Please welcome Dave Terruso as today’s Wednesday’s Guest. He is the author of Lost Touch, the book I reviewed last Sunday, and he is also a stand-up comic. I wasn’t sure what he might like as refreshments but then I thought of Froot Loops. They seemed just silly enough to fit the theme today, and I’m betting he’s eaten a few bowls. After you enjoy David’s offering here, hop over to The Blood-Red Pencil blog where I have a post up sharing some information about book promoting and news about Open Season. Enjoy….
By day, I’m a novelist. By night, I’m a stand up comedian.
(I also have a full-time day job since neither of these professions can pay the rent yet.)
I started writing novels at age 11. I wrote my first novel, which was about 40,000 words, at a time when I was pretty much exclusively watching Steven Seagal and Jean-Claude Van Damme movies. In it, my 13-year-old protagonist kills four dozen bad guys, mostly with an automatic weapon. It’s inadvertently hilarious to read, but I was quite serious when I wrote it.
All of my writing was serious. I had this delusion that novels had to be serious. This was mostly because I didn’t read much as a child. I watched movies. And I split movies up into the slapstick comedies I loved at that age, and the mysteries and adventures I wanted to emulate. When I wrote, I assumed the voice of an adult male narrator who thought everything was intensely important—the kind of guy who narrates movie trailers.
But in my daily life I loved to make other people laugh. When Comedy Central first aired (it was called The Comedy Channel back then), I watched it all night, memorizing bits and acting them out for my friends. And I lived to riff on whatever was happening in the moment.
My first captive audiences were my classmates. Because I was a straight-A student, my teachers let me get away with murder. My 8th grade teacher let me perform for the last fifteen minutes of every Friday afternoon. I was voted “Class Clown and Most Likely to Succeed.” My crowning achievement in life, at the age of 13—all downhill from there, at least so far.
But my novels were still serious. And they were also flat.
In college I wrote some funny one-act plays that got performed on the university’s stage. Through one of those plays, I met a girl who was into improvisational comedy, and she convinced me to join her troupe.
I did improv for a year, then started doing sketch comedy. With sketch, I discovered the fundamental truth about myself that changed my life: I’m not a serious writer. I’m a comedic storyteller. My one writing gift is that I can reveal truth through humor. That epiphany set me free.
My seventh novel, Cube Sleuth, was my first dark comic murder mystery. And when I read it to myself—for the first time ever—I heard my own voice narrating the story. I had literally found my voice as a writer.
Cube Sleuth became my first published novel. My second published novel, Lost Touch, is also a dark comic murder mystery.
For the past six years, my performing life has been focused on stand up comedy, which gives me the ability to write a joke on Monday and perform it on Tuesday. I get to hear my jokes out loud, hear where the audience laughs, groans, yawns, and gasps with shock or offense. That continual process of writing, performing, examining audience reactions, and tweaking for improvement has sharpened my novel-writing skills, particularly with dialogue.
I don’t lead a double life.
The two paths I seemed to be on—novelist and comic—led me to the same place.
I am a comedic storyteller.
And a liar, since I opened by saying I don’t lead a double life.
(I realize that this particular story isn’t really comedic, but I promise that in general my stories are funny. Please believe me. Please!)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dave Terruso is a novelist and screenwriter who lives in Philadelphia.
He is also a stand up comedian who has opened for Maria Bamford, Gilbert Gottfried, Dana Gould, Richard Lewis, and Charlie Murphy.