Comedian Philip Simon has a show at the Edinburgh Festival that is sure to be a winner with parents
When I saw that there was a show about Daddy Pig, the father from ubiquitous kids show Peppa Pig, at the Edinburgh Fringe this month I thought that’d be a winner with the family.
Then I saw the 18+ rating.
Philip Simon’s show isn’t about the cartoon buffoon. It’s about life as a working dad. And that inevitably involves a little bit of swearing.
But the twist is that Philip looks to Daddy Pig for lessons in fatherhood. Why? Because he’s been him.
10 years ago Philip was hired to play Daddy Pig in the Peppa Pig stage show and spent nearly two years touring the country entertaining full houses of delighted kids with a Daddy Pig puppet.
Eventually Philip quit that show and turned his attention to stand-up comedy. He brings his laugh out loud show ‘Who’s the Daddy Pig?’ to the Edinburgh Festival this month. It’s already picked up five star reviews.
The strapline says ‘Having played Daddy Pig in Peppa Pig Philip turns to the expert for advice’. So what can Daddy Pig teach us?
“He taught me to find the enjoyment in family time. He often takes one for the team and does things for his kids even when it interferes with his comfort. Often he’s trying to read the paper but the kids make demands of him and he gives in with good grace.
“He taught me not to complain when the kids call you fat.
“And being a daddy defines him. It’s literally his name. We never find out his real name. What was he before he became a daddy – just Pig?”
Full disclosure: I’ve written elsewhere about what a poor role model the bumbling patriarch of the Peppa Pig universe is. I’m concerned kids watch the programme and see the father losing his rag, ineptly handling a simple task like doing the washing and being laughed at and patronised and it gives them the impression that’s what a dad is.
Philip reckons that’s not the whole picture. “He might be a terrible role model for kids, he’s a good role model for dads.
“And the show is contradictory. There’s an episode where his white football shirt turns pink in the washing machine. But that episode starts with him hanging the washing out. And it’s Mummy Pig who says he can’t play football in a pink shirt – which is true, given the rest of the team will be playing in white.”
How does Philip know so much about the Peppa Pig catalogue? “When I was hired to play him in the stage show I had to watch a lot of episodes to find out about the character. This was long before I was even thinking about having children, yet my Sky+ box was full of nothing but Peppa Pig!
“Watching it as an adult was vaguely surreal. But I was paying attention to his voicing and mannerisms, he seemed like a fun character, I wasn’t aware then of how he is as a father.”
That came later after he thought he’d left the character long behind him.
In 2014 Philip’s first son was born and he spent a week in the neo-natal ward. “Daddy Pig was everywhere on the walls of the hospital, he was back in my life again. I almost had a sense that Daddy Pig was looking over my son from the murals on the walls,” he explains.
Now he’s two sons and they are just beginning to clock that the guy singing the Bing Bong Song on the CD he plays in the car is their dad.
As an actor and comedian Philip mainly works evenings. (Though his Edinburgh show is a lunchtime affair.) That means he gets to spend a lot of time with his sons, aged four and two.
“I’m lucky the way I work, I get to be around. I’ve changed my fair share of nappies. I didn’t get what a privilege that is at first.
“We live in a society that doesn’t support dads that want to try harder. It’s hard for dads to ask for flexibility at work because they are worried about the impact on their career.”
And there is a serious point behind Philip’s show. That being a dad doesn’t necessarily come naturally. You’ve got to look for lessons and advice where you can – even if it’s on Peppa Pig. And you’ve got to be willing to admit when it’s hard. “Dads don’t ask for help,” he says. “It never occurred to me, when my friends asked casually if I was OK, to say ‘no I’m not OK. My partner realised that I wasn’t OK, I went to my GP and got some counselling. In that way I was lucky. Society doesn’t support dads the way it should.”
And so Philip turned to Daddy Pig for help. He hopes his show will inevitably raise plenty of laughs but also perhaps open the conversation on life as a new dad and as a working dad. The audience can make up their own mind about whether Daddy Pig is a hero or a bacon sandwich in waiting.
Philip explains, “Whether I think the messages in the show are healthy or not Daddy Pig and Peppa Pig have had a huge influence on my life.
“I realise that sounds ridiculous when I say it out loud.”
Who’s the Daddy Pig is on at 12 noon every day until August 25 at thee Banshee Labyrinth venue. You can buy tickets here