Justin Halpern, the man behind @shitmydadsays, got a pretty sweet break. His Twitter feed, which simply quotes his often crude and usually hilarious father's rants, scored him a TV deal in the form of $#*! My Dad Says, premiering thie week on 5*. I spoke with Justin about what his life was like before Twitter, working in his underwear, and the moment when his dad met the man who plays him on TV.
TV.com: How does it feel to be the creator of the first Twitter-based TV show?
Justin Halpern: Pretty awesome. There were lots of factors involved to help make it to that point. But "pretty great" is the short answer.
How were you approached by TV execs?
Well actually we went and pitched them. We went to a few other networks and CBS really had a clear vision for the show and they really wanted us to keep it as close as it could be to the Twitter feed.
And when you say "we," who are you talking about?
Myself, my writing partner Patrick Schumacker, and the executive producers, Max Mutchnick and David Kohan.
Aside from making sure it fits into 140 characters, how much editing and creative license do you take with what your dad says and what winds up as a tweet?
You know, the most that I’ll do is change a word here and there to make it fit or I’ll take the first sentence and the last sentence of a paragraph with the stuff he said and I’ll squeeze those together. I’ll make that the tweet. That’s pretty much it. He’d kill me if I made up stuff that he was saying.
How does your father feel about the whole thing?
He thinks it’s funny. He’s just doesn’t really know what to make of it. He enjoys it but he’s not really paying attention to it. He does enjoy it when I talk to him about it. He’s happy for me.
How close is the sitcom setup to your actual living situation with your dad?
It’s different. The character comes back because he’s lost his job, whereas I came back because I had split with my girlfriend. So that’s different. And we wanted to touch more on the times everyone’s living in now. Like, everyone’s moving back home. So we wanted to touch on that. And I have a brother and he’s not as dopey as the brother on the show. I want to put that out there in case he reads this.
Is it trippy to see a sitcom actor version of yourself?
There’s a lot of distance for me because Jonathan [Sadowski] is uber good-looking.
Has your dad met William Shatner?
They met each other once. They took a picture, said hello, and then walked away.
Ha! That's it?
[laughs] It was on-set. It was a really quick meeting.
Do you have any ideal guest stars you’d like to eventually have on the show?
[Laughs] We wanted Leonard Nimoy to play a neighbor. But I think he’s retired. I think Rob Huebel is fantastic and hopefully we’ll write something for him to do on the show. If he would even want to do it. He’s great.
What do you plan to do when the show premieres?
Mountains of cocaine. [laughs] No. I think I’ll just watch it at my boss’s house, I hope. Or maybe just by myself alone in my apartment. [Laughs] We’ll probably be working that night, but hopefully we’ll stop to watch the show. I mean, it’s weird, I’ve seen it 20 times at this point, or more. It’s such an unbelievable thing that’s happened to me that I try to relish every tiny little thing cause you just never know when it’s gonna go away.
Like what, exactly?
I mean just every time I walk on set and we’re shooting an episode. I take a look around and I’m honored there’s an audience. And I’m like, okay, I’m on a set, and there’s people here to watch something that was born from me sitting in my underwear at my parents’ dining room table.
S#!t My Dad Says premieres on 5* (formerly Fiver) at 10.30pm on Tuesday, March 8.