Arts Desk

Some Conflicting Thoughts About Dave Foley

Dave Foley

Dave Foley is performing four stand-up shows at the Arlington Drafthouse on July 15 and 16.

It's part of his deadbeat dad tour: Foley, who is Canadian, owes some half-million dollars in back child support to his two teenage children in Canada. According to published reports, he has another ongoing obligation of $17,000 (Canadian) more per month. Foley claims his obligations amount to three to four times what he earns in a month. Foley also says that he'll be jailed if he goes back to Canada, so he's performing in the U.S. for now, trying to raise money and avoid jail.

This is bound to be a hilarious show.

I bought tickets to go see Foley's gig (Friday night, 7:30pm; my husband recently fell asleep at a 10 p.m. show at the Drafthouse and he wants to be awake for this one). I got the tickets off of Groupon, so they were half the regular price—$15 instead of $30 apiece. Buying them left me with some conflicting feelings.

ON THE ONE HAND: This guy, who was so brilliant in Kids in the Hall and News Radio, sounds like such a jackass when he talks about the child support situation. On Marc Maron's WTF podcast, where he revealed his reasons for going on this current stand-up tour, Foley bragged about his profligate years in Los Angeles, throwing parties that would make the Playboy Mansion seem boring and keeping his swimming pool at a constant temperature of 95 degrees (Fahrenheit, we have to assume) because that is the temperature at which every woman, even a nun, takes off all her clothes to go swimming. This is the same guy saying that he can't afford to pay his court-ordered obligations toward his very own children. Is this someone I want to give money to?

ON THE OTHER HAND: The guy's now working, trying to pay up. Good on him. (The fact that tickets to Foley's show were being sold for half-off on Groupon suggests that perhaps the stand-up tour won't be the panacea Foley is hoping for, though.)

BUT STILL: Foley claims that he can't meet the obligations because he's not rich anymore, like he used to be. And yet the all-knowing Internet suggests that he wasn't meeting his obligations even when he was rich.

EEK: Foley says that Canadian courts won't modify the child support order, even though he now owes many times his actual salary. He says the family court judge told him that even if he were paralyzed, or dead, he'd have the same enormous child support obligations. Fathers rights types are taking an interest in him, because of this. I am not in a position to judge if Canada's family law is unfair to fathers, or to Foley in particular, or to dead people either, but I'll tell you this: I hate treading into these "fathers rights" issues. They're just kind of gross, and attract people who say things like "Never send a girl to do a man's job." I feel the urge to avoid people associated with that kind of statement.

BUT WHILE WE'RE ON THIS: If you listen to the WTF podcast—which I suggest doing not only for the whole child support thing but also because on it Foley talks a lot about Kids in the Hall, which was just an awesome show—Foley doesn't sound completely sane or credible when he's talking about the events that have culminated with him possibly having to go to jail for his unmet child support obligations. If things are as dire and unfair as he makes out, I find it hard to believe he wouldn't have filed more motions, and more appeals of denied motions, regarding the court orders. And even though I am no expert on Canadian family law, I also find it hard to believe that the court wouldn't work with Foley to develop a payment schedule that would ensure his kids are taken care of, while at the same time would leave him some money to live on.

A MITIGATING FACTOR?: I'll admit it—Dave Foley has made Tabatha Southey, his ex-wife and the mother of the two children whose support Foley hasn't paid, sound bad. He accuses her of domestic abuse, among other terrible things.

HOWEVER: I have no idea if his accounts of her awfulness are credible, of course. And anyway, who cares what Southey is like? The child support payments are for the children, not for the ex-spouse.

ADDITIONALLY: I have a little writer crush on Southey. She writes a witty and liberal column for The Globe and Mail, and wrote a charming piece for The Walrus about her adventures going bra shopping.

WHICH IS MAYBE THE POINT?: So can't I also enjoy Foley's standup show, regardless of his deadbeat dad-ness? I'm not sure I need my entertainers to be good people, just to be good entertainers. If I needed my entertainers to be good people—to be kind and loving and considerate to their families, not to be damaged or deranged—would I have many entertainers left to enjoy? I am pretty sure the answer is no.

STILL, I DON'T LIKE WHERE THIS LINE OF THINKING TAKES ME: When I was a teenager, my dad wouldn't go see Matthew Broderick movies because in 1987 Broderick killed a woman in Ireland, as he was driving a car on the wrong side of the street. My father also wouldn't buy an answering machine for our house until about 1995, because he said that it was rude to ask callers to talk to a machine, so I will grant you that the norms I grew up with weren't quite normal.

But some things stuck. I, too, am a mild luddite. Also, if an entertainer I otherwise liked were to do something that is explicitly reprehensible—say, torture puppies—would I still go see his standup show if there were a Groupon for half-off tickets? I wouldn't. Especially if the puppy-torturer were still making out as if he hadn't done anything wrong, and was the victim of an unfair system. And perhaps even more especially if the puppy torturer rights groups came out in favor of him.

CONCLUSION: Do I think it's all right for Dave Foley to be a deadbeat dad? No. But it's not like Dave Foley is a mass murderer, or even an axe murderer. There are degrees of terribleness, and even if Dave Foley is a bitter asshole who has reneged on his legal and parental obligations, and even if his grasp on his legal situation may not be 100 percent, there are no reports that his kids are living poorly. And insofar as going to see his show helps him become an undeadbeat dad, it seems an overall moral good to go to the show. Again, though, the half-price Groupon does not bode well on that point.

CODA: My dad now sees Matthew Broderick movies. He says enough time has passed. Also, in the late 90s Matthew Broderick started making movies my dad really wanted to see, like Election. (My dad has an iPhone now, too. He's started getting over his fear of machines.)

A FINAL IRONY: The podcast on which Foley talked about all the things that make going to see him such a moral conundrum was sponsored by Pro Flowers, which was offering listeners a special on Valentine's Day flowers.

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  • http://tavie.com Tavie

    Dave wasn't throwing outrageous parties while he owed child support. He was throwing parties for his friends while he was an NBC sitcom star, at which time he had more than enough money to both meet his child support obligations AND ALSO spend his own money as he pleased (throwing parties.) When his sitcom ended and the cash flow dried up, he was not spending his money on parties, he was scraping his cash together and taking any gigs he could (see his list of dismal IMDB credits for proof) to pay for all three of his kids.

    Dave is a generous and thoughtful guy who's trying to turn his rotten situation into something that will help him meet his financial obligations. His public bitterness is part of that - it's pain fueling comedy. And, remembering that "the key to good storytelling is embellishment", I'd take that 95-degree-temperature business with a grain of salt as well.

  • AbbyJaneway

    "Foley doesn't sound completely sane or credible when he's talking about the events that have culminated with him possibly having to go to jail for his unmet child support obligations."

    You're right; he's hiding the fact that a few years ago he stopped making child support payments. I don't know when he resumed paying, but for at least a year he wasn't paying. Tabatha mentioned this at the time in one of her Globe & Mail columns. I love Dave and I don't want to see him go to jail, but I have a hard time feeling sorry for someone who thought he could get away with not paying child support. So I, too, feel conflicted about Dave Foley.

  • http://tavie.com Tavie

    He stopped paying because he no longer had the $50,000 a month to pay. At what point do you stop choosing between food/shelter and paying for your ex to remodel her backyard?

  • P.B.inLosAngeles

    Clearly, Ms. Greenwood understands zero about the nightmare that is The Family Law and Child Support Collection Industries; both here in the States and or in Canada. As a result of her blatant ignorance, and as a divorced, child support paying dad, I resent her use of the words "fathers rights types" when she admits knowing nothing of the plight. Perhaps if she knew that mothers are awarded primary physical custody of minor children in divorce/custody cases - when such children are involved - over 90% of the time, she'd be a little more open minded to the monologue. Perhaps if she knew that, in California alone, we have over 8,000 guys paying child support for kids that DNA evidence has PROVEN they didn't father, she would be a little more empathetic to "the other side" of the story. Perhaps if she researched the subject before going to the performance and then trying to critique it, she'd be better able to offer a tangible report! Atrocious commentary. At best, she should be writing for The Onion or TmZ.

  • AbbyJaneway

    Tavie, that's a good point, but I think if he had continued to make payments, even if it was only say $10/month or whatever he could afford, it would have shown the court that he was trying. Once you stop paying you're labeled a 'deadbeat' and the courts have no mercy.

  • Jim in SF

    Supporting children does not require $17,000 a month - this is a ridiculous sum that will allow the mother to live in total luxury and never work again under the pretense of being for the children, who consume a tiny fraction of that, while the father is a slave to having to produce that money for her for 18 years.

    The system that decided that "child support" should be based on the father's income, even far, far above a level that will easily support the children's basic needs, is very broken.

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  • drew patterson

    It's "kind of gross" that people think that maybe a $17,000/mo child support payment is far excessive to any child support needs and is just a tool for hypertrophied family courts to engage in redistribution out of a misguided sense of social justice that puts fathers into indentured servitude?? Knowing the legal regime our country (the US) has, i'm never having kids.

  • Clark

    Sounds like a Dave Foley - Charlie Sheen tour might be in the making.
    "Deadbeat Winning Dads' Tour", maybe.
    Although that gives Charlie Sheen a bad name - who'd thought that would be possible.

  • Eli

    Ms. Greenwood's ignorance of child support laws is significant.

    Rather than requoting Tavie and P.B.inLosAngeles, let me just say for those who feel that the laws are just, let Mr. Foley go to jail. (Apparently debtor's jail still exists in this area of the law).

    Can you see the silliness of putting Foley in jail? The children will not get support and the father will not be able to interact with the kids. And he will have a record...which will make it more difficult to get a job.

    By the way, spending $17,000/month on a child could be considered detrimental...

  • Bre

    "I have no idea if his accounts of her awfulness are credible, of course. And anyway, who cares what Southey is like? The child support payments are for the children, not for the ex-spouse."
    Unless the apparently gainfully employed spouse is living over the garage of the home that requires $17k a month the child support payments are going toward the spouse. Is she paying $17k a month too? Or is her salary for her and his is for her and the kids?

  • Ben Culture

    This article assumes that what Ms. Southey's attorney said must be true, and that the Canadian family-law courts must be fair and rational.

    Lying is not in itself illegal, and attorneys are trained to do it well. There are crazy, unfair laws in every country on Earth.

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