Mark Chalifoux

Mark Chalifoux

Mark Chalifoux is a stand-up comedian who has been featured on Fox and IFC and has made national radio appearances on The Bob and Tom Show, SiriusXM and BBC Radio. As a writer, Mark has contributed to ESPN.com, CBS Digital, The Baltimore Sun, The Cincinnati Enquirer and The Chalifoux Family Christmas Newsletter. Mark is the father to a beautiful and amazing daughter and her sister.

The Worst Sport for Parents, Zion’s Block and Rivers Defends Dad

(Getty/Steve Nagy Twitter/ESPN/Bleacher Report)

My daughters are still in the kids sports limbo of scoreless soccer, so I haven’t made the jump into the world of being a sports dad just yet. But as we’re getting closer, it makes me wonder, what is the worst sport for your kid to play?

After several compulsory tours in the soccer world, I transitioned to basketball in middle school, playing on a team where everyone had to play at least a little bit of the game. I didn’t even know that was required until the morning after a game, our coach called me to apologize for not playing me the night before. That call was a bummer to get because I actually had played in the game the night before. Apparently, I made such an impression that my coach spent his night wracked with guilt, before placing an early-morning phone call to apologize to a 9-year-old. Either that or my coach was engaged in some next-level trolling that I completely missed.

The next year I started playing ice hockey and made a travel team by junior high. Only recently have I realized how much that must’ve sucked for my parents. I went from playing games at normal times in reasonably heated gyms to 7 a.m. practices in unfathomably cold strip-mall sportsplexes. Throw in the fun extras of hours of travel, hotel stays, and exponentially more expensive equipment, and that’s a pretty rough trade-off for a parent.

*obligatory disclaimer about how I’ll support my kids in whatever sport/activities they want to pursue goes here*

But for real, what are the worst sports experiences that I can hopefully avoid? I was performing at a comedy club in Atlanta last year and there were several teams from a youth dance competition staying in my hotel. At breakfast, one of the families was wearing team-branded t-shirts, except for the dad, who was wearing a custom “I don’t dance, I finance!” shirt. He seemed profoundly unhappy, despite a better than normal breakfast offering from the Holiday Inn Express.

It’s hard not to be on the Zion Williamson hype train. It’s so much cooler to hate what everyone loves, but no one can remain nonplussed after watching that block. I was at a sports bar before going to a college basketball game last week and caught the last five minutes of the Duke-Virginia game. Almost immediately, a nearly 300-pound man flew through the air to block what was previously a comically wide-open 3-point-attempt. Those incredible athletic moments transcend all rational Duke-hatred (I understand it, even if I don’t fully practice it) and remind you why sports are fun.

College athletes shouldn’t have to sit out when they transfer. Recruiting is a ruthless business and coaches can say whatever they want to get a kid on campus, then bolt as soon as a better job opens up. College football coaches are freaking out because of the transfer portal and the concern about “free agency”, but the players deserve it.

Austen Rivers quickly shut up a fan after he insulted his dad. It’s a minor thing, but as a stand-up comedian, it is very gratifying to see someone trying hard to be obnoxious get put in his place. The team probably isn’t thrilled to have him engage at all, but it is funny to see how fast the guy shuts up.

The comic of the week is Chad Daniels. If you aren’t familiar with him, his recent album, Footprints on the Moon, is outstanding. His late night sets are among the best in comedy and if you are completely unfamiliar with him, you can start below. He is one of the best.

The Super Bowl Was Garbage and the President’s Kid Can’t Play Football

(Getty/Elsa)

The Super Bowl was garbage and it was loved only by two kinds of people: Bostonians and people over the age of 50. If there is one thing old people love, it’s “the way things used to be,” so an astonishingly boring Super Bowl made up mostly of errant third-down passes, unremarkable punts and good enough defense is like reruns of M*A*S*H* to them (that’s such an old reference that I wouldn’t have known to put the * in there without Googling it).

Even before it was over, you heard nearly 60-year-old Jim Nantz haughtily mocking “the year of unstoppable offense” that was the 2018 NFL season and launching into a boring soliloquy about how defense truly wins championships. As if we weren’t coming off two wildly entertaining Super Bowl shootouts and an incredible conference championship weekend. We were due for a dud.! Yes, the child-coach of the Rams was dramatically outcoached by grizzled veteran (“football is war”-old people) Bill Belichick, but the game really has changed, offense is here to stay, and we’ll be back to Super Bowls that rarely dip below 60 points before we know it.

The commercials were fine. It’s 2019 and America’s new favorite pastime is hating things online, so of course, the commercials could live up to no one’s expectations. Just like last year. And the year before. People treat Super Bowl commercials like they do Saturday Night Live, and wax nostalgically about how they used to be funny. Yet, SNL continues to churn out some of the funniest people in the world (if you really need proof, start with Kate McKinnon and John Mulaney) and Super Bowl commercials weren’t any better or worse than they were last year. Some of them were even funnier than just OK! Like, what could be funnier than a universe where people prefer Pepsi over Coke?

I missed half of the game. My daughters are three and five, so their Super Bowl hype lasted about a quarter before they were whining about being bored with the intensity of the first five minutes of a long car ride. So, I selflessly missed some of the most boring Super Bowl ever and even missed what I can only assume was a legendary halftime show from Maroon 5. I hope they appreciate my sacrifice.

Where was Todd Gurley? The Rams have the best running back in football and he seemingly fell off a cliff after he finished terrorizing my fantasy football season. He was a complete nonfactor in the NFC Championship game and barely played in the Super Bowl. Both Gurley and his coach insist he was healthy, which only makes it more confusing that one of the best weapons in football spent most of his Super Bowl as a spectator. It’s like the end of the Sopranos, everyone has a theory about what really happened, none of them are ever confirmed, and we will all sort of lose interest eventually. But this was very bizarre!

President Trump would have a hard time letting his kid play football. I know just typing his name has likely caused dozens to reflexively chamber some very helpful and productive internet comments, but divorce yourself of your cyber warrior role for a minute and consider it from the hypothetical. How could ANY president’s kid play football? Every game would become an absurd spectacle. Any time he dropped back to pass, the first quarterback would be protected by an offensive line of grown secret service agents looking to punish anyone who even dares to get close (in the NFL, these people are refs and the President’s son is Tom Brady).

In fact, I’m not entirely sure that this isn’t the plot of an existing Disney channel movie. Besides, the children of billionaires have their own category of sports, which don’t exist anywhere else besides Harvard and Yale (you don’t really see too many pickup games of rowing).

I joked about being a degenerate gambler in this space last week, but there are certain moments where you feel like you’ve hit a new low. For me, it was right after the game where I had to exchange several texts with friends to find out what color Gatorade was dumped on Bill Belichick to see if we hit our prop bet on red (we did not).

I used to work in sports talk radio in Cincinnati and got to witness first-hand the misery of people who live and die by one team. Few things are sadder than watching someone base their happiness on the hope of Marvin Lewis winning a Super Bowl. I learned that one of the most important things as a sports fan is to diversify your portfolio of favorite teams. Don’t go all-in on one. Entire sports fan years of mine have been saved because I follow a college basketball team that is a perennial factor in March. In years they’ve been bad, I’ve been picked up by a great year by the college football team I root for, or that one time the Bengals were actually good.

That being said, this was not a great month for me. My college basketball team is having its worst season in decades, my college football team is Notre Dame, which got obliterated in the college football playoffs. I became a Knicks fan when I lived in New York, and they just gave away their best player since Patrick Ewing, and the Bengals just announced their new head coach is a position coach on the recently humiliated L.A. Rams offense. Sports are so fun!

Super Bowl Ads, Loser T-Shirts, Brady and Prop Bets

(Getty/Jim Rogash/spxChrome)

This Sunday, millions of people around the country will take the rare action of getting together to enjoy an American past time that is on a decidedly downward trajectory: commercials. In the era of cord cutting, streaming and mobile devices attached to our palms to distract us when confronted with more than seven seconds of boredom, commercials have never been less relevant. My kids are so used to getting every show on-demand that commercials are going to be my generation’s version of “walking to school in the snow uphill both ways.”

When I was a kid, I used to complain that I wanted to “watch cartoons.” Now, my 5-year-old daughter whines that she wants to watch season four, episode six of“Spirit” on Netflix.

The Super Bowl will briefly make commercials relevant again, as some parties will probably have more people interested in the commercials than the game (especially true amongst Rams “fans”). Even this tradition is dying, though, as most of the next-day discussion will center on how they weren’t as funny as they used to be (frogs and dogs selling beer are the height of the medium, and this cannot be debated). Brands aren’t helping the decline of the Super Bowl commercial as they try to capitalize on #buzz by releasing their Super Bowl commercials weeks before the game and seemed locked in a contest to out-woke each other. A few years ago, I had a fever dream where McDonald’s made a commercial about letting people pay for meals with random acts of kindness, which I suppose we should’ve all seen as the point-of-no-return.

Football isn’t far behind the television commercial when it comes to optimism about the future, but none of that matters on Sunday when the entire country will be riveted by both.

Speaking of the big game, if you weren’t actively rooting for New England 18 years ago or born into a Patriots family, you are legally obligated to root for the Rams. Sure, even the people in their city don’t really care for the Rams, but rooting for Tom Brady And the Interchangeable White Guys isn’t much different from telling people your favorite basketball team is the Harlem Globetrotters.

Keep an eye on Tom Brady, says The Ringer! Tom Brady vs. Aaron Donald is the “Must-See” matchup of the Super Bowl, according to The Ringer. I … I don’t even know how we could not see that. One is literally the most famous person currently playing the sport, and the other starts every play inches away from him, so you’d be hard-pressed to miss that one (while the headline is terrible, there is some great game analysis in the story).

The t-shirts of the losing team being sent to some impoverished third-world country is a tradition we can probably end. I know their heart is in the right place, but I don’t think a ton of good comes out of dressing a 7-year-old in an XXXL championship t-shirt meant for an offensive lineman. In 2010, an earthquake-ravaged Haiti, killing more than 100,000 and affecting millions. Weeks later, Haiti was sent the t-shirts for the Super Bowl losing Indianapolis Colts, as if they hadn’t suffered enough.

Instead, the NFL should auction that limited inventory and donate the money raised to those countries. There would be no better way to troll your Atlanta-based friends than by wearing a Falcons Super Bowl LI Champions shirt around them.

Let’s not pretend that gambling isn’t a major reason football is popular, and dive right into the most fun prop bets. The over/under for the number of plays that Tony Romo correctly predicts is 7.5. That seems high, but you’ve gotta take it, just because it will make listening to the announcers interesting and give you a legitimate reason to shush the annoying person at your party when he begins a soliloquy about the evil of straws.

For the coin toss, bet heads. Betting on a coin toss is a real thrill. Did I just wander into degenerate territory here? Well, while we’re here…for the national anthem, go with the under 1 minute, 47 seconds, and I also like the announcers to talk about Rams head coach Sean McVay’s age more than once (although it won’t be much more, since they are likely aware of this prop bet and don’t want to go overboard with it).

Andrew Whitworth deserves a Super Bowl ring. As a Bengals fan, I’ve followed Whitworth’s career for a long time, and he’s always been a terrific human. Beloved by teammates, does a ton of work for the community, one of the best offensive linemen in football for years. All of that means nothing when it comes to winning the Super Bowl, of course, but it’d still be cool to see! Part of me also believes Whitworth should get it because most of the Patriots already have one, an equally nonsensical point. I don’t know why I’m treating Super Bowl rings like they are Legos I’m trying to get my kids to share.

Speaking of Brady, there’s little he can do in this game to change his legacy. He’ll be remembered as one of the game’s all-time greats regardless of the outcome Sunday. One thing he CAN do in this game that could change his legacy: kneel during the national anthem. It’s such a polarized act, and so many people would be utterly
confused about how to process it, taking the knee might be the thing that finally melts down the entire hot-take ecosystem.

Not only that, but the refs would throw a flag for roughing the passer as soon as his knee hit the ground (as is customary when Brady hits the turf), taking NFL officiating to the logically ridiculous place it needs to be to get meaningful change for the future.

And then Brady can go down in history as the most influential person in football both on and off the field.

Mark Chalifoux is a writer and stand-up comedian. His recent comedy album, Think Fast, opened at No. 2 on iTunes and is heard regularly on SiriusXM. His writing has appeared on ESPN.com, CBS Digital, The Baltimore Sun and the Cincinnati Enquirer.

The Balancing Act of Roasting Your Kids

(Mark Chalifoux)

I recently had one of those proud dad moments when my daughter’s preschool teacher insisted my kid was a genius. Then I had one of those grounding dad moments when I remembered this is the same kid who ran into a wall while trying to hug her own shadow. Needless to say the jury is still out on the “genius” title. The shadow hug story is one most parents trade with a spouse or another sleep-deprived parent. It’s standard fare to make fun of your kids, while making sure to praise someone else’s. If you encounter a parent who only has good things to say about their offspring, make a mental note to avoid them because they’re probably in a cult.

Of course, the difference between a normal person and me is I’ve shared that shadow story with thousands of strangers across the country as a stand-up comedian. I’ve told it on a nationally syndicated radio show, and it will soon be streaming on SiriusXM (along with a bunch of other jokes about them).

I was a comedian before I was a dad, so it was inevitable that my kids would work their way into my act. I still remember the first joke I wrote about my daughter, “I realized I don’t know anything about being a dad. I had to Google ‘when can I start yelling at my baby?’”

Now that my kids are a little older (5 and 2), they get even more coverage in my act. So now a few hundred people in Madison, Wisconsin know about the first time my daughter came up with a story (“Once upon a time a dog sat under water. The end.” Yeah, her first story was about a drowning dog, good luck selling that story to Disney). A few thousand people have heard me talk about which kid is my favorite and even more know how my oldest daughter got her name, a fact she doesn’t even know herself yet (but she could, if she buys a copy of “Think Fast” on iTunes).

In my defense, I make fun of myself more than anyone on stage. It’s not like I just walk up to a microphone and start roasting my kids. Still, it does feel a little weird that so many complete strangers know that I once accidentally brought my two-year-old to story time at the library dressed in Bud Light sunglasses.

I have learned there are a few things to consider when telling a joke about your child to strangers. First, don’t be mean for the sake of being mean. It’s also probably important to remember is everything is permanent these days. If you can get fired for a tweet, then a joke you make about your kid on a comedy album could probably be tracked down by her high school nemesis. Honestly, I don’t worry too much about this, because part of me would be flattered to still be relevant in 15 years. Most importantly, just don’t do anything too personal. When your kids are young, you don’t know which of their weird personality traits they are going to grow out of and which are going to define their lives, so it’s probably best not too go too deep.

It’s much easier to make fun of failures you share or something that’s (kind of) normal for kids.

For instance, my oldest daughter is currently into drawing. She learned how to draw stick figures, and she makes holes for the eyes, but she puts nothing in them, so they are just horrifying. She drew a “family picture” that makes us all look like soulless demons but it HAS to go on the fridge because that’s just how it works. That’s something you can joke about, because she’s going to get older and better at drawing.

And if she doesn’t, it’s because she’s possessed by the devil, and at that point you have some bigger concerns anyway.

Mark Chalifoux is a nationally touring standup comedian and a contributor to TheDad. His debut album, “Think Fast”, is set for release on August 17 and is available NOW on iTunes for pre-order.

In Defense Of Participation Trophies

(Getty/Highwaystarz-Photography)

Few dad trends have been as puzzling in recent years as the overwhelming backlash against participation trophies. Any mention of them elicits an eye roll and a “back in my day” rant. And to those people I will concede a major point: participation trophies are pretty meaningless. But do you know what else is meaningless? ALL TROPHIES!

Yeah, if you’re 12-years-old, it’s neat to have a cool little trophy because you scored more goals than the other couple dozen kids your age that live in Ohio AND own hockey equipment. But if you care about that trophy a year or more later, guess what? You’re actually kiiiind of a loser!

I say we flood the current generation with trophies. Maybe that way, they’ll grow up in an era without car salesmen trying to talk about the time they won state in 1992 and without adults wearing jewelry for something that happened before they were old enough to buy cigarettes.

“Oh, really? You were a rarely used relief pitcher on a Division IV team that allllllmost made the regional finals? Please, tell me more, I actually came into this bank for story time, not to set up a college fund for my kids.”

The backlash against participation trophies reached a crescendo several years ago when an NFL All-Pro linebacker posted on Instagram about how he made his sons return their participation trophies because they didn’t “earn them.”

(Instagram/jhharrison92)

This fueled the Hot Takes Machine™ for weeks as thousands echoed his beliefs and praised him as a great dad. Even Kevin Federline agreed.

If you apply any critical thought to that claim, it disintegrates quickly.

How good of a dad are you really if you humiliate your kids with an Instagram post to millions of followers about how your sons aren’t good enough at football? Imagine the pressure of playing football as the son of an All-Pro, and then your dad signal-boosts your gridiron failures to millions. This ignites a national debate where the consensus is reached that we’re being too nice to our loser kids. You have now actively made life worse for kids who aren’t athletic or aggressive enough to earn their father’s love. Your lackluster football skills have become the Helen of Troy in the war on participation trophies AND your dad gets praised for it. What a life!

Also, the part about returning the trophies doesn’t make sense, because that’s not how trophy stores work. They don’t vet the trophies that go out the door. They don’t care if your mom is really the #1 Mom. If they did, they wouldn’t sell dozens of those. They just care if you have the $12 to pay for your lame Mother’s Day gift. Also, the people at BIG TROPHY were probably furious about this story. The participation trophy is the best thing to happen to the industry in decades and has likely paid for multiple condos in Gatlinburg.

My grade-school soccer team finished in second place every season, and for that we got a small trophy. Looking back, it’s entirely possible that every team was fed this line about “finishing in second” and that we were gas-lighted into accepting participation trophies. But who cares? It was fun to have for a week and then we all moved on to something else.

If it makes my kids a little happier to get a cheap trophy at the end of every season, so be it. And if it helps teach their generation to have a personality beyond a letterman jacket, it’ll be more than worth it.

The Funniest Part About My Daughter’s Kidney Surgery

(Mark Chalifoux)

The day my infant daughter underwent kidney surgery was one of the hardest days of my life. It was also the day on which I saw one of the funniest performances I’ll ever see.

The doctor noticed it on an early ultrasound. Our daughter’s kidney was slightly enlarged. The doctor seemed nonplussed, saying it wasn’t uncommon and nearly all babies with it grow out of it before they’re born. The pediatrician gave us a similar speech after our daughter was born. The kidney was still enlarged, but almost all babies grow out of it by six months. At six months, the specialist recited the speech and moved the goal posts back to a year. It wasn’t long after that my wife and I found ourselves in a scary room in Children’s Hospital, holding our daughter during the painful test that would indicate she’d need kidney surgery before her second birthday.

Any hospital experience with a child is indescribably gut-wrenching. The worst parts of this fairly routine procedure were the insertion of an IV and a catheter, and the fact that we had to hold her on her back on a table for an hour.

In the room full of scary machines along with a pair of kind nurses was a child life specialist, whose job is to distract the baby and keep them from freaking out. It’s usually a petite woman with a preschool teacher vibe, but on this day it was a dude who looked like he walked into the room off the set of a Buffalo Wild Wings commercial, armed with a pink plastic jug of bubbles and a wand.

(Getty/Eric Audras)

His bubbles and toys briefly intrigued Emma, while the nurses explained to my wife and I how the next 90 minutes was gonna go. After that, shit got real. It took two techs to hold down our tiny, terrified, writhing daughter to get the IV in. My wife and I held her hand on the other side of the table, barely holding it together.

It’s one of the hardest things in the world to see as a parent, your tiny, scared baby being strapped to a table while screaming hysterically. Her tear-filled eyes expressed panic and confusion mixed with betrayal. It was a look that was forever burned into my brain.

We all knew the next hour was going to be horrible and the grim looks on our faces reflected that.

Except for the bubbles guy.

In this room full of highly educated nurses and technicians doing serious work, he had to keep dancing around, singing Emma’s name, blowing bubbles aimlessly into the air, all while being completely and totally ignored.

I’ve never seen anyone bomb harder in my life, and it was one of the funniest things I think I’ll ever see. The juxtaposition was jarring in a way that I couldn’t comprehend in the moment. It was like watching a Civil War surgeon operate inches from a vaudeville clown getting pied in the face.

He would dance from foot-to-foot, singing her name like he was heckling a relief pitcher. “Emmm-aaaaaa, Emmm-aaaaa,” he sang over the violent screams of a baby wholly unaware of his existence.

I couldn’t get over it. This was his job. His coworkers probably went through extensive schooling and complex training to be in that room while all he had to do was humiliate himself like a court jester.

In retrospect, it would’ve been weird if his tricks had worked. I’d probably be more concerned about my daughter if she paused her agony to temporarily appreciate the bubbles.

“AHHHHHH, AHHHHH, AHHH-wait…are those bubbles? Hey, you guys seeing this? He’s got bubbles. Hm. I didn’t even know they did that here. Hah. Anyway, AHHHHH-AHHHHHHH-AHHHHHH!!!!!”

At that point, I realized he wasn’t there for my daughter. He was there for me. While I was experiencing the worst thing ever, I also got to watch the worst thing ever, and that made me feel like everything was gonna be okay in the end.

(Mark Chalifoux)

Father Figures: Pumpkin Memories

(Mark Chalifoux)

“I took my daughter to the pumpkin carving night for dads and kids at her preschool. I was apprehensive about going, because I haven’t carved a pumpkin in 20 years and didn’t want her to have the worst one.

Some dads brought what looked like swords to carve their pumpkins, while I had what was essentially a nail file. And yeah, my carving was pretty sorry. But you know what? Maddie didn’t care about that, she had a blast anyway.

Years from now, she won’t remember what her pumpkin even looked like. When she thinks about this night, all she’ll probably remember is how many times I loudly muttered, ‘goddamn it!’ while carving it.”