Shit My Dad Says - Justin Halpern
Brian Donaldson speaks to US magazine journalist and Twitter sensation Justin Halpern about the blog that made him and his cursing dad famous
Dads can get a bit crotchety. Dads can occasionally be pretty funny. And sometimes dads can let a little sweary word slip out. You know, when they bang their thumb with the hammer or if someone pulls out in front of them on the road. But there’s unlikely to be another dad on the planet like Sam Halpern. Which is fine for him, but no so hot for Justin, the youngest of three sons and now a senior editor at www.maxim.com.
For as long as he can recall, his dad has been a ball of profanities, every curse couched in a devastatingly funny insult or observation, intentional or otherwise. Thus: ‘Do people your age know how to comb their hair? It looks like two squirrels crawled on their head and started fucking.’ Or: ‘Nobody is that important. They eat, shit and screw, just like you. Well, maybe not just like you. You got those stomach problems.’ What do you do with this rawer than raw material? What Justin Halpern did was post some of his dad’s funniest/craziest quotes up onto his Twitter page. Soon, the few friends who went there to check out the latest hilarious diatribe had turned into hundreds of thousands of strangers. This ‘internet sensation’ spiralled into a book and an upcoming sitcom starring William Shatner.
‘He never cursed at work – saved that for home,’ recalls Halpern of his father, now aged 73 and, you’d imagine, a grumpy retired man. ‘He was a little easier on my brothers because he said that no one pissed him off quite like I did. I always knew that I was loved, it was just his way with speaking.’ Growing up with a dad who kept nothing close to his chest must have been a fairly intense experience, but all the more so when Halpern found himself at a loss, having just been chucked and with nowhere to live. The only place to go was, at the age of 28, back to his parents’ home. Cue the immortal opening words of the book: ‘All I ask is that you pick up your shit so you don’t leave your bedroom looking like it was used for a gang bang. Also, sorry that your girlfriend dumped you.’
‘He hasn’t given me too many tips on being a dad but what I’ve taken from his parenting style is his honesty,’ insists Halpern. ‘I really don’t want to lie to my kids or make them think that something’s true when it’s not. When I went out into the world I was fully prepared for when people were brutally honest with me.’
Now that this story has run as far as getting its own network sitcom, which Halpern Jnr has helped to script, Halpern Snr’s earthy nature has found a larger, though not universally welcoming, audience. ‘This parent-teacher group got pissed off about the title of the show and said they were going to boycott it and write letters because we’re Americans and we’re really uptight. My dad couldn’t believe it and said they’re just words and started spouting all this stuff. He came out with “Shitfuck” and I said, “Dad, that’s not really a word.” Now he uses it all the time.’
Sh*t My Dad Says is out now published by Boxtree.