Making people laugh is tough business. If the opportunity ever arises, ask any of the following comedy legends if this is true. They’ll say yes, even if the answer comes out as a joke. Here are some fascinating books written by and about some of the most influential funny people of the last fifty years. While these books won’t necessarily explain the crafting of a joke, they will provide an inside look at the business of making strangers laugh.
Comedy Books Every Fan Should Read
Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life, by Steve Martin
In the early 1970s, Steve Martin exploded onto the comedy scene. By 1978, Martin was the biggest concert draw in the history of stand- up, selling out venues across the country. He was on television, in popular movies, and was the undisputed king of stand-up during this time. In 1981, at the height of his popularity, he quit stand-up forever. Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life is the story of his rise to the top, his life in front of the microphone, why he did stand-up, and why he walked away.
Bossy Pants by Tina Fey
Once an awkward young girl with a dream of performing, Bossy Pants tells the story of her comedy beginnings, her early days in the Chicago Improv scene, her stint as head writer for Saturday Night Live, and all of crazy moments in between. Bossy Pants is a candid look at the reigning queen of sketch comedy.
Love All the People: The Essential Bill Hicks by Bill Hicks
Not quite the typical biography, Love All the People: The Essential Bill Hicks is a collection of transcribed stand-up acts, journal entries, interviews, and essays by a proli c comedian and genius mind who never really had his moment in the spotlight. Hicks’s life was cut short at the age of thirty-two. The book traces his evolution from a brilliant stand-up to a comic speaking without fear.
The Trials of Lenny Bruce: The Rise and Fall of an American Icon by Ronald Collins and David Skover
Lenny Bruce’s fight for the first amendment right to freedom of speech is one of the reasons comedians are allowed to explore formerly taboo topics on stage. This book is an oral history of Bruce’s fight, on stage and in courtrooms across the United States, and a glimpse in a comic genius and genuinely tortured soul.
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling
Mindy Kaling has lived many lives: the obedient child of immigrant professionals, a timid chubster afraid of her own bike, a Ben Affleck–impersonating Off-Broadway performer and playwright, and, finally, a comedy writer and actress prone to starting fights with her friends and coworkers with the sentence “Can I just say one last thing about this, and then I swear I’ll shut up about it?”
In Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Mindy invites readers on a tour of her life and her unscientific observations on romance, friendship, and Hollywood, with several conveniently placed stopping points for you to run errands and make phone calls. Mindy Kaling really is just a Girl Next Door—not so much literally anywhere in the continental United States, but definitely if you live in India or Sri Lanka.
Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh
Every time Allie Brosh posts something new on her hugely popular blog Hyperbole and a Half the internet rejoices.
Hyperbole and a Half is a full-color, beautifully illustrated edition features more than fifty percent new content, with ten never-before-seen essays and one wholly revised and expanded piece as well as classics from the website like, “The God of Cake,” “Dogs Don’t Understand Basic Concepts Like Moving,” and her astonishing, “Adventures in Depression,” and “Depression Part Two,” which have been hailed as some of the most insightful meditations on the disease ever written.
Brosh’s debut marks the launch of a major new American humorist who will surely make even the biggest scrooge or snob laugh. We dare you not to.
Yes Please by Amy Poehler
In Amy Poehler’s highly anticipated first book, Yes Please, she offers up a big juicy stew of personal stories, funny bits on sex and love and friendship and parenthood and real life advice (some useful, some not so much), like when to be funny and when to be serious. Powered by Amy’s charming and hilarious, biting yet wise voice, Yes Please is a book full of words to live by.
Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea by Chelsea Handler
When Chelsea Handler needs to get a few things off her chest, she appeals to a higher power – vodka. You would too if you found out that your boyfriend was having an affair with a Peekapoo or if you had to pretend to be honeymooning with your father in order to upgrade to first class. Welcome to Chelsea’s world – a place where absurdity reigns supreme and a quick wit is the best line of defense.
Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea showcases the candor and irresistible turns of phrase that have made her one of the freshest voices in comedy today.
Seriously… I’m Kidding by Ellen DeGeneres
“Sometimes the greatest things are the most embarrassing.” Ellen Degeneres’ winning, upbeat candor has made her show one of the most popular, resilient and honored daytime shows on the air. (To date, it has won no fewer than 31 Emmys.) Seriously… I’m Kidding, Degeneres’ first book in eight years, brings us up to date about the life of a kindhearted woman who bowed out of American Idol because she didn’t want to be mean. Lively; hilarious; often sweetly poignant.
Did we miss some comedy books or memoirs that are a “must read” for fans? Let us know in the comments.