Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Interview with Lance Rubin for Crying Laughing

Crying Laughing

by Lance Rubin
Publisher: Knopf
Release Date: November 19th 2019
Genre: Young Adult, Fiction
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The author of Denton Little's Deathdate gives us a tragicomic story of bad dates, bad news, bad performances, and one girl's determination to find the funny in high school.

Winnie Friedman has been waiting for the world to catch on to what she already knows: she's hilarious.

It might be a long wait, though. After bombing a stand-up set at her own bat mitzvah, Winnie has kept her jokes to herself. Well, to herself and her dad, a former comedian and her inspiration.

Then, on the second day of tenth grade, the funniest guy in school actually laughs at a comment she makes in the lunch line and asks her to join the improv troupe. Maybe he's even . . . flirting?

Just when Winnie's ready to say yes to comedy again, her father reveals that he's been diagnosed with ALS. That is . . . not funny. Her dad's still making jokes, though, which feels like a good thing. And Winnie's prepared to be his straight man if that's what he wants. But is it what he needs?

Caught up in a spiral of epically bad dates, bad news, and bad performances, Winnie's struggling to see the humor in it all. But finding a way to laugh is exactly what will see her through.

Can you briefly describe CRYING LAUGHING and its characters?

Crying Laughing is about 15-year-old Winnie Friedman, who’s obsessed with comedy but refuses to perform ever since bombing a stand-up set at her own Bat Mitzvah two years earlier. When the book starts, Evan Miller, considered by many to be the funniest kid in school, laughs at one of Winnie’s jokes in the cafeteria and tells her she should join the improv troupe. Winnie reluctantly does and ends up coming into her own as a comedian at the same time that she gets the worst news of her life: her comedy-hero dad, Russ, has been diagnosed with ALS. Winnie’s best friends, twin sisters Leili and Azadeh, are a huge part of the story, as are Winnie’s dad, Russ (obviously) and her mom Dana. 

Who would you say is your favourite character from the story and why?

Winnie, for sure. The foundation of inspiration for this character is my wife, Katie Schorr, so it was a joy to get to imbue Winnie with characteristics of the human I love most in this world. Winnie shares Katie’s biting sarcasm and self-deprecation and massive talent and though Winnie, of course, evolved into her own being over the course of writing the book, I love that the seed of Katie is always there. 

How did the story occur to you? Did you find inspiration anywhere?

So, my father has had a neurodegenerative illness for more than two decades now. When I was a sophomore in college, he was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), but it’s turned out that the actual diagnosis is a subset of ALS known as PLS (posterior lateral sclerosis) which is slower-progressing. When I graduated college back in 2004, I had some success as an actor as my dad’s illness continued to worsen; he jokingly said something to me like, “Maybe, the sicker I get, the more successful you’ll be.” This was a horrifying idea and one that stuck with me and became the inspiration for this novel. I wanted to write about what it’s like to have a parent become sick, how hard it is to watch them become physically weaker, to realize that they’re mortal. I’d initially written a totally different draft of this book where, as Winnie’s dad got sicker, she literally got superpowers. Ultimately, that idea is still in the book, but in a more grounded way, with Winnie’s superpower being her ability to be funny, which I like a lot more, as it allowed me to also look at the way humor can help us survive. 

If you could choose one song to describe your book, which one would it be?

Ha, I’m so bad at questions like these. “With Arms Wide Open” by Creed? That was a joke. Let me think of a real answer. “Never Really Over” by Katy Perry? That was another joke. But I did listen to that song a lot this summer. I’m sorry, I really don’t have an answer to this, I’m going to stop talking now. 

What drink and place do you think will go with your book to have a perfect book date?

Ha, I’m also bad at questions like this. Apple juice comes up in an improv scene toward the end of the book, so maybe apple juice? But I’m also feeling like this book would go great with chocolate milk. No real reason, might just be that I’m in the mood for chocolate milk right now. So, okay, in conclusion: the perfect way to read this book is with a huge chocolate milk and/or apple juice while waiting in line for your favorite comedy show. 

Can you recommend your readers any other books in case they are left hungry for more once they finish CRYING LAUGHING?

Absolutely! Unscripted, by Nicole Kronzer, is another YA novel about improv that’s coming out in April 2020. It’s honest and funny but also intense, as it unflinchingly dives into the misogyny of comedy culture. 

Also Hope and Other Punchlines by Julie Buxbaum is truly magnificent and explores some of the same themes as Crying Laughing, including the way humor can be healing, even during the most serious times. 

Also Virtually Yours by Sarvenaz Tash—funny, timely, and heartwarming in the best way—and any book by Ariel Kaplan

What would you say is the most difficult part of writing a book?

First-drafting. For sure. No question. First-drafting is also where some of the purest, most fulfilling moments of the creative process happen, but besides that, most of it is me tamping down my need for everything to be perfect right away and trying to just let my creativity run wild but really wishing I knew exactly where my story was going and then thinking well maybe I should outline and then thinking but I HATE outlining and then thinking OK, so just keep writing and then thinking FINE, I WILL and then thinking this book is terrible and so on and so on and so on. It’s the beautiful, awful magic of making things. 

What’s next for you?

I’m in the early stages of taking a stab at my first Middle Grade novel. It’s hard to reveal anything because I have been changing my mind all the time as to what the book is even about, but ideally the end result will be a weird, funny book that makes kids laugh a lot and think a lot. 

LANCE RUBIN is the author of Denton Little’s Deathdate and Denton Little’s Still Not Dead. He’s worked as an actor, written and performed sketch comedy (like The Lance and Ray Show at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre), and done a lot of improv. He’s also the co-writer, along with Joe Iconis and Jason SweetTooth Williams, of the musical Broadway Bounty Hunter. Lance lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two sons. You can follow him online at LanceRubin.com and on Twitter at @LanceRubinParty.



  1. Our heroine's comedian-on-dude crush sounds like good material!

  2. This book is high on my list as I know from the author's previous books I will find humor and a new way to see the world and events in my life.