Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith, media & culture: 06/16/21

Brett Siddell is wrestling with the pros and cons of fatherhood. The 30-plus stand-up comic, who has been part of the on-air team of Busted Halo for over decade on SiriusXM’s Catholic Channel/129, has decided to finally get serious about one of life’s biggest questions – namely, should he reproduce? He plans on sharing his thought process via a docuseries that, in an era in which potential parents are fretting about the future of the planet, is actually pretty timely. Plus, next Sunday is Father’s Day so it seems like a pretty good time to talk with him about it.

Our conversation follows his GoFundMe pitch below. As of this writing, he’s actually closing in on his $35,000 goal to get the project going. If you’re moved to put him over the top, you can visit his GoFundMe page. Be assured that giving does not constitute a promise for continued child support.

JWK: So, full disclosure, you and I know each other a bit since I spent some time at The Catholic Channel myself some years back. Tell everybody what you do there.

Brett Siddell: I just hit my fourteenth anniversary of being on the air on The Busted Halo Show on The Catholic Channel at SiriusXM 129. I did not see that coming in terms of a career. Fourteen years ago I was doing pretty wild stand-up comedy and acting in some silly things. I got hired as a phone screener on The Busted Halo Show and then, slowly but surely, I went from out-of-the-studio phone screener to in-studio phone screener to on-air phone screener to associate producer to producer. And now I asked just to co-host. I took out the producer part of my job and I just remained on the air as a co-host.

JWK: So, you’re basically Ed McMahon to Father Dave Dwyer.

BS: That’s a very wise analogy, a very insightful analogy. Father Dave Dwyer is definitely the host but I’m kind of his sidekick. I’m kind of the Robin to his Batman if you want to make a superhero connection.

JWK: Are you a Catholic yourself? I don’t even know.

BS: Yes, I am – born and raised. So, I’m a cradle Catholic. I was confirmed when I was about 16 or 17 when I was in high school. I have to admit, I definitely fell away from the faith after that – in college and my young adult years. Since I’ve been on the show, I definitely have been reinvigorated about all of those things.

JWK: What do you do like about doing the show?

BS: I’m very proud of the show and, indeed, my role in the show because we balance out elements of silliness and levity with issues of very serious gravity. You know, in one episode of a two-hour show we could cover something as serious as suicide or mental health issues or physical issues or questions of faith but, on the same show, maybe twenty minutes later, we might be goofing around about hotdogs, sporting events and the silly aspects of our lives. I happen to need both of those in my professional and creative output. I think life has elements of both – often times at the same time – and I think it’s important to talk about all of them.

When I started the job, I was doing pretty wacky, crazy stand-up comedy which I did enjoy but it did not fulfill other parts of my being that really aimed to help people and talk about very serious issues as well.

JWK: Are you still doing stand-up?

BS: Yeah. I mean this last year has obviously been very difficult for that so I haven’t done a live in-person stand-up show for over a year now, But, yeah, I’ve been doing stand-up on-and-off for about 20 years. I still aim to get back in the game with that but there are some other professional projects that I’ve been kind of dedicating my time to as well.

JWK: Of course one is Should I Have Kids? Do you see that as a movie or a docuseries?

BS: It might be movie. I see it more as a docuseries – depending on who picks it up. It’s up to them really. That’s definitely where I’m putting a lot of my off-air creative energy.

JWK: So, why are you interested in this subject?

BS: I’m 30-something…and I don’t have any kids.

JWK: Are you married?

BS: I’m single now but I have a girlfriend of about two years and we are thinking of getting married. But it isn’t really just about me…We’re in the fourth year in a row of the lowest birth rate in American history. We keep breaking our own record, so to speak. Not necessarily a good record to break but one nonetheless. I continue to find that quite fascinating, potentially even disturbing, but I am still (part of) that data. I am in my late thirties. I’m not married. I don’t have any kids. So, it’s certainly not coming from a place of judgment. I’m right smack-dab in the group of people that have either decided not to have kids or have waited this long…So, definitely not from a place of judgment but definitely from a place of concern and also wonder. You know, what is going on? Why are people not having kids as often? or Why are they waiting longer? What are the reasons? What are the setbacks? What are the hurdles?

What are the reasons, on the other side, that people are having kids? And are they happy about that decision? There are just a lot of ins and outs and up and downs and things to consider, both from a personal standpoint and from a societal standpoint. I wanted to break all those down and talk to America about it and see what we can find out.

JWK: So, what will a typical episode of this docuseries be like?

BS: Good question – because I’ve thought about this a lot. I think the best way to break down this subject and to make a compelling docuseries would be to go episode-by-episode based on each major factor that is accounting for us not having – or waiting to have – children. For instance, we do an episode on the people who think there are too many people on the planet already. There are many people – and many studies – with arguments on either side that. (Some say) a lot of our societal problems are caused by the fact that there are too many people on Planet Earth and it would actually be a problem to bring more children into the world.

So, that episode would basically look like me kind of explaining where my thoughts are at the beginning of the episode…but then talking to people on the street and people who have varying viewpoints on that. And then talking to experts – ones that might say “Yes, there are too many people on the planet” and then, on the flip side, talking to someone who says “Yes, there a lot of people on the planet but we actually do have enough resources to take care of all those people. We just don’t distribute them properly.” And so it would be a way of kind of balancing or, at least, truly breaking down some of the data that inform people’s perspectives and see if (these arguments) should be a natural roadblock to our decision-making…That would be like an arc of one episode. At the end I would kind of say where is my perspective now that I’ve talked to these people.

That one happens to be particularly serious (for) a comedian…I would really like to balance the moments of gravity with moments of levity. If I’m doing man-on-the-street interviews, they will also have, hopefully, moments of comedy while talking about a serious topic.

JWK: Do you have any thoughts on where this might air?

BS: We’re gonna start at the top. We’re gonna pitch this to the big dogs and work our way down from there. You know, CNN, Netflix, HBO – because the news headline is everywhere. We just got the data back from 2020 which indicates that, unlike what many scientists and experts thought, we did not have a pregnancy boom over the course of the pandemic. A lot of people thought that couples who are cooped up with nothing else to do… Why not do each other? But that did not happen (which) provides yet another big reason to tackle this in a more public format.

There have been podcasts that have taken on maybe an episode or two about it and there have been articles up the wazoo about it but I have not seen yet a full-on series dedicated to exploring this topic – and I’d like to be the one to do that.

JWK: So, right now, what do you see as the major pros and cons of having a baby?

BS: I can tell you that the major ones that pop up when you go over the statistics and the data (on) people who have already been surveyed about this. Surprisingly, four out of six reasons people aren’t having kids or are waiting to have kids are based in some form around money – either they don’t enough money at the time, they think children are going to be too expensive (or) they won’t be able to work. It’s not always just money in and of itself but four out of the top six reasons somehow revolve around money and/or lack thereof.

Now, what I would say, again, is let’s try to balance out these episodes. If one was just called Money, I would use some data…to present the antithesis of that which is that there are lot of people on Planet Earth that do not have any money and have children and are very happy. I do not think de facto that no money means no happiness or no kids. Again, in an effort of balancing the perspectives, I would like to bring both elements to light.

I should point out at this point that the goal of this docuseries is not to talk people who do not want to have children into having children. My goal is to present what people are thinking (and) why people think that. If some things can be actually renegotiated or reconsidered based on new data, I guess I would be concerned – and this includes myself – if there were people that did want to have kids but weren’t having them for what I would consider incorrect reasons or a faulty premise.

JWK: What would that be?

BS: Money. You know, (when) people are like “Well, listen I don’t have enough money. So, the kids are not going to be happy and I’m not going to be happy.” Whereas, I think I could make a pretty strong case for the fact that (not) having enough money isn’t necessarily a barrier to having a happy child and a happy life.

JWK: I think one of the “cons” that annoys me the most – because I think it’s  a con job that’s also wreaking havoc on the psychology of kids –  are these climate-change/end-of-the-world scenarios where it’s pretty much considered supposedly  “settled science” that the world is, basically, doomed so why bring children into such a bleak future. It’s very demoralizing for everyone – especially kids.  What are your thoughts about that?

BS: I was going to move onto that one next because it’s the one that I suppose is most disturbing to me but also the one that I totally understand. I have very good friends – and (there are) a lot of people out there that I don’t know – that feel this way. They feel like bringing a child into this world right now is wrong because this country and world seem to be at a very divisive time and climate change is happening at an incredibly scary rate. Most scientists say that in 50 years we’re gonna be looking at a much different, scarier world. So, that would be our kids – if we have them right now.

I don’t know. I’m really torn about this because we humans have been around a long time. I do think there are particular challenges right now but the fact of the matter is that we’ve always had challenges. I think generationally there’s always been a threat – or a perceived threat – that’s going to end everything and yet we persevere. I also don’t think a possible thing that might happen in the future should rob many, many people of the pure love and joy that having a child and a family can provide.

I guess it’s more of a philosophical tradeoff of a (possible) future problem versus happiness now. I also understand that that can be a troubling – or problematic – equation to make. But…your child might be able to help. The love that you get from that child and vice versa might be the very thing that’s needed on that block in that neighborhood (and) in that society. I think we’re putting too much of our personal and emotional capital on something that might happen when there’s something (good) right now.

JWK: I think the whole subject is presented in the media with a bit too much certainty. I’m old enough to have seen, or not seen, several predicted apocalypses that never happened.

BS: Right.

JWK: Another concern which people might have – which is, of course, a pretty serious topic – would be about the health of the baby, particularly if there are some genetic concerns.

BS: Yeah. In my time (on) The Busted Halo Show we’ve interviewed a lot of people that have children with very serious disabilities that are developmental, physical (and) psychological. Ten out of ten – 100% – people at least that we’ve had on our show – I can’t say this is the stat across the board nationally or globally – but they’ve all said that they’re beyond happy that they had that child. And, furthermore, they all say something along the lines of “This is the child I was meant to have.” It’s emotional and it’s a vulnerable thing to say…but they’re obviously telling their truth. Going by the anecdotal – literally, because these are people telling me their story – I believe them…Now, again, those are the people that I have seen or talked to. I’m sure there are a lot of people out there that do not feel exactly the same way. But, because of what I’ve seen, I also do not think that it should be a hurdle that stops somebody that does want to have children from having children.

JWK: I guess a lot of the people you’ve previously had on Busted Halo are people you could talk to again for this docuseries.

BS: Oh, for certain. The list goes on and on. I have the people to interview. My friend from college is the co-producer of this – he’s an Emmy-winning documentarian – (and) we’ve got it all mapped out. We have this ready to pitch.

We had this ready to pitch early last March and, as you know, right around that time the world changed. So, now that things are starting to open back up again, we’re can start to pitch this. We’ve got the interview subjects. We’ve got the arc. We’ve got the episodes broken down. We just need somebody to pick it up and fund it we’ll get out there and make it.

JWK: How many episodes are you looking at doing?

BS: I would say – and, again, this would depend on who picks it up – like a ten-episode docuseries.

JWK: How can people support you?

BS: Right now the best thing to do would be to go the GoFundMe page that I have called Should I have Kids? A Documentary. That is where we’re raising not just money but also (awareness) so that people know this project exists. You can kind of put it on your own socials and say, you know, “I would love to see this happen. Let’s make it happen!” Yes, of course, money would help but just getting eyes and ears on this – and pocketbooks, that’s great – that would be the best way.

JWK: Anything else you’d like to add as we wrap up?

BS: Once again, this project would not be talk anyone into anything. It’s really (about) trying to have a lighthearted, yet serious when it needs to be, conversation about what is already happening in this country for the last four years and beyond – which is we’re just having less kids. I think that’s a national discussion – and even an international and global discussion because it’s happening in (other) countries.

As serious as the topic may be – new life – we’re also going to have some fun with this. It will be a series – hopefully, with people’s help – that can have this discussion honestly, truthfully (and) seriously but also have a good time doing it.
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A Father’s Legacy is set to play in over 750 theaters tomorrow (6/17) as a Fathom Father’s Day Event. Following the one-night big screen showing, the movie will soon be available via home entertainment. The gritty-yet-inspirational film touches on issues of family, redemption, and loyalty as it follows a young man (writer/director Jason Mac) on the run after an armed robbery. While hiding from the law, he sets out to find the father he never knew. Venturing further away from the city streets, he finds himself at the secluded home of a stranger (Tobin Bell). As secrets about their past are revealed, they learn that they might not have been looking for each other…but they may have been brought together for a reason.

“This film was born out of one of the most difficult times in my life,” says Mac. “My father was my protector; a guardian I knew would always be there, and then one day he wasn’t. The loss forced me to look inside and really explore what it was to be a father. Too many young men have no male role model growing up. I hope this film inspires other men to give hope, ’to be there’.” You can check out the movie’s trailer below.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11
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