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Pittsburgh Dad

on Mon, 12/19/2011 - 00:00

Pittsburgh Dad
Due to circumstances outside of his control, a 29-year-old Justin Halpern was forced to move back home with his San Diego parents in 2009. It turns out that his father Sam had a colorful way of expressing himself, and Justin soon created a Twitter account in order to share those comments on a daily basis with a small group of friends. That group, however, grew into the thousands, hundreds-of-thousands and even millions as “Shit My Dad Says” became an Internet Age phenomenon. Halpern received book offers in the aftermath and CBS even produced a one-season television sitcom based on the Twitter feed with the more politically-correct sounding name $#*! My Dad Says.

Justin Halpern is not the only kid who had an outspoken father while growing up, as well as a childhood that can be looked upon with both nostalgia and humor. On the opposite side of the continent from San Diego is Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for instance, and while the two cities may have dissimilar historical backgrounds and even cultural mentalities, there is not much difference between California and Pennsylvania when it comes to parents and their children—an observation that the web series Pittsburgh Dad ultimately proves.

“Every year they come in the house, and they eat as much candy, cookies, drink as much pop as they can, get all nice and bonkers, and then like to play a little game called ‘Which one of us can break something first?’” Pittsburgh Dad (Curt Wootton) complains in regards to the kids who attend Thanksgiving dinner at his house. While maybe not as flamboyant as Sam Halpern’s observation of a sugar-filled youth—“One Snickers bar, and you’re running around like your asshole is on fire”—it still demonstrates that fathers rant about such topics regardless of which side of the country they reside in.

Pittsburgh is not San Diego, however, and Pittsburgh Dad co-creators Christopher Preksta and Curt Wootton have instilled their paternal figure with the working class persona of a city which often contains the communal aspects of large town rather than a major metropolis. Native Pittsburghers also have their own unique dialect and way of speaking. The word “downtown,” for instance, is annunciated “dahntahn” and the suburb of East Liberty is more often known as S’Liberty. The likes of Coke and Pepsi, meanwhile, are called “pop” instead of soda, the local professional football team is the Stillers, a jerk is a jagoff and pretty much everyone is referred to as “yinz.”

“I don’t know how they do things dahn in Baltimore, but around here we take care of our yards,” Pittsburgh Dad tells unseen neighbor Tom in one episode of the web series. He then adds to himself, “These kids better pick up these toys or I’m running them over with the lawn mower.”

Just as Justin Halpern was reduced to 140 characters when sharing his father’s comments on Twitter, Christopher Preksta and Curt Wootton have kept Pittsburgh Dad equally short with each installment lasting only a few minutes in length. A brief musical introduction brings to mind such classic sitcoms of the 1970’s like All in the Family, while a laugh-track adds to the nostalgic nature of the production.

And nostalgia is ultimately what Pittsburgh Dad is all about. Christopher Preksta and Curt Wootton have worked together on two previous web series—Captain Blasto and The Mercury Men—with Preksta serving as writer/director and Wootton as actor. It was while filming The Mercury Men that Pittsburgh Dad was born, with Curt Wootton entertaining the cast and crew between takes with humorous soliloquies based on his own father. It was only afterwards that Preksta and Wootton decided to film these short outbursts and post them on YouTube.

“When you hear him say the things he says, you’re transported to a time when you were a kid and things were a little simpler,” Curt Wootton explained to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in December 2011 in regards to his character. “Those were great times growing up in Pittsburgh and surrounding areas.”

Both current and former residents of the city apparently agree, as thousands of followers have posted their own thoughts and childhood quotes on the Pittsburgh Dad Facebook page, many of which have served as inspiration for episodes of the web series. Childhood nostalgia isn’t just for Pittsburghers, however, and just as one does not have to be raised in San Diego to be entertained by the short words-of-wisdom offered by Justin Halpern’s father, the same holds true for Pittsburgh Dad.

“We’ll see where it takes us,” Christopher Preksta told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in regards to Pittsburgh Dad. “Is it truly a regional thing or are there enough ex-Pittsburghers nationally to keep driving this? And we are thrilled to see if that character and style is funny enough for non-Pittsburghers to watch as well.”

Given the universality of a child’s often offbeat relationship with their father and the nostalgia of youth, Christopher Preksta and Pittsburgh Dad should have nothing to worry about.

Anthony Letizia

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