Q. You've won rave reviews as Jeff Winger. How do you play him so well?A. Yes, people say I'm perfect as a misogynistic loner who wants to sleep with everyone, pushes people away emotionally and lies about college degrees. I'd like to think it's my acting skills, insanely good writing and a great cast.
Q. Do you have the Jeff Winger talking bobblehead?A. I did, but the kids broke it. Isaac said, "Daddy, your head's not that big." I said, "Well, my ego is, son!"
Q. Stories about your boys are part of your stand-up act. What's the last thing one of them did that made it in?A. Eddie recently lost his first tooth but swallowed it. I thought he'd be upset about having nothing to show the tooth fairy. But he was like, "Oh, come on, the tooth fairy knows. I don't need a receipt to redeem my prize." Pretty funny.
Q. Any worries that using the kids in your routines will mean lots of therapy for them later on?A. I'm the only one who needs therapy—the physical kind. I love wrestling with them, but now they're getting too strong. The other week Isaac head-butted me in the nose, and Eddie hit me so hard I saw stars!
Q. Does humor help with parenting?A. I think a lighthearted approach helps kids become more self-motivated instead of feeling resentful because you're always pushing them. But I'm bad at discipline because I crack up when they misbehave. I have to walk out of the room and laugh, then come back in and get serious.
Q. We've heard you also resort to bribes.A. I used to ply them with sugar, but now they mostly want crackers and chips and ice cream—but only vanilla. I'm like, "Vanilla? Are you guys nuts?"
Q. Is having three males in the house ever too much for Sarah?A. I've trained my sons to put the toilet seat down. Hopefully that has given her a little bit of solace.
Q. What's Christmas like at the McHales'?A. The kids write letters to Santa, and we leave out milk and cookies. Sarah and I also make them open their stockings first while we're still in bed so we get an extra 15 minutes of sleep.
Originally published in the December 2012 issue of Family Circle magazine.