I've known Justin Halpern for about two years, and for about as long as I’ve known him, he’s always talked to me about the funny shit his dad said and did. Then about two months ago, he told me he was moving back home and going to live with his dad, which, while I'm not sure how exciting it was for him, was very exciting for those of us who knew the dynamic between him and his father. After about a week, Justin started posting his dad's comments as his gchat status, and then one day he said, "I put them on Twitter called ShitMyDadSays to keep a record, and so you guys could see." Then a month later, he had 200k twitter followers and his Twitter was on the front page of digg.com, reddit.com, written about in the London Telegraph, and just recently today, an interview he did with the L.A. Times was published. So, I decided to interview him.
Are you the Justin behind ShitMyDadSays?
Yes, I am that Justin.
So, the big question is, does your dad really say that stuff?
He does, yeah. He's always been the type of guy who says whatever, whenever, so even when I was little, I would write down stuff he said in a journal, but when I was doing that, it wasn't because I thought it was funny, it was because I was super pissed off at him. So there would be a quote of his that he said to me, then next to it I'd have written "fuck you, you think you can tell me what to fucking do!" I was an angst-y journal writing kid. The reality is though, when I look back at those journals now, the ones I still can find, most of the time when he was pissed off at me, I was doing something pretty stupid, like trying to fill up a water balloon with pee. He responded to that one with, "You can't fill up a fucking balloon like that, and even if you could, I'd just take it and throw it at you for doing it."
The other big question is: Is your dad really an enormous asshole?
Ha, no, not at all. My dad is awesome. I hope he isn't coming off as an asshole, because he was a great dad, and still is. He just has this inability to filter himself whatsoever, and sometimes it comes off a little grumpy. I mean, yeah, he's a little grumpy. But he's one of my best friends, and I'm not just saying that. We do a lot of shit together, and he cracks me up. And if he gets pissed off at me, chances are I've done something incredibly stupid.
Can you tell us a little bit about your Dad?
He's from Kentucky and he grew up on a tobacco farm, with my Grandpa, and he's pretty old school. His town had like 400 people in it or something, and my Grandpa made him work the farm at 4:30 every morning, then go to school at 7:30, then when he got back home from school, work the farm again till nightfall, so, I think that toughened him up a bit. He's had a really interesting life though, he served in Vietnam, and then had a long and successful career in medicine. I think when you've been to 'nam, and then worked as a doctor the rest of your life, you really don't give a fuck if you piss off a few people here or there, which I think is one of the reasons why he is the way he is.
Does he know he's an Internet sensation?
Well, for a while I didn't tell him, and wasn't going to, because literally I just started the page to keep an online record of the things he says and to show to a few of my friends. I was thinking someday I'd use them in something I wrote, or maybe I'd write a book about him or something. Then when it blew up, I still wasn't going to tell him, because he'd never find out. But then it blew up and I felt like I really should let him know. So, I walked around the block a few times, because I was really nervous about what he'd say. He's an incredibly private dude and i wasn't sure how he'd react. Then I went in and told him, and he just laughed for about ten seconds, and then said "Hey, i haven't been able to find my celluar phone, can you call it?" Then didn't mention it again the rest of the night. So, I don't think he fully understands. I mean, this isn't a dude who uses the Internet very often. One thing he asked me was "Do you have to start up the internet to use Twitter." At that point I felt okay.
You've just started keeping track of his quotes on twitter a couple weeks ago. Do you have an all-time favorite quote from your dad?
One of my favorites, is, well, he used to, and still does, walk around the house naked. I think it's a farm boy thing or maybe a southern thing, I don't know. But he walks around naked a bunch. And so one time in high school my friends were coming over and i asked him to put clothes on, and he was in a pissy mood and he goes "This is my God damned house and I'll wear clothes if i want to wear clothes and i won't wear clothes if I DON'T want to wear clothes. The fact that your friends are coming over shortly is inconsequential to that, aka I. DONT. GIVE A SHIT." It was like a Braveheart speech of grumpiness. So, needless to say, I told my friends I'd meet them somewhere else that day.
What is your dad doing right now?
Watching TV and eating grape nuts.
Can you give us a little insight into some of the Twitter posts:
My dad and I both love that dog probably a bit too much. But the difference is I treat it like it's a human, and my dad does not. And that day, the dog had just been laying there, with his head next to the door, and he had this bored look on his face, so I said to my dad that I thought the dog looked bored, and the part I couldn't add in to Twitter, because it was too long, was that he looked at me just unbelievably puzzled and goes "Son, what in the fuck are you talking about?"
In addition to never shutting up about your dog, you also won't shut up about your mom's meatballs. Your dad seems to like them, too. Are they really that good?
Dude, my mom makes the best meatballs ever, and the reason my dad said that quote about the meatballs to me, is because I will eat all of them, and I did the last time she made them. So, the instant I walked into the door after she had made them, he laid down the law.
What did you do the toilet?
I took a very messy shit in it, and he was very justified in telling me that.
You apparently don't know how to water plants. Explain.
It's not that I don't know how, I know how, I just forget to do it. We have a lot of plants. I didn't plant them, because I don't want to water them. But, I probably should have, because he was gone and someone had to. Plus, he's right, I don't pay rent, so it basically makes me a super douche to gripe about not watering them. Again, when he gets pissed at me, I deserve it.
Is there any back story about the first time your dad vomited in Tennessee?
He said that to me on a phone call from Tennessee, when he was there visiting a friend, and the thing about my dad is, if you get him talking about a story that happened when he was living in the South, he will not stop talking about it. So, I figured it was just best to not ask. I assume it involved him drinking bourbon, which he loves.
You point out that you live at home at the age of 28. According to many Internet commenters, this makes you a "loser." Are they right?
Ha, well, they're sort of right. I mean, I wouldn't say I'm a winner, that's for sure. Loser seems a little harsh, though. I'd like to think it's a transitional period of losing. Like, maybe you should say I'm "loser-y"
You and I both started HolyTaco a couple years ago, and now we've recently taken positions writing for Maxim.com. Is all this new-found Internet fame going to make you a pain in my ass?
Well, the thing is I don't have any creative input on shitmydadsays, other than to just pick the thing he said that I liked the best from that day. So, I can't really have an ego, because I didn't really DO anything. Plus I look like a really malnourished Jason Biggs, so I don't think I'll ever have an ego, and if I ever did, I'm pretty sure my dad would end that quickly.
This isn't really a question, but one time during a conference call we were both on, your dad walked by the phone right when he burped loudly. That was pretty awesome.
Yeah, that's what happens when you work from home. And live with your parents. He eats hamburgers like, seriously, every fucking day, and they give him gas, and he burps and farts a lot. And that conference call was right after he had eaten a hamburger.
You're making me ask this question, but...did you ever happen to play any sports? Say, in college?
Why yes, I did! Funny you should ask that! I played baseball! Actually, I played four innings in my entire career, and mostly sat the bench, so even the one question I asked you to ask about me, I still look like an asshole.