When people ask me the point of  Twitter, I have often pointed to the Twitter stream created by Justin Halpern in which he posts things that his father has said, verbatim.

His father, Sam Halpern, Justin has written, is a retired veteran of the United States army. What led to him quoting his father so liberally? According to his web site:

After being dumped by his longtime girlfriend, twenty-eight-year-old Justin Halpern found himself living at home with his seventy-three-year-old dad. Sam Halpern, who is “like Socrates, but angrier, and with worse hair,” has never minced words, and when Justin moved back home, he began to record all the ridiculous things his dad said to him.

Looking back at these words, they seem a little too contrived and convenient of a back story. I remember the excitement my friends and I expressed when we read that there was a book deal that got made as a result of the Twitter feed.

Justin started Twittering his dad’s musings on Aug. 3. In less than a month, the page has gotten shout-outs from “The Daily Show’s” Rob Corddry, a popular San Francisco blog called Laughing Squid and “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” star Kristen Bell. Corddry told his nearly 1 million followers it’s “the best thing ever.” Bell urges others to read it “unless you’re allergic to laughing hysterically.”

Sam, the unlikely star of the show, isn’t really trying to be funny. Until last week, Sam had no idea his youngest son had been broadcasting his anecdotes for the world to read. But you could write a book about Sam. Indeed, Justin has already signed with an agent and is considering offers from book publishers.

Then this “My Dad Says” meme got pushed into the upper stratosphere when CBS Television announced they were going to make a show based on the Twitter feed. In the last couple of months, the advertising has been relentless. Images of William Shatner (the “dad” in the series) are everywhere, and I really have to wonder whether something so significant could have come about in a matter of several months based on a Twitter feed.

Let us take the following scenario into consideration — what if the Twitter feed is entirely made up? What if Justin Halpern is using his father’s name but in fact is the real author of the Twitter posts he attributes to his father?

Would it be as significant as when James Frey fooled everyone into thinking that his memoir was based on reality, when in fact it was somewhat fabricated? Or would people not mind nearly as much because it is meant to be humorous and not a story from which we are meant to learn something?

If the Twitter feed is fictional, and if the book based on the feed is therefore made up, and the television show had been planned all along with the Twitter account planted to make buzz for the show a year and a half later — would that really matter? I would think it absolutely would matter. I can’t help but think that people are flocking to the show precisely because they think a crotchety old father once said the things that got made into a book and then a television show.

8 Comments

  1. Great article, Gordon! It does all seem conveniently suspicious, doesn’t it? The things the “dad” says certainly appear to be gang written by gag writers. Books and TV shows take a lot of time to come together — so the speed with which this whole thing fell — also raises eyebrows and sounds alarms.

    What was your first clue this might be one, big, joke, on America?

    1. Definitely the speed, David. There’s no way it went from an unknown twitter account to a CBS show in this short time period. Networks usually develop a show for many months, sometimes even a couple of years, before even putting out a pilot.

  2. I believe his dad said these things. I now I’ve said a lot of hilarious things like that. I learned this stuff in the Army. I don’t understand why no one has yet pointed out that almost all the things he says are old military sayings. They are funny, but not original.

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