How do you know you have become an influential voice on the Twittersphere? Perhaps when hacks start stealing your material. Such was the case for Kelly Oxford, the Canada-born wife and mother who became an online superstar by composing note-perfect Tweets – no easy task.
Just ask the “campus minister” (his name is easy to find; I’d rather not give him the publicity) from South Carolina who explained a bold bit of thievery to Salon.com like so:
“[T]here was a Kelly Oxford tweet that I loved where she said, ‘I have a Victoria’s Secret model’s body!!! (in my basement).’ I still love that tweet with all my heart. So I thought it would be fun to do a similar one: ‘I have the body of a Hollister model. His name is Taylor. He’s in my attic.’ I still love that tweet and felt like it was a riff on Kelly, not a rip-off. But out of respect for Kelly I took it down because some felt it was too similar.”
As comedian, actor and Twitter genius Patton Oswalt – also the victim of this hack’s “borrowing” – put it on his website, “Kelly Oxford wrote something, during this latest joke thief debacle, about how the stealers and joke-thieves can often get themselves through the highest doors only to find, when they’re at the top and people want to hear their ideas … they’ve got nothing.”
Kelly Oxford will never have that problem. As her memoir, “Everything Is Perfect When You’re a Liar” makes abundantly clear, she is one of the most subtle, smart, dork-cool writers we have. The fact that Twitter made her famous takes nothing away from her success.
In fact, I would call it a sign of real talent. The Guardian called her “Twitter’s first star,” but note that she did not quickly crash and burn. She wrote her first Tweet in 2009, and still maintains a loyal audience through sheer verve and wit.
(A recent sampling: “I know I’m still in Canada because I just walked into a woman and she apologized to me.” “Scary to think that my kids could become adults who mix up your/you’re and I’ll have wasted 20 yrs because I have to kill them.” “Macaulay Culkin is older than Danny Tanner was on the first 2 seasons of Full House.”)
“Everything Is Perfect When You’re a Liar” gives her the opportunity to detonate the 140-character limit, and tell her story from growing up in Edmonton to Internet fame, and the result is not just a funny story, but an involving, expertly composed one.
It is a case where even the childhood section, often the I’m-gonna-skip-this-to-get-to-the-good-stuff part of a celeb memoir, is truly funny. As “Perfect” opens, young Kelly is mounting a theatrical production of “Star Wars” at her school. After an icy putdown from a fellow classmate, Kelly marches to the school office to call her mom:
“When I got there, another fifth grader was manning the secretary’s desk while the secretary was at lunch. (In retrospect, either my school had NO MONEY for support staff, or my school was run by Wes Anderson.)”
Things did not get easier in high school: “Once, I peed my pants in a gas station while standing in line to buy cigarettes.” Perhaps it is no surprise that one Leonardo DiCaprio, then on the cusp of “Titanic” superstardom, became an obsession for young Kelly; her first trip to Los Angeles was a quest to make him her boyfriend.
Predictably, the trip did not end well, and that is a standard turn for Oxford, who describes plenty of these scenarios from her past. But eventually she found love, had three kids, and garnered more than 350,000 Twitter followers. Recently, she sold a script to Warner Bros.
But what her readers love is her down-to-earth, inimitable style, and it’s on full display in “Everything Is Perfect.” My favorite section comes at the book’s close. Oxford describes her family’s trip to Disneyland, and it’s brilliant:
“The crowd throughout Disneyland is thick and 85 percent gross. You have the locals (deadpan), the socks-and-sandals crew (Europeans), and the people dressed like they just walked off the set of ‘Roseanne’ (small-town Americans and Canadians). Our group is the ‘normals,’ which makes up, perhaps, 15 percent of the herd. Of course that 15 percent can then be divided further into different subsets: overprotective parents, neglectful parents, teens on dates, adults on dates. It’s just a LOT of people.”
Oxford can be deliciously nasty (“Looking around, it seems like the most popular ride at Disneyland today is obese ten-year-olds riding in strollers”), she can be self-deprecating (“Having three children doesn’t seem like it would be so different from two, but when you’re shepherding them through parking lots and the chaos of crowds outnumbered, you quickly realize you’re way out of your f------ league”), but above all else, she is funny.
As Oswalt so succinctly stated, “[F]or some reason, everyone wants to be funny. And feels like they have a right to be funny. But being funny is like any other talent – some people are born with it, and then, through diligence and hard work and a lot of mistakes, they strengthen that talent.”
Oxford was born with it. And whether it is a 140-character Tweet or 300-page memoir, she will make you laugh.
Freelance critic Christopher Schobert frequently reviews books and movies for The News.
Everything Is Perfect When You’re a Liar
By Kelly Oxford
336 pages, $25.99