Pittsburgh Dad Strikes a Strong Chord with Local Audience
May 31, 2016 12:33PM
● By Vanessa Orr
Curt Wootton (Pittsburgh Dad)
This June 19 is Father’s Day, which is a great time to take a minute to honor the guy who made you. And while your dad will certainly appreciate it, your tribute may not catch on quite as wildly as the videos made by Chris Preksta and Curt Wootton—the creators of social media sensation Pittsburgh Dad.
“We expected maybe 50 views on You Tube from our families,” laughed Preksta about the original video that debuted in 2011. “The first day, we got 1,000 hits; it was up to 10,000 the next day. We were just goofing around and created an accidental show.”
Preksta and Wootton were filming a sci-fi adventure series, The Mercury Men, when they began playing around with an iPhone between takes. When Wootton began imitating his father, Preksta began filming…and the rest is social media history.
“I was living in Los Angeles working on being an actor when it went viral,” said Wootton. “After it took off, Chris suggested that I move back and we give it a real go. It isn’t hard to come up with material—we both have so many great memories of the Pittsburgh area. And in addition to what we have in our repertoire, we take fan suggestions—the ideas are virtually limitless.”
For those Pittsburghers who may have been living under a rock, Pittsburgh Dad is an online sitcom that features Wootton’s yinzer-accented impression of his Pittsburgh blue-collar ‘everyman’ father. He rants on topics ranging from the Steelers (of course), to movies (Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey, among others), to city-specific topics including the Eat ‘n Park Christmas commercial.
The series has been seen by almost 30 million viewers, and has more than 80,000 viewers on YouTube, 116,000 followers on Twitter and 200,000 followers on Facebook. “Not much has changed since we started,” said Preksta. “We still shoot it on an iPhone, and we scrounge Goodwill for different shirts to fit the Pittsburgh Dad character. We did eventually buy Curt his own prescription glasses; for the first three years, he was wearing prescription glasses, but they weren’t his prescription.”
New episodes air about twice a month, and the two choose the topic from a list of about 100 episode ideas that they have at any given time. “The biggest request that we’ve gotten from viewers is to do a Pittsburgh wedding episode, but we haven’t done it yet; we want to make sure that we really nail it when we do,” said Preksta.
While Pittsburgh Dad is a full-time job for Preksta and Wootton, they’re involved in many side projects as well. Preksta is currently directing a science-fiction short film, and Wootton appears in theatrical productions a couple of times a year. “We eventually want to do a live, one-man theatrical show, and we’ve got a movie script written that we’re trying to get off the ground,” said Wootton. “We’re still going to continue doing episodes, though, because we love making people laugh.”
Despite being the catalyst of his humor, Wootton’s own father is one of Pittsburgh Dad’s biggest fans. “He loves it; he reads every Facebook comment,” said Wootton. “Growing up in my family, it was all about being funny. My parents have always been encouraging, so sharing this with them has been great.”
“I think one of the reasons that the show is so popular is that it’s so similar to what everyone around here experienced growing up,” said Preksta. “We’re all surprised by how much we have in common. The comment we probably hear the most from our fans is, ‘It’s like you had a camera in my house.’
“We’re especially popular with Pittsburghers who moved away,” continued Preksta, adding that this demographic makes up about half of their audience. “They watch us to get a taste of home.”
They can also get a smell of home through the duo’s latest concoction—the Hills candle. Created in conjunction with local Sugar Creek Candle Co., the candle reeks of the Hills’ snack bar smell, which anyone who grew up in the city during the 1970s can quickly recall. “Every time you walked into the store, you’d get hit with a burst of that pretzel-popcorn smell,” laughed Wootton. “Sugar Creek really hit the nail on the head, and the response has been off the charts. It’s been such a great experience that we’re coming out with another couple of candles this fall.”
Pittsburgh Dad swag also includes t-shirts, bobble-heads and a book of “everything your dad has said to you” that can be found on their website.
As for the future, Preksta and Wootton plan to continue to pay tribute to their dads and Pittsburghers everywhere. “It’s a cool little time capsule—a friendly reminder of how we all grew up,” said Preksta of the show. “We’re happy that so many Pittsburghers like it, and if other people are watching it, too, that’s just icing on the cake.”