A Conversation With Comedian Jason Weems, a Dad Who Literally Died Onstage

Jason Weems' new comedy special, "Unknown"
(Amazon Prime)

Jason Weems died in 2017. Literally, flatlined on the floor of a comedy club in Philadelphia. No heartbeat for 5 minutes thanks to a severe asthma attack.

He was (and still is) a rising star in the comedy world after reaching the semi-finals on two seasons of NBC’s “Last Comic Standing” and performing at the Just For Laughs festival in Montreal, and thankfully, his brush with death has only given him more material.

His newest special, which debuted on August 4, is titled “Unknown” in reference to the bizarre way the hospital labeled him on that fateful night.

Weems is also a father of three (and has plenty of material to prove it), so kicking the bucket that day would not only have been a tragic end to a promising career, but would’ve left his sons without a father.

In light of his new special and Grade-A dad material, we sat down with Weems to discuss near-death experiences, his sons’ pediatrician (who moonlights as a DJ), and balancing his roles of comic and father.


Jordan: So the title, “Unknown.” Can you jump into the origins of that a little bit?

Jason: Of course. One of the main themes for the special is I die, May 3rd, 2017.

Hell of a strong start.

[laughing] Yeah, I had a severe asthma attack in Philly, a few minutes into a headline set at a show. There was a doctor in the crowd, but unfortunately, they weren’t able to hook my nebulizer up quickly enough. And the attack was so aggressive that it literally shut down my airways and then ultimately stopped my heart from beating. From what I’m told from third-party people who were there—audience members, bar staff, all that stuff—I literally just coded right there in the venue.

Then there was a 16-hour period when I was unconscious in a Philadelphia hospital. And when I came to, they had me listed as “Unknown”. So, in the literal sense, it comes from that.

And it’s almost a decade since your first special, right? “Intellectual Property”?

Literally a decade. That was filmed December 4th of 2010, and this one’s coming out 2020.

That one was also filmed here in Baltimore at another great theater, completely self-produced. Both of these specials have been self-produced.

It wasn’t like somebody put the money up for us [for “Unknown”]. There was no guarantee for distribution. It was a true hail Mary, but it was a story that I felt was important. I felt it was, as much as “Unknown” as a comedy special, I feel it’s also a celebration of life.

You definitely delve into those deep and heavy themes that a lot of people might steer away from, but it’s those topics that really makes it feel authentic and real.

Yeah. Absolutely.

 

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I’m beyond proud of this project. This is the team that partnered with me to make this shit happen. Completely Self-Funded & Produced. We envisioned it, worked for it, manifested it, worked a whole lot more & now it’s almost here. It’s a pride & anxiousness you only truly know after witnessing your child being born into the world. This is dreams materializing. Not by chance, but by grace & by hustle. We really ran this bastard from end zone to end zone (in the rain ☔️). Thank you for the support. ⁣ ⁣ Please share the MF’ing wheels off of that trailer, thumbs up those tracks from the album on Sirus XM & Pandora right now, and burn the special up when it drops on Amazon next Tuesday August 4th, 2020. Then rinse & repeat. ⁣ ⁣ Even if you don’t think it’s funny, just write a rave review off of GP & then we can work out your poor taste in art in a personal text message. Don’t y’all fuck this up for me !!! Love y’all. I’m very grateful & humbled right now ❤️✊🏽.⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ #JasonWeemsComedy #Unknown #6DaysAway MyBmore #FromBaltimoreWithLove #audaCITY🔥

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And speaking of this whole show being a community effort to come together and create something great, your house DJ and your kids’ pediatrician… are the same person?

Same dude.

I’m going to need you to talk about that.

Yeah. So, this guy’s name is Ashanti Woods. If anybody ever moves to Baltimore and needs a good pediatrician, this guy’s amazing. His wife and my wife went to high school together, but then they lost contact. Years later, I become a father and we need a new pediatrician. This was a world that we were new to. We wanted somebody that could grow up with the kids, not somebody who’s 85.

So we put out some feelers on Facebook and she responded to my wife, like “Hey, my husband’s a pediatrician”. And then we realized, ‘Oh, we do know him. And he’s a great guy.’

He was amazing with the kids. It was an instant comfort. And then years later, I’m a couple of years into doing comedy. I see that he’s starting to DJ.

Did he have posters in his office about future shows and stuff? He’s like, “Oh yeah. After you get this prescription, come down to this club.” Like, how does that translate?

[laughing] Yeah. And it feels like he does. So his name is DJ P-O-P. If you look at the trailer, that’s my DJ. P-O-P stands for Prince of Pediatrics.

Of course it does.

So then we were pulling this special together and we really didn’t want to outsource the talent. We wanted this to be us all the way through. So it was a no-brainer. It was just a matter of whether he was going to say yes or not.

And he was into it?

He was into it. He’s a dad as well. He’s got two little ones.

 

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La Familia ❤️. ⁣ ⁣ #JasonWeemsComedy #TeamWeems #WeemsTheNextGeneration #GangGang

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Speaking of kids, how has fatherhood impacted this new special compared to the last one? Have you noticed a shift?

Oh, absolutely.

I noticed you’re not wearing crispy white New Balances when you’re out there. You don’t have cargo shorts on or anything, but I’m assuming there had been some kind of development or evolution.

Definitely in the sense of material. I mean, the first special was 2010. I wasn’t even a dad yet. So we filmed the first special, “Intellectual Property,” December 4th, 2010, and I think December 11th or 12th, I found out that we were having our son.

We had shot the show. Everybody was exhausted. So my wife and I flew to Florida and went down to the Harry Potter resort.

We’re drinking Butterbeer and walking all around the streets, and she just kept telling me that she felt weird. So I figured we just drank too much Butterbeer.

You never know how that’s going to hit. It’s a magical concoction, man.

Then we got back to Baltimore, it was still continuing. And we were out with one of my buddies for his birthday party and she said, “Can you drop me at the house? And you guys can just continue on.”

So then I came home from the party and she was standing at the door with the test and it was a strong-ass plus sign.

Strong plus sign, like it’s punching through the screen.

[laughing] Yeah. You could feel it. It was like braille.

And then it instantly shifted the way I toured, instantly shifted the way I performed, how I accepted shows.

I was passing up so many gigs, because it was like, ‘I’m just in love with this little guy.’ But then it got to a point where, financially, I needed to start taking shows again.

But the thing was, I just filmed the special “Intellectual Property,” so I hadn’t been out enough to turn over new material and truly test it. So I started riffing a lot on stage. I’ve always been quick on my feet, but the crowd work element of my stand up, the fast and loose stuff, it really grew out of me becoming a father.

And now that’s probably what I’m known for the most. Like, if you talk to comics in the Baltimore-DC area, all of them go, “Weems just goes off the top of his head, he just riffs it. He just comes out of thin air.”

 

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And you can tell a lot from your material that you’re a dad who’s involved. Like, I couldn’t help but notice the amount of overlap when it comes to bathroom material and kid material. I think a lot of parents would have that Venn diagram, too. Toilets and showers and bath time… there’s always a story.

Right. I mean, there are just so, so many things can go wrong when you’re washing a little person. Or when you send a little person into a bathroom alone, you don’t know what’s going to come out. It’s always a gamble.

There’s a sentence in your special where you’re talking about giving your boys a bath and you say, quote “nut crumbs… butt crumbs… armpit juice… and piss.”

Right, it’s a good summary of boys in general.

Have any of your boys manifested that entertainer gene yet? Has that been passed down through your bloodline?

All of them…

Oh no.

It’s like The Wayans Brothers. Like straight up, these kids are so talented. Our oldest is eight turning nine, yet the level of humor that he possesses is easily that of a 14 to 16-year-old. I swear, he’s coming for my position.

Yeah, I’d totally feel a little threatened.

Now, the other two, they’re hilarious. I have twin six-year-olds. So the youngest twin is younger by a minute. He’s the most flamboyant and like really out there and he wants to dance on stage and be in front of people. And he has that real kind of firecracker type of humor.

My other twin, little quieter, his stuff is more, he’ll slip in something real quietly under a conversation. Like, me and my wife will be talking, but you hear him say something like [quietly, under breath] “I would have done that…” Like just real quiet.

Ooh, like a little sarcastic dagger.

A little dagger, yeah. Also, things lined up and my kids are in this special! Like physically you see them when the special ends. My wife, my parents are sitting front row and my mother-in-law, people I went to college with and high school. So it’s almost like a block party.

Yeah. It feels like a homecoming. A love letter to Baltimore.

It’s beautiful. Truly a love letter to Baltimore.


You can check Jason’s new comedy special “Unknown” here on Amazon Prime.

Father Figures: It Took Everything

“When our daughter was born, it took everything out of me.

Labour was close to 24 hours and a difficult delivery caused me to hemorrhage and lose a lot of blood. This took the rest of any energy I had left. It was hard to adjust to parenthood as we had to stay in the hospital for an extra couple of unplanned days.

The second night our daughter, Candice, refused to sleep unless it was on someone’s chest, and walking around. We were both completely zonked. Andy took her and spent hours walking around the room so that both Candice and I could sleep.

It was the first real sleep I had gotten in days. When I finally woke up, he looked so tired and while my heart ached to see him in such an exhausted state, I had to snap a picture as I had never been more in awe with him.

To this day, every time I look at this picture, I am flooded with emotions of gratitude and love for this man.”

– Catherine Capern

Want to share a story about fatherhood? Email [email protected]

Crafty Dad Builds Epic Indoor Climbing Room for His Two Sons

Dad builds climbing room for sons
(SUPPLIED)

COVID has ushered in an unprecedented era of creativity. We’ve had to adjust seemingly overnight to an entirely new way of living, and for parents, keeping kids entertained without their typical activities has proved to be unexpectedly challenging. Many parents, however, have taken the challenge in stride and jumped feet-first into finding creative solutions. Mike Ross is one such dad, ensuring that not even a pandemic would slow his active family down.

The Ross Family
(The Ross Family)

“When the lockdown happened it really felt like we needed to use our own space to its fullest potential in order to keep sane and busy,” Mike told The Dad. “It felt hard to keep the kids active and motivated at times, they were (are) really missing their friends so we wanted to have some options for them.”

Mike and his wife have two sons, a 5.5-year-old and a 2-year-old. Early on in quarantine, Mike took on his first big project to keep his kids entertained at home – a backyard play-set given to him by a friend. Rather than assemble the play-set as it was, Mike decided to turn it into something that any kid would envy.

“We reassembled it and modified it slightly,” Mike said of his formerly run-of-the-mill play-set. “We added a cargo-net climbing wall (truck bed cargo net) and hung a hammock underneath. We added a climbing rope and a trapeze bar. Later we mounted the sprinkler to it… the creative juices started flowing about then.”

Backyard Set
(The Ross Family)

After successfully using the warmer months to the fullest, Mike wanted his kids to have a similar level of excitement about something they could use year-round. Prior to quarantine, Mike didn’t have a whole lot of woodworking experience – but like most dads, his kids provided both the inspiration and motivation to use what skills he had and learn the skills he needed.

Mike’s oldest son loves climbing, and his history of scaling anything from banisters to basketball nets sparked the idea for a climbing room. Mike’s wife broke the massive project down into doable chunks, and his brother stepped up to help him complete the challenging project. Though the climbing wall was technically for the kids, it truly became a family affair.

“We had been talking about it since November but had other priorities over the holidays so he (our oldest) knew it was coming and counting down the days but it wasn’t finished until the beginning of January,” Mike recalled. “Our 5yo insisted on being in the room and trying to help and was trying to get on it every chance he got (not annoying at all). As soon as it was secure and he got the go-ahead, he jumped right in and his little brother followed right behind. They were practically squealing with joy and looked like real little monkeys climbing the walls!”

“We have a chin-up bar in the doorway, a basketball net on the back of the door and a laser light bluetooth speaker in there too now. We are always thinking about new ways to play in there, they love(d) it!”

Indoor Climbing Wall
(The Ross Family)
Indoor Climbing Wall for Kids
(The Ross Family)
Kids Glowing Climb Wall
(The Ross Family)

Texas Teen and Her Grandfather Rescue Boy Who Fell Through Frozen Pond

Teen and grandpa rescue boy who fell through frozen pond

Sometimes being in the right place at the right time means the difference between life and death. During a winter that seems as full of surprises as the baffling phenomenon that was 2020, much of the U.S. can’t seem to catch a break. Texas was hit particularly hard by the abnormal weather, with freezing temperatures and snow that left the entire state in shock. Aside from the impact the weather had on necessities like electricity and water, many Texas residents themselves were unsure how to cope with the cold.

18-Year-old Caitlyn Thomas, like many Texans, was not a fan of the snow. Her dog needed a walk, but the cold made the generally enjoyable task completely unappealing. Unbothered by the snow and ice caking the ground, Caitlyn’s dog persisted – and like any good dog owner, Caitlyn relented. She bundled up, leashed her eager dog, and the pair headed out for a walk.

Caitlyn held the leash in one hand and her phone in the other, likely distracting herself from the frost crunching beneath her feet. In a stroke of incredible luck, Caitlyn’s attention returned sharply to her surroundings in the precise place and time it was needed.

“I was playing on my phone and then I look up and I see this little image in the water and I walk up to it and realize it a little boy,” Caitlyn told ArkLaTex Homepage. “It instantly clicked in my brain like, ‘Oh my gosh, I have to help him!’”

The panicked teen was unsure of how to describe the boy’s location to an emergency dispatcher, so she began pounding on nearby doors to no avail. The quick-thinking teen called her grandfather, Randy Thomas, who lived only a block away. Minutes later, Thomas arrived at the scene, not even taking the time to put on a coat.

Caitlyn dialed 9-1-1, but not wanting to wait any longer, Randy Thomas jumped in the water next to the boy. Fueled by adrenaline and the knowledge that time was running out, Thomas was able to pull the young boy from the frigid water with the help of a few good samaritans and even the boy’s dog. Though he was too cold to speak and missing his shoes, the boy was conscious and otherwise unharmed.

If one thing had gone differently for Caitlyn on that life-changing day, the story may have ended differently. An awe-stricken Caitlyn explained, “I’m just so thankful that God sent me out on a walk in that direction because I was debating on going a different way.”

The Dad Staff is donating to a collection of food and warming centers throughout Texas to help families in need. Impact Your World allows us to contribute to 14 organizations, including The Red Cross, Mercy Chefs, Austin Pets Alive, as well as local food banks in Dallas, Houston, and Austin. If you are able, please consider donating any amount here.

Two New Animated Transformers Series Are Coming

New Transformers Shows Coming
(Hasbro)

Sometimes, even with countless cable channels and streaming platforms and different ways to watch stuff, it boggles the mind that they keep making new shows. Especially when those new shows are just new versions of old shows!

We’re getting new He-Man shows, new Avatar shows, and now we’re getting a new Transformers show. Two of them, in fact!

On Thursday, Hasbro announced a brand new Transformers animated series that will live on Nickelodeon, and it will focus on the interaction between a brand new species of Transformers and the humans they befriend. As well as some well-known characters from the past.

“As soon as I read the creative concept, which at its core is about family, I knew we absolutely had to tell this story with our good friends at eOne and Hasbro,” said Ramsey Naito, President, Nickelodeon Animation. “The series will tell a reimagined story featuring both original characters and fan-favorites for a whole new generation of kids and families.”

Meanwhile, Netflix announced a new animated comedy series called Transformers: BotBots, which focuses on mischievous little robots who disguise themselves as ordinary objects and wreak hilarious havoc.

“We are delighted to partner with Netflix to bring an all-new Transformers story to life and explore a whole new universe with BotBots,” said Olivier Dumont, Hasbro eOne’s President of Family Brands. “Transformers storytelling has expanded into so many new avenues and we can’t wait to surprise both existing fans and new fans coming to the franchise for the first time with these fun bots who are definitely more than meets the eye!”

The toys, and their accompanying shows and movies, have been around since 1984, and it doesn’t sound like they’ll be going away anytime soon.

Unlike my Optimus Prime toy that the evil Ms. Giovine confiscated when I wouldn’t put it away during third-grade math.

New Superman Movie Being Written By Ta-Nehisi Coates

Ta-Nehisi Coates Superman
(Getty/Ismael Quintanilla)

They’ve been trying to get Superman right for years.

Ever since Christopher Reeve embodied the character in Richard Donner’s classic (and its classic sequel), Hollywood has been trying to recapture that magic. It was gone as early as Superman III and hasn’t really been back.

Maybe you love Dean Cain or Tom Welling’s TV versions, maybe you ride for Zack Snyder’s gloomy, homicidal hero, but none of those versions have erased Reeve’s seminal take or brought the hero back to prominence. He continues to take a backseat to Batman, Spider-man, and most recently, the Avengers.

It’s time for some new blood, and now we’re gonna get it.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, the celebrated black writer who helped shape the MCU’s Black Panther and has been at the forefront of America’s discussions about race for the past decade-plus, has been tapped by DC and Warner Bros to write a new Superman movie. The movie is being produced by JJ Abrams, who once wrote his own controversial script for a Superman reboot before Bryan Singer and Brandon Routh revived Richard Donner’s version with 2006’s Superman Returns.

“To be invited into the DC Extended Universe by Warner Bros., DC Films and Bad Robot is an honor,” Coates said in a statement. “I look forward to meaningfully adding to the legacy of America’s most iconic mythic hero.”

The first question that’s going to come up is: are we getting a black Superman now? No one knows. They don’t have a script or a director yet, and casting is a long way away. But just because they’ve hired a black writer does not mean he has to write a black character (in fact, aside from the celebrated take on Black Panther, Coates also wrote a recent series for Captain America). Especially when that character is an alien inherently different from, and often at odds with, the culture he adopts. That said, a black version would certainly be a change of pace, and would offer some interesting opportunities.

“Ta-Nehisi Coates’s ‘Between the World and Me’ opened a window and changed the way many of us see the world,” said Toby Emmerich, chairman of Warner Bros. Pictures Group. “We’re confident that his take on Superman will give fans a new and exciting way to see the Man of Steel.”

Either way, there is plenty of metaphorical space to explore with this character, who was conceived by marginalized Jewish artists as a representation of American, and human, ideals and whose own outsiderness has been used to comment on plenty of societal issues, including immigration, civil rights, and more. As a symbol for America, the Big Blue Boy Scout is well within his rights to engage with the modern state of the country, and the world. And Ta-Nehisi Coates is a gifted writer with a keen eye for human issues, and will surely write a compelling character, whether they end up casting Michael B. Jordan or some blue-eyed kid from Riverdale.

The biggest question isn’t what Superman looks like, it’s how he acts, and what kind of tone the film has. For the past 10 years, the cinematic version of the most famous superhero of all has been focused on darkness, and grit, and inner turmoil. I think it’s time to move on from that.

Superman can exist in a complicated, troubled world without succumbing to that darkness himself. He should be a hero who strives to lead by positive example, who inspires us to be better, who shows us all what we can be.

No matter what color he is.

Chris Evans Comforts His Dog After Surgery by Stitching up His Favorite Toy

Chris Evans fixes dog's favorite toy after his surgery
(Instagram/chrisevans)

Human or animal, surgery is no fun. After a stressful hospital stay, all anyone recovering from an operation wants is to relax and heal in the comfort of their own home. Chris Evans, dog dad extraordinaire, has proven time and time again that he’ll do just about anything for his rescue dog, Dodger. The pair plays together, naps together, and are there for each other through thick and thin.

Without a doubt, Dodger is one lucky dog. He had a tough start, as an adult dog living in a shelter – puppies go quickly, but some adult dogs wait years before finding their forever home. In his first major stroke of luck, Dodger was discovered by Evans while the Captain America actor was filming a movie nearby. Ever since, the pair have been inseparable.

Even after finding his best friend, Dodger hit additional roadblocks. In July, Evans posted a photo on his Dodger-filled Instagram, a picture of his beloved pup recovering from surgery.

 

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Dodger recovered well after his first surgery, but according to Evans, the resilient boxer-mix needed a second hip replacement. Like any doting dad, Chris was by Dodger’s side as soon as he was out of the animal hospital. This time though, Chris had an adorable surprise for the groggy pup.

“Hip replacement #2 completed! Such a trooper. He’ll be back in action in no time,” Chris shared on Instagram.

After the photo of Dodger’s stitched-up leg, Chris shared a photo featuring some slightly less professional, but extremely important stitches. The doctor was none other than the actor himself, and the patient? Well, Dodger’s other best friend.

 

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A post shared by Chris Evans (@chrisevans)

“Yesterday while he was in surgery, so was his favorite lion (which had been on IR since November after a nasty tear). I’ve never sewn anything before but I’m pretty proud of my hack job,” Chris said. “They’re both happily recovering in each other’s company.”

There’s no such thing as a perfect parent, dog, or human. But doing little things to show you care, even if they’re out of your comfort zone, truly makes you one of the greats.

“Silence of the Lambs” House Is Becoming a Bed and Breakfast

Silence of Lambs Home
(YouTube/The Sisters Sold It)

“The Silence of the Lambs” was partly about a man named Buffalo Bill who entertained a guest in his home. OK, he may have been a serial killer and the guest may have been kidnapped, but the new owner of the home featured in the film is hoping that will give it just enough charm for people to want to pay money to stay the night. Buffalo Bill’s house is becoming a Bed and Breakfast.

The new owner of the house, who bought it earlier this year for nearly $300k, plans to do some small renovations to make it more accommodating but will be keeping all of the creepy old-wallpaper, pocket doors, wood trim, and other furnishings that will remind fans of the movie.

The basement does NOT, however, have a well to torture victims in. The owner WILL, however, be adding said well. Though he claims it’s mostly for photo ops.

The three-story, four-bedroom house just outside Pittsburgh looks just as creepy as you remember it from the movie. And the timing is good, in a sense, as the film nears its 30th anniversary and the franchise receives a revival of sorts with the new “Clarice” show.

One of the previous owners of the home was an FBI agent, which is a fun little fact for such a creepy home. And soon you will be able to (try to) sleep in that creepy home.

Guests will be sure to receive only the finest lotion to put on their skin, and a sleepless night full of nightmares.

New ‘Breath of the Wild’ Style Pokemon Game and Diamond & Pearl Remakes Announced

Pokemon Shining Pearl
(YouTube/Official Pokemon)

Tomorrow, Pokemon celebrates it’s 25th anniversary… which is kind of insane to think about since that means I was 10 when the very first Pokemon game released.

Anyway, now that I’ve just realized how old I actually am, Nintendo dropped a couple of new announcements for fans today during a ‘Pokemon Presents’ livestream.

The first announcement was for Nintendo Switch remakes of Pokemon Diamond & Pearl.  Originally released on the Nintendo DS back in 2006, these new versions will both be releasing later this year and feature updated graphics on top of the classic Pokemon gameplay.

The other announcement is actually a pretty big deal since we’ve never seen this kind of gameplay before in the franchise.  A Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild style game called Pokemon Legends: Arceus will be releasing early 2022 and will break new ground for the beloved series.  It takes place in the Sinnoh region (the same one as Diamond & Pearl) but features a vast open-world for you to explore.  Check out the trailer down below.

Well Nintendo, ya got me.  It looks like my kids and I are going to be catching them all… again.

(imgur/djbws92)

NASA Engineer Helps Land Mars Rover From Daughter’s Childhood Bedroom

NASA dad watches Mars rover land
(Instagram/maddievsm)

Every job has different metrics for measuring success. Maybe you have regular performance reviews, sales goals to hit, or maybe being successful at your job means landing a freaking rover on Mars. Father and engineer Alejandro Miguel San Martin has worked for NASA for 35 years, and in that time, he’s made history time and time again. This time, however, San Martin’s daughter was able to capture the incredible moment on camera.

Because of COVID, NASA’s work on their most recent rover, Perseverance, has looked a bit different. Rather than working alongside his team in person, San Martin turned his daughter’s childhood bedroom into a makeshift mission control room.

“Touchdown! Never thought my childhood bedroom would become my dads covid mission control – but could not be more proud of the Jet Propulsion Lab EDL team!!!” Madeleine San Martín shared on Instagram. “5/5 for Mars Rover Landings, let’s celebrate!!”

 

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A post shared by Madeleine San Martín (@maddievsm)

In the heartwarming video captured by the NASA engineer’s daughter, San Martin quite literally jumps out of his chair with excitement upon learning that the Perseverance mission was a success.

“YES!!!” San Martin exclaims, throwing his hands in the air after receiving confirmation that Perseverance safely touched down. He kisses his daughter and puts his head in his hands, watching with tears in his eyes as his peers celebrate on screen. “Unbelievable” he marvels, both laughing and crying.

After 35 years with NASA, San Martin has helped land five rovers safely on Mars. Even after experiencing such massive success four times previously, the thrill of making a monumental mark in history clearly doesn’t get old. This NASA dad’s work is out of this world, and San Martin is over the moon about it.