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The one lesson I’ve learned from life: Jack Dee says empty nest? Nothing to be sad about

The one lesson I’ve learned? An empty nest is nothing to be sad about because while kids are great they also ruin your life, writes JACK DEE

  • Jack Dee is famous for his deadpan delivery, co-writing and starring in sitcoms
  • Admits couldn’t wait for a day that doesn’t get ruined at some point by the kids 
  • Comedian, 60, who lives in London, says they are capable of sorting themselves


Famous for his deadpan delivery, comedian Jack Dee, 60, co-wrote and starred in sitcoms Lead Balloon and Bad Move. He lives in London with his wife, Jane, and has two daughters, 29 and 25, and twin sons, 23. 

Kids are the best thing that happen to you, but they ruin your life. The danger of glossing over that aspect of it is substantial. You can fool your friends and people in the park and say: ‘Isn’t it lovely having kids?’ Inside you’re screaming.

But Jane and I found when we said: ‘Isn’t it hard work?’ there were always parents who’d reply: ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about. Caspar is so intelligent and such good company.’

I preferred it when I could sleep in and do things I enjoyed. I remember saying to Jane: ‘I can’t wait for a day that doesn’t get ruined at some point by the kids.’ And she said: ‘Yeah, it’s tough isn’t it?’ That sounds harsh, but it’s healthy to admit. It took pressure off both of us.

Jack Dee, 60, (pictured) who lives in London, admits empty nest gave him tears of joy as he couldn’t wait for a day that wasn’t ruined at some point by the kids

I have friends who sobbed over the empty nest. But when you’ve got four children, the tears are of joy. Obviously you love your kids. But we didn’t hesitate for a moment to wave them goodbye. It was always: ‘Thank God, we’ve filled the car with duvets and clothes, and they’ve got halls of residences and now they can find food for themselves.’

My parents were very much: go out and make your own mistakes.

Aged 18, I went to live in Grenoble in France for nine months. My parents drove me to the railway station at Winchester — then didn’t hear from me for two weeks. My mum told me years later, she thought: ‘I’d quite like to know he’s still alive.’ Of course I rang my mum eventually. But it’s unthinkable today that a mother would let their child go away for two weeks and not worry.

I’d never track my kids on Facebook like some parents. That’s creepy. I’m there for them if they need help, but they have to sort things out themselves and are perfectly capable of doing so.

During lockdown my tour was cancelled, so I wrote a book about the self-help industry, as a fake agony uncle. It’s a book of humour. If you can find counselling or psychotherapy that works for you, these people can be miracle workers, and I think it’s important we de-stigmatise mental health issues. But I also feel the field has a lot of charlatans.

So I cover all the key dilemmas — relationships, parenthood, money and, yes, the empty nest. Sometimes tough love can be liberating!

What Is Your Problem? Comedy’s Little Ray Of Sleet Grapples With Life’s Major Dilemmas, by Jack Dee (£20, Quercus).

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