YoungMinds uses comedy to inform fathers about children’s health

It’s tough being a dad, says John Ryan, the stand-up comedian who is urging fathers to take a more active role in their child’s development on behalf of YoungMinds.

The Londoner has three children of his own, and brings this experience and that gleaned from hours spent interviewing other fathers for this specially-commissioned comedy show, which recently played at the Soho Theatre, London.

The idea arose from the fact that mothers are far more likely than fathers to contact YoungMinds with concerns about their children’s mental well-being.

According to Ryan, nothing prepares men for the minefield of fatherhood. As if bringing a child into the world and dealing with a stressed-out partner isn’t daunting enough, no one shows you how to hold a baby, let alone spot the subtle behavioural changes that could signal a problem.

To illustrate the difficulty he reeled off a list of the conflicting signs in children’s behaviour that would worry the interviewees: “Too happy, too sad, over-eating, not eating enough, too quiet, too loud, aggressive, defensive, doesn’t go out, goes out too much, and so on”

The parenthood theme allowed Ryan to stray into the familiar territory of blokeish jokes about the differences between men and women.

The audience played a central part, especially the unsuspecting man who faced a test of his baby-holding skills after being dragged to the front and having a life-sized doll thrust into his arms.

When a woman came in late and interrupted Ryan mid-flow during an anecdote about his son’s band, the comedian didn’t miss a trick. Pressing his hands together, he addressed the perplexed woman: “Welcome to our evening worship, come join us as we sing hallelujah.”

It drew plenty of laughter but the church parody was ironic, owing to the fact that critics sometimes view message-based performance as preaching.

On this occasion, though, Ryan’s honest dissection of the role fathers can play in their children’s well-being was suitably entertaining, and struck a successful balance between a light-hearted and serious approach.

➔ Those YoungMinds with John Ryan will be at the Edinburgh festival on Thursday 14 and Friday 15 August. For times and venue visit

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