Vancouver-based duo Matthew Clarke and David Milchard have risen to YouTube fame for their hilarious insight into the everyday musings of a toddler in their hilarious series Convos With My 2 Year Old, in which Matthew recreates actual conversations with his daughter Coco, with David taking on the role of the world-wise child. We were fortunate enough to catch up with Matt to discuss parenting, buying children’s clothes for grown men, and the importance of Instagram followers for pre-schoolers…
What was the first convo that you realized that you were really on to something?
There was a bunch of them. I was spending all this time with Coco. Leila was working full time and I was just working part time waiting tables in the evenings. Very cliché right? So I was spending all this time with Coco during the day and having all these interactions. I think the one where it really occurred to me we were in a café and I checked her diaper. I looked down the back of her pants and it occurred to me that this was the strangest thing. You would never get away with this with another human being. In no other context is this acceptable in any way, and yet I’m surrounded by these people and no-one even thinks twice about it. That was the first time it really sunk in, so from there we just started writing down all these interactions.
Do you have to carry a notebook with you everywhere now?
It’d probably be smart if I did! Shortly after that first video was released and we had this viral success, I felt a lot of pressure, and I found myself watching every little thing she did. Being like “could this be an episode? Could this be an episode?” But nothing was funny. So I kind of just forgot about it and just went back to being present and hanging out. Just being a dad. And then all of a sudden these magical moments started to happen. So it was a nice little lesson that the only way to get anything interesting was just to be present and not expect it. That’s when you have an honest exchange or a moment that glimpses into something more.
How did your wife react when you first came up with the idea for the show?
She was pretty much on board right away. She thought it was really funny as well. She was an actor as well for years, and obviously she still is in the show. We met and we were doing music together for years, so we’ve always been a creative team. I don’t think she thought it was too weird or anything, she just thought it was a pretty funny idea. Neither of us really expected that it would turn into anything, so it was kinda just for a laugh!
And how did David feel about dressing up as a two year old girl?
It was funny, because we had been working together for a few years writing some things and filming some stuff, but we’d always been looking towards maybe doing some independent films, or a longer series, ‘cause we’re old, so that’s what we come from! I said to him maybe we should just do some YouTube stuff, some stuff that we can do quick, and we can build up a little body of work and have fun and experiment. Then maybe something would hit. He wasn’t sure at first. You know; YouTube? Maybe if you have something with a puppy or a cat or a baby, then maybe we’ll talk. Jokingly, obviously. But then I had this one idea with my baby. (laughs) So he’d kind of agreed before I’d even given it to him. He was into it though. I don’t think anyone involved really knew for sure that it was gonna work. It was a funny concept. It was just one step removed from being obvious. So whether it would actually work, or whether it would just be stupid we didn’t know. He’s always eager to try stuff though, so he was totally on board. As soon as we started doing it though, we realized it was actually funny. We were laughing.
Where do you get clothes for a grown man to dress as a two year old?
It’s fun shopping; trying to find matching t-shirts, but sometimes you’ll find pyjamas that Coco’s worn that come in full-grown men’s sizes as well, which has been wacky. We’ve also hired a wardrobe person for a number of them as well. So some of them are made from scratch, some of them are pieced together, and some of them are bought. It is harder than I expected to find matching clothes for a young girl and full grown man! I don’t know why I thought it’d be easier. You get to the mall and wander around for three hours and can’t find anything! It’s been good to have some good wardrobe people to get things together. It’s always a balance between finding something that’s’s too kid-like or too girly and something that a grown man could concievably wear. When you’re living in this augmented reality, you’re always trying to figure out the rules as you go, and it’s a bit of a trial-and-error process.
You mentioned originally wanting to do a TV series. You’re kind of doing that with Convos Case Files now. How is that going?
We’ve been wondering what to do with these characters and this twist in reality and I think the great thing with YouTube is that you can do whatever. We’re the bosses. We’re very fortunate to have had a bit of sponsorship for the last couple of seasons, so that’s given us some resources to explore some of these different ways of doing things. Shooting things differently and even exploring how we can change the narrative, like in Case Files. In a way it’s better than a TV show. We’d probably make a lot more money doing a TV show, so in that way it’s not as good! But in a lot of ways it’s better because we’re not really beholden to anybody. We can do something like Case Files which more resembles a long-form scripted narrative, but at the same time the next week we can do a short traditional Convos slice of life. It’s a nice creative opportunity to follow any whim that we might come up with.
Does much of Case Files come from real conversations, or is it more you guys trying to get into Coco’s head?
It’s definitely more scripted. Obviously we’re not police officers! Little things like the idea of losing a toy… For the t-rex episode for example, there was a bunch of kids in our neighbourhood and one of them lost a toy in the summertime, and they were out there like detectives! They were trying to figure out where this thing was. Where they saw it last. And then they go completely off track, and then ten minutes later one of them would remember that they had to find that toy. So it was inspired by real stuff. Case Files is definitely the most adventurous we’ve gotten, but it still has roots in real interactions and what it means to be a kid.
Is Coco aware that she’s an international celebrity?
We get stopped in the street, or at the store, from time to time and I think it’s become a case of “oh, were stopping to take a picture”. I don’t think that she really has a grasp of how vast the internet is, and how many people it reaches. She’s aware that we do these stories and that people watch them, but I don’t think she’s aware that anyone else on the planet watches the shows that she watches on TV. Her world is very insular. She’s aware of what we do, but not of the scope of it.
What does she think about having a middle-aged twin?
She kind of gets it. Early on she would start pitching ideas, these random things like “I’ll do this and David can do it too.” She figured out quickly that it was a game. There was a moment that I was editing a video, and it was the first time that I had called David “Coco”, and she came down and was watching me edit and she stopped me and said “whoa, whoa, whoa, you just called David “Coco”. But I’m Coco”. I totally capsized her world! So who knows what sort of identity issues she’ll have some day! (laughs) Kids are things to experiment on!
How do you think she’ll react when she’s older, looking back on the show?
I hope favourably! I hope with a bit of a laugh! I remember listening to stories that my parents told about when I was a kid at dinner parties and stuff, and as a teenager being embarrassed by it, but at the same time enjoying and reveling in the things I did that were funny or strange, or got them in horrible trouble. A little level of embarrassment will probably be good for her when she starts to be a teenager! The other thing that I think is a positive, is that social media is such a dominant thing in kids’ lives now; their whole self-worth is wrapped up in how many likes you get on an Instagram photo. So maybe it’ll be a nice little tool; you have like a million followers already, and that didn’t change how you felt about your life. It’s all nonsense. She might be the most grounded teenager in the world! “I don’t care about Instagram followers, I had them when I was two!”
You now have your son Shepherd involved too. How did you cast Michael?
He’s a friend of ours who is an actor here in Vancouver. Michael was in our office for a month writing a script. He had a deadline and needed somewhere quiet, so we ended up spending a lot of time with him and getting to know him. That was right around the time that we were wanting to do something with Shepherd, so it just seemed to work. I really wanted someone that had a physically imposing presence, and that was bigger than David, as the younger brother. Shepherd is like this superhero all the time, and he likes making himself known. So I knew that Michael would be funny; he’s a very funny actor. I was curious about the dynamic between the two. It’s worked really well. He’s just hilarious!
How long do you think the series will last? Are we going to see Conversations with my Teenager? Because David being a sulky teen would be great!
We had musings of doing an episode of Coco’s first date, with David going to a movie with some pimply-faced thirteen year old kid. But I don’t know. As long as it remains interesting and entertaining. It’s always been one day to the next, or one season to the next. I know we’re gonna do one more season for sure. We have a few ideas for fun stuff to do. But I don’t know if we’ll do another one after that. We very well might, but we might just think it’s worn off. We’re very fortunate that people still like watching them and are very supportive. It’s an amazing learning tool for us, to be able to follow creative whims and to try out different ways of filming. I also want to see how Coco reacts to it as she gets older and see how she responds to it. She’s not heavily involved in the making of the videos, but even if she doesn’t want to be on camera anymore… It’s really an open equation at this point.
What else does the future hold for you guys?
We’ve been very busy with a bunch of new projects and stuff. The best thing about this whole experience, beyond the joy of making it, is the opportunities it’s opened up for future projects and for other stories that we want to tell. In the spring, we have three new projects that are going to be released, new webseries, so an array of stuff to look forward to!
Check out Convos With My 2 Year Old on YouTube!