Life’s funny ... just ask Debra Terry
Debra Terry has always liked to make people laugh, and for as long as she can remember, she has been successful at it.
“I wanted to be Carol Burnett, because I thought her job seemed like it was fun and everybody must like her,” Terry said.
When she was in high school at High Point Central, Terry was voted most funny, and can remember being offended at first.
“Out of all of my other achievements, accomplishments and accolades, the only thing that people remembered was that I was funny,” Terry said. “Not that I was in the National Honor Society, National Beta Club, the first African-American drum major, cheerleader or any of that.”
Perhaps the students knew that comedy was Terry’s calling because in 1989 she began working as a comedian. In college, her friends would call her Eddie Murphette. It was then that she entered her first comedy contest and placed third out of 17. She entered another one after that and won.
She went on to do comedy full time in 1993. She has been featured on NBC’s “Standup for Diversity Showcase” and the Comedy Factory Comedy Festival in Holland. She has shared and opened the stage with some of the greatest entertainers in the nation, including Jennifer Holliday, Anita Baker, Paul Mooney, Regina Belle, Patti Labelle, Brian McKnight, Bernie Mac, J. Anthony Brown, Mo’Nique, Chris Rock, George Wallace, D.L. Hughley, Eddie Griffin and Kim Coles.
“It really started from there. I would drive for hours and hours just to get on stage. I was doing shows for free at times. Sometimes you might get paid, sometimes you got gas money, and sometimes you might not get paid,” Terry said. “I would drive down to Atlanta just to do open mic for five minutes and turn right back around because I had to be at work the next morning.”
In 1994, Terry really began to hit her stride after breaking into the acting world. She has done commercials, television, movies, theater shows and emceed shows. She has been on television shows like Showtime’s award-winning “Homeland”, “One Tree Hill”, “It’s Showtime at the Apollo”, “Gimme the Mike” and “Club Comic View”.
She has had a spot in movies, including her debut on “Something Borrowed, Something Blue” opposite Shawnee Smith and Connie Sellecca, and “Funny Valentines” opposite award-winning Alfre Woodard, Loretta Devine and Yolanda King. She has had parts in the movies “The Nutty Professor” and “Shift”.
“I found an agent in Winston-Salem who was sweet enough to sign me without any experience,” Terry said. “Most agents wouldn’t do that, but I think she saw the potential.”
From there, Terry teamed up with Rusty Wiggs from Artist Resource Agency to book bigger jobs. She said the moment she realized she had actually made it in her career was when she walked onto the set and she had her own “honey wagon,” a trailer that each cast member would receive so they could hang out between takes.
“It would have my name on it, and I remember thinking ‘I got my own little honey wagon,’” Terry said. “The experience was wonderful. They cater to you and have food. That is your own wagon. They come get you when they are ready for you, and you go do your scene. It’s cool.”
Although Terry has been in the entertainment business for quite some time, she said she has had some moments where she was star struck and left fumbling for words.
“It has happened with Maya Angelou,” Terry said. “I’ve sat across the aisle from Denzel Washington, and it wasn’t a biggie. I spoke and kept going, but then when I see THE Maya Angelou, and I had no words. I finally muster up enough courage to say ‘You have such command of the English language.’”
Terry said she was trying to make her mouth move the entire time, but she could not say anything. The only other time she has been struck was when she saw Richard Pryor perform.
“I got to see Richard Pryor perform before he died. It was in L.A. at the Comedy Store. I never even spoke to him, but he came right by me in his wheelchair,” Terry said. “I couldn’t speak. I just stood there with tears in my eyes and rolling down my face, witnessing this man, who was still very sick, whispering into a microphone. Even whispering, he still killed the place.”
So what’s next for Terry?
It seems that Terry has a plateful, as she is still auditioning, preaching at women’s conferences and now adding producing onto the list of daily duties of motherhood.
“Some of my best work are my children,” Terry said. ‘They are my best productions to date. God has truly blessed me with two wonderful, smart, sweet and extremely cute kids.”
She admits that while motherhood is a full-time job, she is always preparing herself for the next project.
“In life you have to reinvent yourself, especially if you are self-employed and are going to eat,” Terry said. “These are all things that I like to do anyway. Do what you love and the rest will come. Currently, I am writing a couple of movie scripts for both film and television.”
Even though Terry has branched out, she said her love is still comedy.
“I will always do this, whether I’m getting paid or not,” Terry said. “I will always be funny, sometimes without even trying.”
email@example.com | 888-3657
• Born in Hamlet
• Raised in High Point
• Attended High Point Central High School
• Graduated from the University of North Carolina with a bachelor’s of science in industrial relations concentrating in psychology
• Has two children, Devin, 14, and Jadyn, 6
• For information, visit www.debraterry.com.
Body of Works
• “One Tree Hill”
• “Gimme the Mike”
• “Greensboro ConnecTV”
• “Club Comic View”
• “It’s Showtime at the Apollo”
• Harris Teeter
• Meineke - National
• Food Lion
• FurnitureLand South
• “The Magistical” - Cannes Film Festival
• “Funny Valentines”
• “Something Borrowed, Something Blue”
• “The Nutty Professor”
• “C.O.T.O: Chocolate on the Outside”
• “The Waiting Room”
• Funniest Mom in America 2007
• Comedy Factory Comedy Festival - Holland
• NBC’s Stand up for Diversity Showcase
• Laugh Riots Comedy Competition
Industrial Training Videos
• Lowe’s Home Improvement
• Harris Teeter
• Glaxo Smith Kline