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 within months. 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,” “You got this!” as well as those quirky, lovably awkward dad jokes.
Kenney said his motivation to do 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 forgiven his father and began making his videos last April during the COVID 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.
He has not only two popular websites, but Kenney also has an upcoming book that’s part-advice, part-memoir due out this spring, potential product endorsements, and possibly a TV show all in the works.
Kenney took time out of his busy schedule to talk about his sudden success, 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?
A. 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?
A. 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 longterm 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?
A. 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 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. Can you give us a tease about your upcoming book, “Dad, How Do I?: Practical ‘Dadvice’ for Everyday Tasks and Successful Living?” Can you share a little something about what we can expect?
A. All I can tell you is that I talk about how family, faith and hope are my strengths and mean everything to me. I also give readers 50 how-to’s, and a few bonus ones as well. Some of them will have illustrations. I hope many of them will resonate. You’re going to have to buy the book!
Q. How do your kids bring you back down to earth regarding your sudden success?
A. 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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