joel stein

How I became ‘friends’ with TIME’s Joel Stein

September 27, 2011

It’s not often that us lowly non-celebs get replies on Facebook or Twitter from big time Hollywood types.  Fans frequently annoy stars to interact with them online. Usually, celebrities carefully decide who to follow on Twitter (mostly other celebrities).

A few months ago, I befriended TIME magazine’s witty and very funny Joel Stein.  For years, I enjoyed reading his column and articles, which covers such topics as: a quest exploring circumcision for his son, ridiculous privileged preschools, lamenting the influx of Indians in his hometown (Edison, NJ), doing improv for mega church Pastor Rick Warren, and how he nearly killed VH1. Speaking of VH1, you might remember him from the series I love the 80′s.  For a guy who had his own cartoon, he is pretty down to earth.

You may be thinking, all that stuff doesn’t make Joel Stein a true celebrity.  If celebrity is measured by how long your Wikipedia page is, then Joel Stein isn’t a celebrity to you. Unlike other celebs, he doesn’t have his own reality show that highlights his drunken escapades with his family. Joel never went to Italy with Snooki, but as a writer for the LA Times and television humorist, he is entertaining.

So, how did I become ‘friends’ with Joel? I tried to be his ‘friend’ on Facebook but he exceeded the limit of friends already (With the creation of Facebook, the meaning of ‘friend’ means anyone with a computer and an IQ of 63). Since Joel is “desperate for attention“, I decide to give him some and become one of his 1 million followers on Twitter.  After reading his Twitter steam, I tweeted:

My goal in life is to get @thejoelstein to follow me so that all my followers grow tired of bragging and unfollow me.

Apparently, he thought I was interesting enough and he started following this random minister-blogger from New York.  I direct messaged Joel and thanked him for the follow.  I mentioned that I used one of his columns in a sermon and he said he loved to hear about it.  He gave me his email address, which I found out later that he tells people not to email him:

I don’t want to talk to you. But don’t make me feel like you expect a return email. Because this takes my assistant four to five hours every week. I know this because my assistant is me.”

I felt special. Really special. Like a groupie who just got a backstage pass at a Steely Dan concert.

We emailed a few times and explained how I used part of his 2005 column on happiness and marriage in a sermon. He replied that I was the third pastor to tell him that (Rick Warren was the second). I joked about cursing in front of my congregation (which I didn’t do) and he gave me some advice to never use “blue” material. We exchanged some Twitter messages about how his wife went to nearby Skidmore College, travel to a little town called Albany, and life in general. I knew Joel and I would become fast friends because he ended one email with, “Great to sort of meet you.”

A few weeks later, I asked him on Twitter if I could blog about the experience of befriending such a huge celebrity. His response?

I’d be honored if you blog about me.  Or at least ambivalent about it.

Ambivalence from Joel Stein? I’ll take it!

I feel horrible that I haven’t interacted with my new friend Joel for a few months now, but then again we are not that great of ‘friends’ because we don’t talk on the phone anymore and our kids don’t play together like they use to.  I could be upset about that, but those things never happened.

Joel if you are reading this, call me or stop by to catch up on all the things we never did together. You’ll have always have a place to stay in New York when you fly in for your wife’s college reunions at Skidmore. And, thanks for the advice on my sermons too. Since rabbis now pay comedians to write jokes for their sermons, maybe you could write a few for me?

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  • My Marc Summers Twitter incident | April 17, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    […] conversed with a celeb through social media.  Time’s Joel Stein and I have struck up a few conversations as well. However, this was a first time I ever tweeted about a celebrity and received a reply without using […]

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