They say you can find just about anything on YouTube. Maybe even the dad you never had – or at least the fatherly advice and affirmation.
“Hey, kids!” That’s how Internet how-to guru Rob Kenney often greets his more than 3 million subscribers on his popular “Dad, How Do I?” YouTube channel that quickly became a hit. It features his now instant classic DIY videos, including how to tie a tie, “How do I shave my face?” and inspirational messages such as “I am proud of you,” and “You got this!” as well as quirky, lovably awkwarddad jokes.
Kenney said his motivation for the channel stems from his rough childhood after his father left their family when he was a teen. He and his seven siblings longed to have someone to teach them basic survival skills. Kenney has long since forgivenhis father and began making videos last April during the COVID-19 pandemic to share with his two adult kids, Kristine and Kyle, thinking maybe they would be passed down to his grandkids someday.
Now, Kenney, known as the “Internet Dad” among his numerous monikers, has an extended family of all ages.
In addition to his two popular websites, Kenney has written a new book, “Dad, How Do I?: Practical Dadvice for Everyday Tasks and Successful Living,” just in time for Father’s Day. It’s part advice and part-DIY with 50 practical guides and helpful line drawings. He also has product endorsements and possibly a TV show in the works.
Kenney took time out of his busy schedule to talk with USA TODAY about his sudden success, his new book, what’s ahead and how his family keeps him humbled.
Questions and answers may have been edited for length, clarity and flow.
Q: Why do you think your videos have resonated with so many people so quickly? What do you think has been the best advice you think you’ve given through them?
It sure happened by surprise since my first video went viral. I guess you could consider it was the perfect storm.
I only expected to help about 30 to 40 people. Watch the videos to learn how to tie a tie and some car maintenance and fix some other stuff outside the house. I just wanted to leave a legacy for my kids and grandkids. Now, I’ve done stuff on perspectives in your life.
I wasn’t trying to do anything profound. It’s been pretty humbling trying to pour some kindness into the world.
Q: The videos on your channel are about teaching others? What has your channel taught you?
This has all taught me a lot. My wife, Annelli, and I will both be 57 this year, and we were planning for retirement and for a so-called normal life, into our early 60s and then this happened. Now we’re trying to navigate all of this.
On a personal level, it has opened my eyes for the need for men who are fathers to hang in there for their kids. If I can encourage one dad to think long term about that, it’s about making the right choices and decisions for your kids.
The goal for us was to have our kids stand on our shoulders. We tell them, “You can take some more risks than we did because we couldn’t afford to take on more risks like you can.” We’ve tried to encourage our kids, to let them know that we are there for them and to support them in whatever way they can, because they still had to earn their way.
Q: As you know, tech and too much screen time often gets criticized. What good can come from connecting with how-to instructional channels like yours?
My channel is for every age. I’ve had someone say, that “I’m your 70-year-old child,” as I get people who are considerably older than me say they watch me because they miss their dads.
I want (my videos) to be a resource to tap into. My goal was to make them short, but there are certain things where the videos are going to take a little longer to watch.
I’ve started a new series, called ‘Dad Shorts,’ where you may see me answer a question about what kind of sheetrock should you use? I’m trying to keep those in under one-to-two minutes.
I want you to watch, but I definitely don’t want you sitting in front of a screen all day.
Q: Tell us about your new book, “Dad, How Do I?: Practical ‘Dadvice’ for Everyday Tasks and Successful Living?” What can we expect?
It was a great process! I have never written a book before, so it was a bit scary. I talk about how family, faith and hope are my strengths and mean everything to me. I also give readers 50 how-to’s, like how to properly iron a shirt, do laundry, some basic cooking and how to invest and manage money. There are a few bonus ones as well. And some of them have illustrations and a bit of advice that we might be too scared or proud to ask.
Q: Do you have an example?
I always try to encourage fathers to think long-term about the time they spend with their kids because they aren’t going to be 5 or 10 or 15 forever. They are going to be adults some day and if we make quick decisions and say “I’m done,” there could be ramifications down the line. Time marches on; don’t take that lightly. Do your best to be there for them.
Q: You touch on how your older brother, Rick, was a father figure for you when your father walked away, including letting you move in with him and his wife during your all-important teenage years. How important was that?
He made so many sacrifices not only for me but for all of our siblings. We needed each other. Rick is so selfless. He’s read the book, re-read it with me and the chapter about him is about his generosity, all of my siblings’ generosity.
Q: You also write in the book about forgiving your father. Can you tell us a little bit about how that changed your life?
It wasn’t easy but I needed to be able to forgive him in order to be the man that I am today. It was a big turning point in my life. I actually read an audio version of the book about how I forgave my dad, and I broke down a couple of times and cried in the studio. I said to the two other guys there that I needed a couple of minutes to regain my composure.
I’m 57, and forgiveness is huge. I encourage all of us to be more forgiving. None of us are perfect. As a father, sometimes you have to ask your kids for forgiveness when you mess up, and if you lose contact with them because maybe your pride gets in the way, stay connected. Keep connecting with them.
Q: How do your kids bring you back down to earth regarding your sudden success?
They have given me a great perspective about all of this. When this started, it was with my daughter, and she was into it. Then I asked my son, Kyle, because the last thing I wanted to do was have it affect him. And he said, “Dad if I was 9-years-old and you were trying to be a dad to others and not me, I would have a problem with it, but I’m good.”
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Q: Do you have one of your fatherly (a.k.a. bad dad) jokes for us, like you say in your videos?
Ouch! Some I actually laugh at myself. OK, here are a couple:
An antenna and a satellite got married. The wedding wasn’t much, but the reception was incredible…
Oh, my brother actually gave me this one: My son, Kyle, said he doesn’t understand cloning, and I said, “Well, that makes two of us!”