My third book is called Crying Laughing.
It's about 15-year-old Winnie Friedman, who joins her high school improv troupe and comes into her own as a comedian at the same time that her comedy-hero dad is diagnosed with ALS.
It’s funny and sad and very close to my heart.
Scroll down for the first chapter!
And PRE-ORDER HERE.
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"Crying Laughing had me literally doing both, often at the same time. I fell in love with Winnie, her family, her friends, and her world, which felt lived-in and familiar. Lance Rubin captures all of the fun, excitement, and sheer awkwardness of live comedy, as well as the personalities who cycle through improv and standup. Crying Laughing is funny, heartbreaking, and a love letter to comedy -- and how it can save us."
—Amy Spalding, author of The Summer of Jordi Perez (and the Best Burger in Los Angeles)
"Winnie Friedman is a boss in the making, and I loved being inside her head as she navigated the best and worst parts of being a teenager. She learns that people are complicated and life is messy, but if you take a beat, you can find a way to make it work even as things go off the rails--the essence of improvisation. As a budding comedian, she helps show the importance of facing the fear both on stage and off, as she develops her comedic voice during a time of insane turmoil. Crying Laughing is a must-read for comedy fans, aspiring artists, and any young person who's feeling like life's just not fair sometimes. Cause it isn't, but that's okay--and it's even sometimes hilarious."
—Naomi Ekperigin, stand-up comedian/writer, 2 Dope Queens and Broad City
"Crying Laughing walks the delicate line between comedy and tragedy without faltering once; a sharp-witted take on how humor can exist--and be a source of strength--even in the saddest moments."
— Ariel Kaplan, Author of We Are the Perfect Girl and We Regret to Inform You
Please enjoy the first chapter of Crying Laughing:
No one knows how funny I am.
Well, that’s not entirely true. My dad, and sometimes my mom, and my best friends, Leili and Asmaa, know.
And I know.
But no one else.
Definitely no one in school, where successful humor tends to involve farts.
I’m not knocking fart humor, but I recognize it is but one color in the comedy rainbow. For many people at my school, however, it is one of just three primary comedy colors, the other two being sex humor (e.g., pretend-humping in the hallway) and mean humor (e.g., pulling away someone’s chair as they sit down), which isn’t even humor so much as an excuse to be an asshole.
Anyway, if a joke falls in the forest and no one’s there to hear it, it does not make a sound, so sometime in the middle of last year, I stopped saying my funny thoughts aloud. It’s like giving your finest, most expensive jewelry to your hamster. Guess what? That hamster does not give a flying eff about carats.
(He might, however, care a great deal about carrots.)
(I’m sorry. I am aware puns are, in many ways, no better than fart jokes, but there’s a long tradition of really smart comedy writers appreciating puns in a manner that is half ironic, half sincere—and that is the way I appreciate them.)
So, yeah, when it comes to my sense of humor, most of the people in school are hamsters, which is why it’s incredibly surprising that just now, on the second day of my sophomore year, I seem to have made Evan Miller laugh.
“Ha, that’s hilarious,” he says, standing next to me, our lunch trays balanced on the metal rack of the cafeteria line, as his less sophisticated friend Tim Stabisch looks on like Wait, seriously? Was it?
I should mention: Evan Miller is, by many accounts (not mine), the funniest guy in school. He’s a junior, and though our interactions have been minimal, I’ve had quite a bit of time to become familiar with his comedic stylings, as I assistant-directed last year’s production of Arsenic and Old Lace, in which Evan played the brother who believes he’s Teddy Roosevelt and is always maniacally charging up the stairs of the house. And yes, Evan was truly hilarious in that play, mainly because he was so confident and committed to the role. As my dad has said, “The secret to being successful in comedy is confidence. That’s, like, ninety percent of it right there.” And Evan Miller has that, so I understand why his comedic reputation has soared.
Now, does he possess the other ten percent of the formula, which includes having a smart, interesting perspective on the world around him? Not so much.
Though it’s possible I’ve underestimated him, because he did just laugh at the thing I said moments ago (which was not a pun or a fart joke). I was standing in the lunch line by myself when this happened:
EVAN (next to me in line the whole time, though I hadn’t acknowledged him because I assumed he had no idea who I was): Hey, you worked on the play last year, right?
ME: I did.
EVAN: Winnie, right?
ME (surprised he knows my name): Oh. Yeah. And you’re . . . (I pretend I don’t know his name, I have no idea why.)
EVAN (slightly disappointed): Evan.
ME: Right! Evan, yeah. You were really funny in the play. (I felt bad that I’d pretended not to know his name, which is why I gave him a compliment.)
EVAN (perking up again): Oh, thanks! (inexplicably goes into stereotypical California girl voice:) That’s, like, totally cool of you to say.
ME (unconvincing): Ha.
PEARL THE LUNCH LADY (to me): Chicken or vegetable?
ME: Wait, what is it?
PEARL: Stir-fry. Chicken or vegetable.
ME: Oh. Chicken, please.
[PEARL slops stir-fry onto my tray.]
ME: Thanks. (I look to Evan.) She and I go way back, that’s why she hooks me up with the good stuff.
EVAN (laughing): Ha, that’s hilarious.
And there you have it. Evan is laughing at something I said. I don’t even know why I said it.
Tim, trying his best to keep up, asks, “Wait, did she just give you extra chicken?”
“Yes,” I say, even though she obviously gave me the same amount she gives everyone. “But don’t feel bad, that’s only because we were platoon mates in Vietnam. I saved her life. Twice.”
Evan laughs harder, and Tim is more confused. “I want extra chicken too,” he says. “They never give enough.”
“You’re really funny,” Evan tells me. “You should join Improv Troupe. We always need new funny people.”
This catches me off guard. I mean, he’s right—I saw the improv troupe perform a couple of times last year and they could probably use my help—but it’s a foreign and delightful feeling to have someone who isn’t me recognize that. Unfortunately, I retired from performing two and a half years ago after a traumatic incident at my bat mitzvah. Nevertheless, I’m flattered.
“Oh yeah,” I say. “Maybe.”
“First meeting of the year is tomorrow. After school.”
Pearl, back from replacing an empty serving dish, asks Evan, “Chicken or vegetable?” He opts for vegetable, which surprises me, then turns back to me as I’m grabbing a rice pudding and walking away. “Seriously, think about it. You’ll have even more fun than you did in Nam!”
“That’s not possible,” I say. “Nam was a blast.”
Evan cracks up harder, and I try to hide my smile.
Maybe I should join Improv Troupe.