Constable: Dad, family bring joy with daily duo photos
Fathers are famous for telling corny "dad jokes." Ben Burke of Cary takes that humor to a new level, building a growing fan base for a running daily photo gag that started the moment his pandemic boredom began.
"Oh, man, the lockdown started when my wife gave birth to our son," Ben says, noting he was able to join Melissa in the delivery room on March 16 to witness the arrival of Brayden. "If it was a week later, I wouldn't have been able to be there."
Working from home day after day in his job handling recruiting and wellness matters for a law firm, Ben needed a break in the routine.
"A month into quarantine, it was later in the day, and I was super bored," he remembers. A fan of DC's Joker character, Ben put on makeup to look like the villain of comic book and movie fame. His daughter, Kinsley, who turns 4 on Father's Day, thought that was funny and wanted to play, too. So he painted her face as the Harley Quinn character.
"The day he started it with Harley Quinn and Joker, I took the picture," says Melissa, who helps children with autism in her job as a behavioral therapist for Northwest Behavioral Health Services in Arlington Heights. "It's not unlike him to do that."
The Burkes posted that photo on Facebook just to amuse others.
"It got a lot of attention," Ben says.
So the next day, Melissa and Kinsley dressed up as Wayne and Garth from "Wayne's World," and people liked that, too. In the weeks that followed, Ben and Brayden (complete with eye black) portrayed Chicago Cubs' stars Kris Bryant and Javy Baez, Kinsley and Brayden sported KISS makeup, Melissa and Kinsley spoofed "I Love Lucy," and so on, until the family's Famous Duos with the Burkes Facebook page is set to feature No. 50 in the series today, with Kinsley and Brayden as Elsa and Olaf from "Frozen" in honor of Kinsley's 4th birthday.
"A lot of people were saying it made their day," Ben says of their photo series. That encouragement and more than 1,000 followers propelled Melissa and him to offer fans a daily image.
"My wife did her own makeup for Morticia," Ben says of "The Addams Family" sendup she did with Kinsley, who portrayed the TV daughter, Wednesday Addams. "That took about 90 minutes."
The photo of Kinsley as Willy Wonka and Brayden as a green-haired, orange-face Oompa-Loompa, looks as if it could be digitally altered.
"No," Ben says sheepishly. "I put makeup on him. When I put makeup or paint on him, he giggles."
Kinsley also has gotten into the spirit of the project.
"She never let me play with her hair, and now she lets me do her hair and makeup," Melissa says. "It's really fun now because I get to do it with my kids. And it is fun to connect with everybody lately. It's brought our family together."
Melissa played volleyball, basketball, softball and ran track while growing up in Deerfield, and Ben played baseball growing up in Cary, so the pair say they are used to the discipline required to make time in their daily schedules for the photo settings.
"We're just doing it for the joy," Ben says. "You go to Facebook and you see negative after negative after negative."
With so many photos posted and the world starting to see people return to work and normal activity, the Burkes say they still want to keep going just to bring a little fun into the world. The photos entertain Kinsley, too.
"I think it's important to teach her to have a sense of humor and be lighthearted because everything is so heavy nowadays," Ben says. "If she enjoys it, we're going to continue doing it."