Create a character with personality traits of someone you love [I’ll leave my choice for this one unstated] but the physical characteristics of someone you don’t care for [I chose Kim Kardashian].
Meet Shelly Reading
Shelly Reading’s detractors, most of whom have never actually watched an episode of her extended-cable reality show, assume her fame is due solely to two things: For one, she’s the daughter of a B-movie actress whose most shameful flop of a movie magically transformed, decades later, from cinema joke to cult hit after being featured on a movie spoofing podcast; and secondly, Shelly Reading is incredibly, objectively gorgeous.
It’s true – Gallup released a poll showing that, among heterosexual males between the ages of eighteen and sixty-five, about seventy percent had a negative opinion of Shelly Reading and her show. Ninety-nine percent, however, would be more than happy to sleep with the woman. The other one percent, it must be assumed, lied about the heterosexuality thing.
What Shelly Reading’s detractors don’t know – and this is in large part due to the show’s producers playing down any somber truths in favor of zany, drunken comedy – is that Shelly Reading’s rise to fame had very little to do with her actress mother. As for her stunning looks, well, they probably didn’t hurt her career. But the truth is that the now famous reality show, Reading to Distraction, had its roots in a series of family emails that Shelly Reading began sending after the death of her father.
The newsletter, Shelly Reading says, was an attempt to halt the distancing of her brothers and sisters which began after the death of their father, Marco Reading. With their mother long since moved to California, the twelve Reading siblings had been anchored to the New England area by the presence of their father. When he passed, the family started drifting away, spreading out across the country. Shelly Reading heard less and less from her siblings and decided that she, at least, could let them know what she was up to and report any family news she managed to scrape up.
To pad out the weekly emails, Shelly Reading, who admits that healthy doses of red wine have long been a key component to her writing process, got into the habit of sharing and critiquing whatever novel she’d been reading at the time. The critiques, many of which are now shared in the archives section of her personal website, were entertaining and funny enough that her siblings started forwarding them to friends. Shelly’s humor was at once biting and complimentary. She genuinely enjoyed the romance, crime, and thriller genres she read but was well aware of their shortcomings. When discussing a story, Shelly Reading could simultaneously make her readers scornfully laugh at a book’s author and also want to go read that book immediately.
Soon, Shelly Reading was being asked if she would add total strangers to her family newsletter email list, and over time the emails focused less on the family and more on humorous rants and critiques about books and other popular culture. An industrious nephew created a blog for his aunt and showed her how to use it. Through the blog, Shelly Reading shared her comedy with the world, but it was when that same nephew introduced her to YouTube that a star was born. Shelly Reading was a natural in front of the camera, at least after a few glasses of wine, and her hilarious, drunken diatribes on the latest pop-culture had to offer gained her a huge online following.
Shortly thereafter, in a wave of desperate attempts at finding new talent, the Jigsaw Network picked up several internet starlings and threw them at the wall to see if any of them would stick. One did. Reading to Distraction became so popular, in fact, that the network redefined itself around the show and its star. No longer would the Jigsaw Network focus on its original niche of interlocking puzzlery. Jigsaw became synonymous with Shelly Reading and her ever-growing family of in-laws, nieces and nephews, and shows and spin-off properties.
Reading to Distraction was always about making fun of others. It’s never been high-brow comedy, and once the Reading family all clambered aboard with varied attempts to outdo each other and cash in on the Reading name, things only went downhill. Or only got better, depending on your point of view. The show remains immensely popular, and Shelly Reading is the matriarch at the top of it all.
Though she may not speak about her father on the show, she says that he is often in her thoughts, as is that silly little family newsletter she used to send out so long ago. No, Shelly Reading doesn’t email her family any more. When she wants them to know about something that’s happened, she simply turns towards the nearest camera and starts talking.