it’s important to just teach them at a really young age: Look after your own stuff. Think about other people. And while obviously there are slip ups, our girls are really good at doing that.