Matt Tilley: “My dad was more of a safety-net than a loaded gun”

Luke BenedictusBy Luke Benedictus.
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Matt Tilly & Family

MATT TILLEY, 49 Comedian / radio presenter
Father of Grace (17), Jack (15) and Oscar (13)

My dad, Trevor, taught me how to shave and how to change a car tyre. The poor bastard had no choice. There was no YouTube back then.

He was an old-fashioned person with a new-age way of thinking. I’d say he was more of a safety net than a loaded gun He was very gentle and affectionate in a way that wasn’t always common in the ’70s. I aspire towards how he was in that respect and I do worry that I haven’t reached his heights.

But I’ve got more of a work / balance than he did. Probably because I saw him work too hard. He was a pharmacist for 50 years and was always working.

He never gave me any advice. Except he told me “I expect you to go to university to make mistakes”. I think what he meant was that he wanted me to go and experience life.

I never heard my father swear except for once on my brother’s birthday. Some Mormons knocked on the door and he told them to “fuck off”.

I became a dad when I was 31. Other blokes didn’t want to settle down but I was desperate to have kids. Probably because I’ve got a childish sense of humour and instant sense of delight.

I thought I knew what sleep deprivation was after working on breakfast radio. But my kids had sleeping troubles and there was a time I was having to get up for work at 3.50am and head into the studio on one-and-a-half hours of sleep. But I was used to being exhausted from work so it wasn’t that big of an adjustment.

I didn’t even drink coffee back then because I never wanted to rely on stimulants. I’ve just always been able to flick an “on” switch for work. It’s like if you’re suddenly pushed onstage in front of a live crowd then you don’t suddenly feel tired.

The hardest thing about being a dad? Fatherhood has taught me patience. It’s something I needed to work on. I’ve learnt to allow my kids to take their time, rather than me wanting to get results. And I’ve also found the joy that comes from that, whether it’s teaching them how to ride a bike or how to take a breath and control their temper.

You’ve got to be ready to admit that you’re wrong to your kids.

I’ve been married to Susie for 20 years.  What’s the secret to a lasting marriage? I just think I’m not the sort of person who’s always wanting more or is worrying about what I’m missing out on. I’m very content and that’s probably because I’ve got a beautiful wife. But if you can be happy with what you’ve got that’s the key.

Now my kids are teenagers, one of my big mantras is

“You’re entitled to disagree with us. But you have to do it respectfully.”

Just after Gracie was born, I was out with Susie and an old lady stopped us in the supermarket to tell us what a beautiful baby we had. Then she looked my wife and me right in the eye. “I’ve just got one thing to say to you,” she said. “Look after your relationship.” I think what she meant by that was: never think you’ve got it licked.