Kelly Oxford’s Present Perfect

Published April 3, 2013

ABOVE: KELLY OXFORD. IMAGE COURTESY OF HARPER SMITH

Kelly Oxford’s Everything Is Perfect When You’re A Liar (ItBooks) is a hilariously mortifying memoir. From accidental urination, to her hopeless DiCaprio crush, to therapy, to magic—like the David Copperfield kind—Oxford plumbs her past for painful moments and turns them into slyly funny stories.

It may be easy for Oxford to laugh at herself now. The Canadian comedian recently moved to California, and her book is one in a string of successes, including selling television pilots and a script to Warner Brothers. But that doesn’t make her writing any less heartfelt. These vignettes are vulnerable and powerful—they make us feel less freakish by comparison. Effortlessly cool, offbeat, devilish, dramatic Oxford makes sense and smart humor from her adventures. We spoke to Oxford from her new home in Los Angeles about her obsession with the weather, Disneyland, Canadian mistakes, and the importance of admitting we’re all idiots.

ROYAL YOUNG: Are you in LA? I need heat.

KELLY OXFORD: Yes, and I’m fascinated with weather. I’ve been obsessed with weather since I was a little kid. The highest temperature it’s going to be back in Canada, where I moved from, is the coldest it’s going to be here. That’s my life.

YOUNG: Why are you obsessed with weather?

OXFORD: I’ve always been obsessed with weather. I thought when I was a kid maybe I was an aviator in a past life, because I was so obsessed with clouds and knowing what was going to happen just by looking at the sky. I’m a little bit OCD. On my weather app on my phone, I have Calgary, New York, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Edmonton, Paris, Studio City, Manhattan Beach, and San Diego and I look at them all.

YOUNG: [laughs] Why Paris?

OXFORD: [laughs] Because I’m very curious. I don’t really understand their weather, and this way I learn!

YOUNG: Can you please add to that list? I want you to have at least 20 more places, and some of them should be really weird.

OXFORD: I just added Tokyo. It’s colder there than here right now. It’s a lot in California right now, because I take my kids places here. Like when we went to Disneyland, as Canadians, we made one major Canadian mistake. When we woke up, it was warm in Calgary, and we went to Disneyland and forgot it was December 14th. We got there and were so fucking cold, I had to buy those shitty, gross Disneyland hoodies for everybody. Now we’re stuck with them.

YOUNG: Can we do this whole interview about the weather?

OXFORD: [laughs] Now I know what I’m going to write my next book about.

YOUNG: I always wondered what it would be like to live in a place like LA where there are no seasons. Do you just get lost?

OXFORD: It’s weird. The seasons here are basically like, is it going to be 60 degrees or 80? I spent my whole life in a place with extreme weather, so from that to this is weird. When it drizzles, it’s an End of Days day.

YOUNG: Do you feel like it’s affecting your outlook on life?

OXFORD: It’s definitely affected how I perceived Americans before and now living here. I’ve been coming to the States since I was a little kid, and for the last three years I’ve basically been coming down here once a month. But now that I live here, I can appreciate the nationalism of Americans, being very proud of things like “Rah, rah, rah, we’re the best,” because it’s so hard to get anything done here. So now I understand why people are so proud when they get shit done, because it’s so much harder to get anything done here than it is in Canada.

YOUNG: I feel like the stuff that Americans accomplish in addition to being harder is on a bigger scale. I spent a lot of time in Toronto and there it’s easy to get creative jobs, but you hit a ceiling. You hit a success ceiling.

OXFORD: I agree with you. It’s funny, though; as a writer, I could write in Canada and still get the American benefits. But I wanted to come down here for the good weather and for the parties, I want to be social too. Being in LA is really great for that, for just running out and grabbing coffee with another writer. I couldn’t do that in Canada. I love Los Angeles, and I love New York too; I just couldn’t raise three kids there.

YOUNG: How important do you think it is to be able to laugh about painful, dumb, or embarrassing moments from your past?

OXFORD: It’s like the important human thing that anybody can do. It’s terrifying to think about all these things that were awful for you. But for me, sharing all of them was so satisfying, because people read them and get to go, “Oh, okay, I don’t have to feel so shitty about that,” or maybe even, “Why was I feeling so shitty about that? I should own that and learn from that.” Those are the sorts of stories I want to tell. With my pilots and movie at Warner Brothers, I feel like it’s my job to say, “Look, we’re all idiots, and we’re all way more interesting people when we go to each other honestly.” That’s way more interesting than having all your shit together.

YOUNG: What is so important about writing that down?

OXFORD: At this point in my life, I’m 35, I have a husband, we have kids, I have a job, I’m able to say this. But I wasn’t able to say this when I was 19 and stressed out because I didn’t want to go to school to be a lawyer or a doctor. But everybody was saying, “You’re not at school? What are you doing with your life?,” making me feel like a failure. At that point, I needed to know that there are going to be a lot of mess-ups and there is no such thing as following the perfect path. When you listen to people who have accomplished so much, the one thing they always say is, “I didn’t let anybody stop me.” I really, really, steadfastly believe that.

EVERYTHING IS PERFECT WHEN YOU’RE A LIAR IS OUT NOW. FOR MORE ON KELLY OXFORD, VISIT HER WEBSITE.