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Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2010

The Phenomenon of ‘Sh*t My Dad Says’

Justin Halpern’s Twitter page in book form

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A year ago, the author of Sh*t My Dad Says (HarperCollins), Twitter phenomenon Justin Halpern, was a relatively unknown comedy writer who had moved in with his parents after his long-term girlfriend broke up with him. As a writer for Maxim.com, the 28-year-old worked from his childhood home in suburban San Diego, which meant that he could spend lots of quality time with his 73-year-old father, Sam, a Vietnam veteran and retired doctor of nuclear medicine who continues to provide the insults, advice and commentary that is Sh*t My Dad Says.

In the book, Halpern awards his brutally honest but hilarious father with the distinction of being the “least passive-aggressive person on the planet,” while at the same time likening him to “Socrates, but angrier and with worse hair,” on the inside cover. With father and son together again last year, Halpern decided to, at the suggestion of a friend, create a Twitter page to “keep a record of all the crazy things” his dad said.

It was a good suggestion. “Shit My Dad Says” quickly became a Twitter smash, as thousands—and then hundreds of thousands—of people discovered Halpern’s crude and enjoyable one-liners. “Shit My Dad Says” currently has more than 1 million followers, and where there are numbers there are networks and publishers waiting to cash in. “Shit My Dad Says” is scheduled to become a sitcom starring William Shatner on CBS. And now, as a book, it’s a New York Times best seller.

The book will not disappoint fans of the Twitter feed. It is a hilarious, often embarrassing, sentimental account of growing up—specifically, growing up in the Halpern household. Every chapter is funny, but some are exceptionally so, like “Never Assume That Which You Do Not Know,” which chronicles a hellish family road trip from San Diego to Washington. Or “A Man’s House Is His House,” which involves a shotgun, awkward nudity, and an immensely awkward aftermath.

As the author of Sh*t My Dad Says, one might expect Halpern to shy away from serious conversations and vulnerable moments, but he doesn’t—and when these moments do occur, they do so naturally and believably. This is especially true of his father, who through Twitter was introduced as a “character,” but through the book reveals himself to be a man who really loves his family, in addition to his daily bowl of Grape-Nuts.