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Dan Zevin and the delicate dance of the #Humblebrag

Dylan Klymenko

Seth Rogen — you know who he is, right? The bearded stoner writer/actor/director/ funny man? Well, that’s how most people think of him.

But Dan Zevin — on the phone to publicize his latest work, a parody of the “Mr. Men/Little Miss” children’s books — had a different take.

Dan Zevin.Christopher Barth

“He’s me, but famous,” Zevin, 51, said. “I feel like he’s a long-lost cousin. But every Jew feels like that.”

Well, maybe not every Jew — Ruth Bader Ginsburg is not a lock — but definitely Zevin, who, while not famous famous, is certainly not unfamous.


Zevin, now living in Larchmont, N.Y., but a veteran of stints in Somerville and North Cambridge, is a 2013 Thurber Prize-winning humorist. Two of his books—“Dan Gets a Minivan: Life at the Intersection of Dude and Dad,” and “The Day I Turned Uncool: Confessions of a Reluctant Grownup”-- were optioned by Adam Sandler. And as Deadline Hollywood just reported, the latter is being developed for NBC.

And — Dick Cavett knows who he is!


Not only were both invited speakers at a Long Island literary festival this past summer, but Cavett, according to Zevin, “cracked up” listening to him read from “Dan Gets a Minivan.”

“So afterwards we got to meet,” recalled Zevin, who promptly grabbed the opportunity to promote his new satirical series. “I handed him a lapel pin from ‘Mr. Humblebrag.’”

That’s one of three titles that sound ripped from the horrors of social media. The others in Zevin’s series are “Mr. Selfie,” “Little Miss Overshare,” and “Little Miss Basic.”

“Dick Cavett said, ‘I have two pockets in my blazer. One is for things people give me that I throw away. One is for things I keep.’”

Cavett stuck the pin in his right pocket.

Was that the good pocket or the bad one? Zevin didn’t know for a while, but found his answer on the comedy website Funny or Die, where there’s a video of Cavett reading “Mr. Humblebrag” aloud.


Dylan Klymenko

Zevin, the father of a daughter and son, ages 9 and 12, got the idea for the satire while reading his children the Mr. Men and Little Miss books — “Mr. Fussy,” “Little Miss Sunshine,” and “Mr. Messy” are among the titles — and also while himself trying to navigate the tricky waters of self-promotion.

Asked which one of the titles best describes him, he indulged himself in a laugh.

“Let’s just put it this way. I am feeling very ‘hashtag blessed’ and ‘hashtag honored’ that everyone thinks the books are so funny,” he said, dropping news that powerful magazine editors had already posted compliments on social media. “

“It’s totally ‘Mr. Humblebrag,’” he said. “When I won the Thurber award I didn’t know what to say. You want to make an announcement of something you’re proud of, but you don’t want to sound like a jerk.”

So he posted the news online, and a friend posted back. “Nice going, Mr. Humblebrag.”

The books are light and fun — born to stuff stockings — but Zevin’s research took him to the decidedly less-gifty: “Diagnostic of Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,” better known as the DSM-5.

“There’s so many new modern dysfunctional personalities that have surfaced,” he said, “and a lot of them have come as a result of social media.”


Zevin’s got four more books coming this spring — “Little Miss Hot Mess,” “Little Miss Passive-Aggressive,” “Mr. Emotionally Unavailable,” and, for guys who wrongly think they’re ladies’ men, “Mr. Baller.”

As for Zevin and his dreams of going beyond almost famous: On Oct. 6, the day his series was published, he was thinking about wild popularity of another satire of a children’s book — “Go the F**k to Sleep” — and hoping his works would achieve the same virality.

“Fingers crossed,” he said, dreaming of his next #humblebrag.

Beth Teitell can be reached at beth.teitell@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @bethteitell