St. Thomas University alumnus Marcel St. Pierre says he grew up on a comedic diet of The Muppet Show, Monty Python and Bugs Bunny.
“I think I’m turning into a Muppet version of myself,” said St. Pierre.
St. Pierre described his Muppet self as a bit like a bald Bert.
“He would have a cup of coffee at all times and he would be bald, with a white, like salt and pepper beard that comes in unexpectedly at different times of the day and he would always be constantly surprised at it.”
St. Pierre’s love of silly humour, responsible for his metaphorical Muppet transformation, is also what’s responsible for the upcoming release of his second book, Cliché and Wind Go Hitchhiking.
“I find what I love the most is when something surprises me so much that I do just burst out laughing.”
The book is a collection of short comedic stories, or as St. Pierre call them “whimsical little slices of life,” and will be released on April 1.
The stories are heavily-edited versions of a writing experiment St. Pierre did in 2013, where he wrote daily – with one caveat: Each story had to have the number of words as the day of the year. So, one word for Jan. 1 and so on.
“It really was like hitting the writers’ gym and it was also a really good way of getting rid of the censor in my head, the critic that would go ‘you can’t possibly write that because its crap right now.’”
St. Pierre’s first book, Vengeful Hank and Other Shortweird Stories, was the first batch of stories to come from his 2013 writing experiment. Cliché and Wind Go Hitchhiking is the second batch.
The titular story Cliché and Wind Go Hitchhiking is about a man on a road trip who picks up two unusual and annoying hitchhikers and spends the rest of the story trying to figure out how to get rid of them and passive-aggressively fighting for control of the radio.
St. Pierre said the original version of the story, which he recently found, was only three sentences. It now is 12 pages long – the longest story in the book.
“I do love those characters so much,” said St. Pierre, adding he’s considering revisiting them for a full-length novel.
“We’ll see if that’s my next journey as a writer.”
Other stories include one about a man with radishes for hands, a bear waiter at a mountain bistro and a cannibalistic gondolier.
St. Pierre said his inspiration comes from everywhere, but a common philosophy of dealing with loneliness runs through the book as characters struggle to relate to the people and entities around them.
“It’s ironic in this day in age when we’re so connected by our gadgets and our devices that one of the side effects of that, even though were so hyperconnected, we’re even more so acutely aware of the fact that were isolated and alone.”
As a comedian and improvisor, St. Pierre said he often tells his improv students to focus on relationships with their fellow actors rather than worry about trying to be funny, a tactic which translates well to St. Pierre’s easy breezy storytelling, which flows naturally despite the bizarre twists and turns.
“They’re [the characters in the book] just minding their own business and suddenly their world is thrown into a tailspin and they have to be present, they have to be in the moment,” St. Pierre said.
“Life is in those moments of clarity where we are present to other people.”
As an alumnus, St. Pierre said his time at STU was essential in his creative development as a writer and comedian.
In particular, St. Pierre remembers Ilkay Silk, Theatre St. Thomas director and the late Patricia Thornton, creative writing professor, as influential mentors and supporters. It was Thornton who first told him to look into fostering relationships with publishers to get his work out there.
His advice for aspiring artists, writers and comedians is to just do what they feel inspired to do.
“If it keeps coming to you that you should be doing something even if you’re just doing it as a hobby, do it. Why not? Why wouldn’t you?”