Sunday, April 4, 2010

Sh*t My Dad Says

The Problem
I have to admit that when I began to write today’s post, I was a bit stumped. I wanted to blog about the true power of social media and how it could catapult seemingly random people, events, or trends to overnight success, but I couldn’t find that single best example to illustrate my point. Luckily, my oldest daughter was home for Easter, and she did not fail me. I always knew that paying for her eight years of college would someday reap big returns.

The Idea
She directed me to a Twitter page with the unlikely name of Sh*t My Dad Says. Once there, I was able to read the many words of wisdom spoken by 74-year-old Sam Halpern as they have been faithfully recorded by his n’er-do-well 29-year-old son, Justin. The curmudgeonly dad says things like, "A parent's only as good as their dumbest kid. If one wins a Nobel Prize but the other gets robbed by a hooker, you failed," and, "I didn't say you were ugly. I said your girlfriend is better looking than you, and standing next to her, you look ugly." The son Tweets these pearls verbatim to the rest of the world.

The Content
I read through several pages of the Tweets, and I have to admit that I was very amused. As you can probably tell from the title, Sam Halpern’s language tends toward the raw side of the spectrum, but if you don’t let the word choice get in your way, the man is genuinely funny. And his son’s idea to share these observations via Twitter was nothing short of brilliant, despite his father’s comments to the contrary, comments such as “you don't know sh*t, and you're not sh*t. Don't take that the wrong way, that was meant to cheer you up.”

The Power of Social Media
Oh, I was about to forget to tell you about the power of social media. It has been less than a year since that very first tweet. During the initial month, Justin gained 250,000 followers. Now over 1,200,000 followers have signed up for his Tweets, including about 100 who joined while I was writing this post. He has a Facebook page called Sh*t My Dad Says that boasts over 150,000 fans, many of whom seem to like to share the sh*t that their own dads say, and he even has the dubious honor of a knock-off Facebook page with another 35,000 followers.

The Book
He posts frequently on his popular blog, Sh*t My Dad Says. He has a website called Sh*t My Dad Says. He has compiled all of his father’s sayings into a book called Sh*t My Dad Says, which ranks #64 at based solely on pre-orders (the book does not come out until May 10). And then there is the CBS television pilot, which will feature none other than William Shatner in the role of that wise old philosopher, Sam Halpern, and which will assumably be called something other than Sh*t My Dad Says.

So there you have the power of social media. An unemployed entrepreneur conceived of an idea, branded it, marketed it, and once it gained critical mass, stood back and watched it all happen. Justin Halpern made it look easy. Or, as his father put it, "Oh please, you practically invented lazy. People should have to call you and ask for the rights to lazy before they use it."


  1. Thank you for sharing! I love everything about this--how social media channeled a book deal, followers, and readers, not to mention free PR. The Twitter title "Sh*t My Dad Says" is so engaging. And what a great idea to capture the priceless sayings of a man who has done a great deal of living.

    When I hear stories like this, I think of Jon Acuff, professional blogger, speaker, and author. (I mentioned him a previous comment). Acuff spoofed the comedy Stuff White People Like and changed it to Stuff Christians Like ( His blog took off and he is now one of the world's leading bloggers--accompanied with a book deal and speaking gigs.

    There's something sacred about the words that come out of our parent's mouths--the life lessons they impart. I think Sh*t My Dad Says is a perfect example of how social media allows people to capture the seemingly smaller things of life and make them the focal point of best selling books.

    Isn't that what writers try to do all the time anyway? Capture something about life that people find relevant, entertaining, and irresistible?

  2. Trust you, Raymond, to find a character to write about. It takes one to find one, huh?!

    I love this guy! I'd never heard of Sam Halpern, but I went to the Twitter site and read some of his sayings. What a hoot! As you mentioned in your blog, his language is quite raw, but he’s funny. What I especially like about him is that, although he doesn’t dole out the compliments, he’s not necessarily negative either. He’s a realist. He also doesn’t seem to have much of a filter between his brain and his mouth.

    For some strange reason, this made me think of the book Marley and Me. Not because they have similar topics (because they don’t), but, had blogging been around, I imagine John Grogran would’ve written about Marley’s misadventures and gained a huge following. These examples make me want to look around my own life and see if there’s anything that entertaining I could write about! I sure don’t have a Sam Halpern or (thank goodness) a Marley in my life!

    The idea that this could happen to anyone blogging, though, is exciting. It’s sort of like winning the lottery – heavens knows, the chances of writing a blog that gets turned into a book and tv show are probably similar! However, blogging does give writers an opportunity to put their work out there and see what people think. Blossom talks about this in Content Nation – the chance to get our writing out there without a third party like a publisher or an agent involved.

    As a writer, what I find difficult about blogging is that it’s not fiction. I can make up a more exciting life, but writing about my own life would be terribly dull. I’m also not an expert at anything so can’t write about that. Are there any blogs out there that are fiction? Does anyone know? How fun would it be to write a blog in the spirit of the serial magazine stories of the 1800’s? I wonder….

  3. I agree, Dina, that this approach would not work for everyone. I would have nothing funny to say at all, which is why I stay away from Twitter. I am only slightly funny at best, nerdy funny at worse. So, I think that this idea was brilliant but is not something everyone can emulate. It is the same theory that I was discussing with my friend this week. She is in her first job and is very discouraged because she hates it. She feels very disillusioned that she was "sold" a college education as a "key" to the world. However, I assured her that every experience presents an opportunity. Sometimes, you just have to be patient and wait for the the right thing at the right time. This project seems like just that; it was timely and probably thrives because during this economy, everyone needs a pick-me-up. I think that it is great, just not a project that I can capitalize.