5:20pm

Sat April 6, 2013
Author Interviews

How Twitter Star Kelly Oxford Makes Everything 'Perfect'

Kelly Oxford is a little bit wicked and a whole lot wild and funny.

In no time, she went from being a housewife and mother of three in Calgary to Internet fame through her blog — and later, through Twitter, where her popularity exploded.

There, she shared zips like:

And:

Oxford's been retweeted by Jimmy Kimmel, John Mayer, and even the late Roger Ebert — one of her earliest supporters. Her secret? "The simpler they are, the better they hit," she tells weekends on All Things Considered host Jacki Lyden.

Now she's got a book, called Everything Is Perfect When You're a Liar. It's not a collection of tweets, but it is a series of outrageous vignettes about her life so far. Oxford is actually a terrible liar, she says, which is the point of the title.

"I really believe that the only way that anybody can have a seemingly perfect life is if they're covering up a lot of their life and they're lying to everyone — and perhaps sometimes themselves," she says.


Interview Highlights

On how she honed her craft

"When my mom told me what the Internet was, I think in 1993, and I was in high school, and I just instantly knew that this was a place that I could put out material. And even though I didn't really recognize it, the audience that I did have online — which was a little under 10,000 people [who] would get emails when I would blog — through all of this, I was using them as a sounding board, telling me what they liked, what they didn't like.

"So you know, a good analogy, I guess, for that would be the stand-up comic that gets onstage and tries out new jokes: 'Oh, this works, this didn't work.' I don't think a lot of writers that publish books or write movies get an opportunity to use an audience to their benefit, and somehow I managed to do that this entire time."

On when she realized her tweets were actually connecting with people

"Really, really early on. I joined in March of 2009 and by the end of that summer I had comedians following me. And by the following spring I had a very large following of people in entertainment following me, and I had been invited down to Los Angeles to be a part of A Night of 140 Tweets, which was a benefit for Haiti. It was 140 celebrities reading one tweet. And I was the only non-stand-up comedian or actor or working writer that was there."

On how women are breaking comedy barriers

"Since Bridesmaids came out, I think that a lot of things have changed for women in comedy. Same with Girls on HBO, I mean, in Bridesmaids we saw women getting sick — and we've never seen that in a film before. And I think that was a really big turning point. And for that movie to do so well at the box office, I think, has really opened a lot of doors for female comedians because now the big bosses and the businessmen can say, 'Oh, people actually will pay to see women be funny and crazy and in crazy situations.'"

On whether she expected such Twitter success

"No, never, never, never. I mean, look, I've been online since 1993 and I would brag to people about having 7,000 people getting an email about a blog that I'd written, you know, and this was in 2001. I had no idea. And it wasn't a goal for any of this to happen. I was a very happy homemaker with two kids and eventually three, and I was just so satisfied having an audience and, to me, having just under 10,000 people interested in me online and pre-Facebook was just such a huge success. ... If I was [still] in that position, [I] would just be sailing right along at home, making pasta and picking up my husband at the train station every day."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

JACKI LYDEN, HOST:

It's WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden.

Kelly Oxford is a little bit wicked and a whole lot wild and funny. In no time, she went from being a housewife and mother of three in Calgary to Internet fame through her blog and later through Twitter, where her popularity exploded. There, she shared zips like, how do you get red wine stains off a baby, and if you can name five Kardashians but can't name five countries in Asia, stick a knife in an electrical socket. She's been retweeted by Jimmy Kimmel, John Mayer and even the late Roger Ebert, one of her earliest supporters.

Kelly Oxford's first book is called "Everything is Perfect When You're a Liar." Now, it's not a collection of tweets. It is a series of outrageous vignettes about her life so far. But she does accommodate her Twitter fans with a list of things she'd like people to do for her at her funeral.

KELLY OXFORD: One: stuff my bra for me. Two: play the game over theme from "Super Mario Bros."

LYDEN: Far from a funeral, Kelly Oxford's rebirth as a writer is taking off in a big way.

OXFORD: Play the videos of North Koreans crying for Kim Jong Il and pretend it's for me.

LYDEN: All right, I'm going to write my own tweet here: Kelly Oxford on WEEKEND ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, has new book, movie, TV, pilot, lives in L.A. now. #donthateher. Kelly Oxford, welcome to the show.

OXFORD: Thank you.

LYDEN: So you've got this great new memoir out. I'm wondering about the title of the book. It's called "Everything is Perfect When You're a Liar" because you make it clear in these stories that you're a terrible liar.

OXFORD: I'm a terrible liar. I really believe that the only way that anybody can have a seemingly perfect life is if they're covering up a lot of their life and they're lying to everyone and perhaps sometimes themselves. So that's where the title came from.

LYDEN: Your Twitter fame starts to pay off when you discover that David Copperfield is a fan of yours, and you parlay that into this free room and a free show in Las Vegas. And I love the way you describe meeting Copperfield. You say he's tall, and he's broad-shouldered, and he has these beautiful bedroom eyes of Osama bin Laden. How was the magic close-up?

OXFORD: The magic was insane. He put me right at the front of the stage. I was just thinking: There is no way they're going to be able to pull off these illusions where they can mess up. I mean, I was right up against the stage. And then he did this one illusion that still to this day, like, I would love to watch it over and over and over and just analyze it, because he laid down in one of those, you know, magician-like coffin boxes. And from both ends of the box - it was spinning around so I could see underneath of it - and there was one person on each end pushing the box in.

So his body was shrinking. So his head was getting closer to his feet, and they were getting closer and closer and closer and closer until it was the smallest box with just his head sticking out of one end and his feet looking like they were coming out of his neck. And at that point, I was like: Oh, my God. I just met this guy, like, 30 minutes ago, and he was totally normal. And I'm going to have to hang out with him in, like, another 15 minutes after seeing this? Like, it was just - it was so - it was such a surreal moment seeing that.

LYDEN: I love that you had this absolutely stage-side seat to experience, seeing a man shrink into something almost like - I had in mind - a shoebox spinning around and around.

OXFORD: Yes.

LYDEN: And I thought: Just like a dream or maybe it's like the end of a really bad workday.

OXFORD: That's right.

LYDEN: Kelly, talk to me about honing your craft. You were in your mid-30s, you had your first baby when you were 23. At that time, you were only kind of erratically - although it was fun - working in TV and film projects in Canada. But you have known what you wanted to do seemingly since your lungs first filled with air.

OXFORD: Yeah. I think that I was, you know, when my mom told me what the Internet was - I think in 1993, and I was in high school - and I just instantly knew that this was a place that I could put out material. And, you know, even though I didn't really recognize it, the audience that I did have online, which was, you know, a little under 10,000 people would get emails when I would blog through all of this, I was using them, you know, as a sounding board telling me what they liked, what they didn't like.

So, you know, a good analogy, I guess, for that would be the stand-up comic, you know, that gets onstage and tries out new jokes. Oh, this works. This didn't work. I don't think a lot of writers that publish books or write movies get an opportunity to use an audience to their benefit. And somehow, I managed to do that this entire time.

LYDEN: You were interactive before you even really heard a whole lot about that. You know, there are millions and millions of tweeters out there, and it's really tough to cut through the noise. When did you start to realize that what you were doing was actually connecting with people?

OXFORD: Really, really early on. I joined in March of 2009. And by the end of that summer, I had, you know, comedians following me. And by the following spring, I had a very large following of people in entertainment following me. And I had been invited down to Los Angeles to be a part of A Night of 140 Tweets, which was a benefit for Haiti.

It was 140 celebrities reading one tweet, and I was the only non-stand-up comedian or actor or, you know, working writer that was there.

LYDEN: Boy, you have to tell me your tweet.

OXFORD: Oh, my God. I don't even remember what it was. Let me think. It was: I always watch "Law & Order" because I think my future attacker is watching it, too, and I want to be a step ahead of them.

LYDEN: I do think your tweets are absolutely sensational. I don't know. I just love how do you get red wine stains off of babies?

OXFORD: Right.

(LAUGHTER)

OXFORD: The simpler they are, the better they hit.

LYDEN: Do you think that women have a certain permission to really be funny now? I mean, when Dorothy Parker...

OXFORD: Yeah.

LYDEN: ...was writing, you know, it was almost considered...

OXFORD: Yeah. Yes.

LYDEN: ...shocking what a quipster she was.

OXFORD: Yeah. You know, since "Bridesmaids" came out, I think that a lot of things have changed for women in comedy, same with "Girls" on HBO. I mean, on - in "Bridesmaids," we saw women getting sick. And we've never seen that in a film before. And I think that was a really big turning point.

And for that movie to do so well at the box office I think has really opened a lot of doors for female comedians because, you know, now, the big bosses and the businessmen can say: Oh, people actually will pay to see women be funny and crazy - and in crazy situations.

LYDEN: Yeah. When you started with Twitter...

OXFORD: Yeah.

LYDEN: ...did you have these kinds of expectations? Did you seriously think: Wow, this is my ticket...

OXFORD: No. No, no.

LYDEN: ...that you are ready for it.

OXFORD: Never, never, never, never. I mean, look, I've been online since 1993. And I would brag to people about having 7,000 people, getting an email about a blog that I'd written, you know? And this was in 2001. I had no idea. And it wasn't a goal for any of this to happen. I was a very happy homemaker with, you know, two kids and eventually three. And I was just so satisfied having an audience.

And, you know, to me, having just under 10,000 people interested in me online pre-Facebook was just such a huge success to me that I would still, if I was in that position, would just be sailing right along at home, you know, making pasta and picking up my husband at the train station every day.

LYDEN: That's humor writer Kelly Oxford. Her first book is called "Everything is Perfect When You're a Liar." And you can read an excerpt on our website, npr.org. Kelly Oxford, thank you so much.

OXFORD: Thank you so much for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.