Friday, September 23, 2011

One Year Later - The Book Version of San Diego's Viral Hit Is Still a NY Times Bestseller.

** UPDATE, September 23, 2011 -- The book above has been #1 for eleven of the last 72 weeks on the New York Times Bestsellers List. The book finally dropped out of the top 25 on September 18, 2011. The CBS Television series, "$#*! My Dad Says," which debuted in September 2010 to mostly poor reviews, was cancelled in May 2011.   

** On May 4, 2010, "Sh** My Dad Says," the "R-rated" social media phenomenon that began in August 2009 on Twitter – attracting millions of followers as it moved to Facebook and to other social media platforms around the world – entered the rarefied air of the printed page.  

** It Books, an imprint of Harper-Collins, released a 176-page hardcover version of "S*** My Dad Says" – filled with hilarious and sometimes poignant stories - supplemented by only a few of the more than 100 profane, ribald and politically incorrect quips posted on Twitter and uttered by Samuel "Sam" Halpern, the 74-year-old father of Justin Halpern of San Diego.

** The book does NOT replicate nor re-hash what's available online. It is a stand-alone product, a memoir of sorts, filled with short chapters - whereby son Justin provides the "back story" about his relationship with his father. The publisher's marketing notes describe the book as an "all-American tale that unfolds on the Little League field, in Denny's, during excruciating family road trips, and - most frequently - in the Halperns' kitchen over bowls of Grape-Nuts."  

** While some of the quips seen on Twitter do re-appear, the book is filled with fresh material. It is an equally hilarious but more fully formed (and surprisingly touching) collection of stories that paint an almost loving picture of what it was like for Justin to grow up in the shadow of his brainy and brutally blunt father.

** Justin's story has been told numerous times – and is available at so many other online venues – (the best, in my view, was published last year in the Los Angeles Times) – that I'm not going to get into an in-depth recap of how he got here today. In short, after being dumped by his girlfriend in Los Angeles, Justin Halpern, now 29, founder of the humor website, "Holy Taco" – and a senior writer for – moved back with his parents in San Diego.

** On August 4, 2009, he began posting a string of outrageous quips spun by his father – some dating back to Justin's own childhood – to a Twitter account, which in turn spread virally, capturing the attention of celebrities, literary agents and entertainment producers.

** Justin's father Sam, who's described as being "like Socrates, but angrier, and with worse hair" – is a retired scientist from the University of California, San Diego. He's not only corrosively blunt – but he's also, according to the Los Angeles Times, reported to be extremely protective of his privacy, refusing all requests for interviews. Whatever else we might want to know about this secretive but sometimes hilariously crude man - can only come through his adoring son - who describes his dad as "awesome."

 ** "My dad went to medical school," Justin Halpern told the Times in February. He lectured at Harvard. He's [expletive deleted] way smarter than I could ever hope to be."

** Sample quips from Justin's dad:  

"Look at that dog's rear. You can tell by the dilation of his a** that he's going to take a s*** soon. See. There it goes."  

"Oh please, you practically invented lazy. People should have to call you and ask for the rights to lazy before they use it."  

"You ranked the 25 Christmas presents you want, in order of how much you want them? Are you insane? I said tell me what you want for Christmas. I didn't ask you to make a f***** college football poll." 

"I'm sitting in one of those TGI Friday's places, and everyone looks like they want to shove a shotgun in their mouth."  

"Your brother brought his baby over this morning. He told me it could stand. It couldn't stand for sh**. Just sat there. Big let down."  

"Why am I going to pay $200 (for a plane ticket) so a six-year-old can see a wedding? You think that's a moment he cares about? Two years ago he was still sh****** his pants."  

"The worst thing you can be is a liar. . . . Okay, fine, yes, the worst thing you can be is a Nazi, but then number two is liar. Nazi one, liar two."  

"My flight lands at 9:30 on Sunday...You want to watch what? What the f*** is Mad Men? Well I'm (going to be) a mad man if you don't pick me the hell up."

** The thing most surprising to me as a reader are passages in the book that illustrate the humanity of Justin's Dad. There are numerous "father-to-son" conversations whereby Justin's Dad, almost surreptitiously, dispenses advice based on his own experiences with the business of living and being a parent.

** For example, when Justin forgets to meet his Dad to help tend the garden - and decides instead to have a fun time with pals in Mexico - Dad is at first enraged, screaming that he almost called the cops. Then he calms down, motions Justin over, and in a rare display of open affection, grabs and bear-hugs his son and says, "You dumb s***. I can't wait until you have a kid of your own and you have to worry about what happens to him. You never stop worrying about your children. It sucks. You watch what you (get into), because this is your life, this bulls*** right here."  

** More quips from Justin's dad:  

(While watching "Schindler's List"): "What do you want? You want me to pass you some candy? They're throwing people in the f****** gas chamber, and you want a Skittles?"  

"How the f*** should I know if the food's gone bad? Eat it. You get sick, it wasn't good. You people, you think I got microscopic f****** eyes."  

"You're being f****** dramatic. You own a TV and an air mattress. That's not exactly what I'd call "a lot to lose."

"I wanted to see Detroit win. I've been there. It looks like God took a s*** on a parking lot. They deserve some good news."

"Remember how you used to make fun of me for being bald?...No, I'm not gonna make a joke. I'll let your mirror do that."  

"Give your mother the front seat...I don't give a s*** if she said you could have it, that's what she's supposed to do, and you're supposed to say, 'No, I insist.' You think I'm gonna drive around with my wife in the backseat and a nine-year-old in the front? You're a crazy son-of-a-b****."

** In my view, the greatest of ironies – one that has been missed by many observers amid the fun and frivolity about a cantankerously funny old man – is this: It's not about how popular Samuel Halpern has become – it's about how we accept and laugh more readily – at off-color remarks coming from a senior citizen.  

** My theory is because we enter and exit this world in diapers - we're reflexively more tolerant of people who are very young or very old - than we are of people who are "in the middle." We know this to be true because if Sam Halpern was a 30-year old man, he wouldn't be as funny. It's not just his words that make us howl – it's the fact that they're coming from a 74-year old man – to whom we've given more latitude to say or do whatever he wants. We give him a pass, a badge of wisdom for seeing it all. Conversely, for a toddler, we impart an aura of innocence and cuteness onto a being who's seen very little. In sum, we tend to let the very young and the very old - get away with things - that we'd never allow from others.

** More pearls of "wisdom" from Justin's dad:  

"I don't give a s*** how it happened, the window is broken... Wait, why is there syrup everywhere? Okay, you know what? Now I give a s*** how it happened. Let's hear it."  

"So he called you a homo. Big deal. There's nothing wrong with being a homosexual. No, I'm not saying you're a homosexual. J*s*s Chr*st, now I'm starting to see why this kid was giving you s***."

"Why the f*** would I want to live to 100? I'm 73 and sh**'s starting to get boring. By the way, there's no money left when I go, just fyi."  

"You need to flush the toilet more than once...No, YOU, YOU specifically need to. You know what, use a different toilet. This is my toilet."  

"Sometimes life leaves a hundred-dollar bill on your dresser, and you don't realize until later that it's because it f***** you."  

"Can we talk later? The news is on... Well, if you have tuberculosis it's not gonna get any worse in the next 30 minutes, J*s*s."  

"A parent's only as good as their dumbest kid. If one of them wins a Nobel Prize but the other gets robbed by a hooker, you've failed."

** Why are we more forgiving of senior citizens delivering off-color remarks? In fact, there are educated answers that go beyond our own sense of intuition.

** Dr. Michael Mantell, a clinical psychologist, author, television correspondent and columnist for San Diego Magazine - and a former chief psychologist for Children's Hospital and Health Center of San Diego and the San Diego Police Department - believes this phenomenon is partially rooted in "a fundamental respect for elders that many still have in society."  

** "Those who don't have it," Dr. Mantell says, "are not tolerant of seniors, and are likely not tolerant of people who are younger as well. We tend to equate seniors with our grandparents. And again, for those (of us) who have positive, living relationships - our sense of respect for them continues."

** Even more gems from Justin's dad:  

(On finishing last in the 50-yard dash): "It kinda looked like you were being attacked by a bunch of bees or something. Then when I saw the fat kid with the watch who was timing you start laughing... Well, I'll just say it's never a good sign when a fat kid laughs at you."  

"You're like a tornado of bulls*** right now. We'll talk again after your bulls*** dies out over someone else's house."  

"I need to change clothes? Wow. That's big talk coming from someone who looks like they robbed a Mervyn's."  

"If mom calls, tell her I'm sh*****g. Son, marriage is about not having to lie about taking a s***."  

"Happy birthday, I didn't get you a present...Oh, mom got you one? Well, that's from me then too, unless it's sh***y."  

"Mom is smarter than you...No? Well, ask yourself this; has mom ever unknowingly had toilet paper hanging out of her a**?...Mom 1. You 0."  

"No. Tell 'em we're not doing Christmas dinner at a casino. Don't be an a** about it, but tell them why it's a f****** stupid idea."

** Meanwhile, as you read these words, the latest chapter in the saga of "S___ My Dad Says" has come to an end. Justin Halpern, who co-wrote and co-produced the television sit-com version of his Twitter feed (with William Shatner playing Justin's Dad) - was cancelled last month by CBS.  The show just wasn't any good.
** Situation comedies featuring curmudgeonly parents have been a television staple for decades. It was too much to ask the television series to defy the stark reality - that there was only so much "funny" - that could be squeezed out of this formula - and more specifically - from Justin's dad.

** So how much longer will the "Sh** My Dad Says" phenomenon last? With the death of the television show, I can't help thinking this is just a passing fad, a bright star that will quickly fade.

** So I'll stop thinking about it for now. We already know few things last forever. We don't know whether Sam Halpern is a passing fad or a potential institutional fixture on the landscape of American humor. So let's just sit back and enjoy the moment, and see how long we can continue to be lifted by our own gales of laughter.  

Original Material © 2010-2012 by David Kusumoto Communications.