Family and friends are fodder in creative guru David Oakley’s newest book.
by Allison Futterman
David Oakley is known as one of Charlotte’s best creative minds, but the leader of BooneOakley advertising agency is also a gifted writer, full of quick wit and laugh-out-loud-funny quips. A clue to his sense of humor can be found in his job description on the company website: president, creative director, parking attendant.
Since the agency’s launch in 2000, BooneOakley’s clients have included MTV, the Charlotte Hornets and Outer Banks tourism. The agency is also responsible for the ubiquitous “It’s Bo Time” slogan for the Bojangles chicken-and-biscuits chain.
Oakley’s creativity extends to his latest book, Nobody Eats Parsley: And other things I learned from my family. In a series of personal essays, he recounts stories from his life, many involving friends and family — stories like “the time David went to an X-rated drive-in without realizing his parents were in the next car,” reads Oakley’s book description. In the follow-up to his first book, Why Is Your Name Upside Down? Stories from a Life in Advertising, the father of two shares his experiences in a style that is both humorous and touching.
Comments were edited for length and clarity.
Have you always had such a good sense of humor?
I’ve always been kind of a joker. I find humor in everyday life, in all kinds of things — like changing my birthday on Facebook to April 1. I got 114 birthday wishes on April Fools’ Day! It really should be my birthday. I’m surrounded by funny people — my sister, my Aunt Hallie, my wife, Claire, and her family. My dad liked to joke around to get a reaction out of people. He was a well-known potter, and his work was even displayed at the Smithsonian. Sometimes when he was doing pottery demos, he would throw a big porcelain vase and the ladies who were watching would say how beautiful it was. Then he’d say, “this one’s not perfectly centered,” and [he] would just smash it, shocking them — then he would crack up laughing.
How did you approach writing about people you know?
Very carefully, LOL. I don’t want to write anything that would upset anyone, and I never write anything that’s mean-spirited. I just poke a little fun at them. Actually, the easiest person to make fun of is me — I’m a mess.
How does your family feel about your stories?
It makes me smile when you ask that, because my kids would probably say, “Dad thinks he’s so funny.” I think my family is proud of me. All the stories are about them. But they’d tell you that I embellished and exaggerated on some of the stories.
You’re a two-time author. Are there more books in your future?
I might do another one in a year or two. I really do enjoy writing. When the pandemic first happened, I was too freaked out to write. But then I realized that I had all this extra time at home. And it turned out that I was able to write a lot during the pandemic.
What’s your writing routine?
I try to write early in the morning. (Usually before 8:00 a.m. or my first cocktail of the day, whichever comes first.) I started journaling when I lived in New York. Back then, I tried to write for 20-30 minutes a day. Now I just write stuff down that I see and hear most every morning and leave it alone for a while. Then I come back to look at it fresh and see if it can fit with something else to create a short essay.
Do you think Charlotte has a strong creative community?
I think Charlotte’s got an amazing creative community. And by creative, I don’t just mean advertising. I mean the culinary scene, the art scene, music. I’ve seen Charlotte become a truly vibrant city that’s evolved a lot in the 25 years I’ve been here. I’m happy to call Charlotte home. I love it here. All we need now is a casino in the Gold District.
Nobody Eats Parsley: And other things I learned from my family is available at online booksellers and at Park Road Books, Paper Skyscraper and Main Street Books in Davidson.