The best books about comedians

12 authors have picked their favorite books about comedians and why they recommend each book.

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Born a Crime

By Trevor Noah,

Book cover of Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood

It was a super informative non-fiction book about his life. He was born to a white father and a Black mother in times when you could go to jail for it.

I recommend this book because it teaches how unreasonable can the human be. And how stupid racism was and still is today. Also, it is incredible how his multiple language skills made him move around all maas of races in South Africa when it was not the norm; pretty remarkable. Language is the key to integration in a different country than yours. I know this myself by experience. Despite all the historical details, it is a very, very fun read!


Who am I?

Writing has been a part of my life since I was at school. I always found myself expressing better by writing rather than by speaking. Later in life, I had the privilege to travel to dozens of countries. One day, I decided to combine those two passions, the one for traveling with writing. I was born in a beautiful and prosperous city with huge inequalities. The more I traveled, the more I was aware of that and many other issues. So, I decided to start writing stories where travel, and issues that affect our cities, such as poverty, drugs, mental health, and human trafficking, among many others, are reflected.


I wrote...

Santiago: Chronicles of a Young Traveler

By Eduardo Rios Lasso,

Book cover of Santiago: Chronicles of a Young Traveler

What is my book about?

Santiago – Chronicles of a Young Traveler is a fiction novel, a coming-of-age/new adult story inspired by actual events. The main character is Santiago, a 26-year-old fresh out of Law School that has always longed to see the world, but his anxiety gets in the way. One day, after years of saving, Santiago courageously buys a ticket around the world. His parents think he’s crazy, but he takes a leap of faith and sets out alone. However, the world he had imagined was far from reality. He must overcome his shyness, his anxiety and open up despite facing challenges like scams and confronting complex issues like human trafficking. This fun travel story is a tale of self-discovery and an adventure that will hook readers from the first page.

Bossypants

By Tina Fey,

Book cover of Bossypants

If you’re an over-achiever, you may have been accused of taking things too seriously. (I wouldn’t know anything about that, of course.) Tina Fey proves that the academic goody-two-shoes can also be the funniest person in the room. This autobiography is written as a series of stories from Fey’s life, as well as short reflections on issues like the objectification of women’s bodies. Reading this book made me feel like I too could be a funny person and that hard work doesn’t make me any less creative. 


Who am I?

I’m a chronic over-achiever. As a high school senior, I produced our school play, started a school newspaper, took Advanced Placement classes, and worked with our social justice club. In university, I was the co-president of the English society and decided to pursue double honours, all while working part-time. Now that I’m a teacher, I recognise the over-achievers in my classes, usually on day one when they show up with highlighters in multiple colours. I want to help them let go of perfectionism and take time to laugh. These books have helped me do just that and I hope The Year Shakespeare Ruined My Life can do that for others.


I wrote...

The Year Shakespeare Ruined My Life

By Dani Jansen,

Book cover of The Year Shakespeare Ruined My Life

What is my book about?

Shakespeare, love triangles, and a corgi named Princess Sunshine. What more could you want? The Year Shakespeare Ruined My Life features over-achiever Alison Green. In her quest to be valedictorian, she agrees to produce her school’s play. That is her first big mistake. The next is agreeing to go on a date with her friend Jack when she’s actually into Charlotte, the star of the play.

Groucho Marx, Master Detective

By Ron Goulart,

Book cover of Groucho Marx, Master Detective

I've been a huge fan of the Marx Brothers for many years. So, when I found a book that featured Groucho Marx as an amateur detective, I jumped on it. This, the first in a six-book series, is a treat to anyone who is a fan of the golden age of Hollywood. It is a cavalcade of famous names from the era of black and white films. Goulart does a tremendous job balancing a mysterious plotline with the lighthearted fun that you'd expect from a novel featuring Groucho Marx. And I'm happy to report that Goulart captures the essence of Groucho perfectly. The book, as well as the series, is a terrific tribute to one of Hollywood comedy geniuses. And it's a damn good mystery as well.


Who am I?

I fell in love with the mystery genre at a young age, starting with Donald J. Sobol's Encyclopedia Brown series. It didn't take long to graduate to the likes of Sherlock Holmes, particularly once PBS began broadcasting the series with Jeremy Brett in the titular role. Over the years, my passion for mystery and suspense stories has branched out into numerous sub-genres and a variety of classics from such superb authors like Agatha Christie, Leslie Charteris, P. D. James, and Charles Todd. As much as I enjoy individual mystery and suspense novels, I enjoy even more a series with a cast of characters that I can follow from book to book. 


I wrote...

Dead Air: A Novel of Suspense

By Michael Bradley,

Book cover of Dead Air: A Novel of Suspense

What is my book about?

Three can keep a secret, but only if two are dead. No one knows that better than Kaitlyn Ashe, who has been running from a childhood secret her whole life. Until now. Crowned the top-rated radio DJ in Philadelphia, she is finally ready to settle down with her lawyer fiancée and a whole new set of friends who know nothing about her past. When she suddenly receives anonymous letters threatening her, she realizes that someone out there knows. But who? Isn’t her secret buried with the dead? When the threats reveal murderous intent, Kaitlyn has no choice but to trust Detective Rodney Shapiro as her life spirals toward a reunion in the one place she’d hoped to never visit again: The Shallows.

Winner of the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards and the 2020 Foreword INDIES Awards, Dead Air weaves a suspenseful tale of past misdeeds and present murderous instincts as Kaitlyn plays a game of cat and mouse with a mysterious killer who will stop at nothing to get revenge.

Wired

By Bob Woodward,

Book cover of Wired: The Short Life & Fast Times of John Belushi

Even though they weren’t musicians, the original cast members of Saturday Night Live were among the biggest rock stars of the Seventies. Their journey from underground comics and performers to crossover superstardom, via TV, albums, and movies, is the story of the rise of the counterculture in the Seventies. And, sadly, Belushi’s flameout was the dark side of that tale.

I read this book not long after I had graduated from NYU with a degree in journalism, and Woodward’s peerless reporting—including a chilling, nearly hour-by-hour chronicle of Belushi’s last few weeks before his death in 1982—made me realize the power of narrative, research, and detail. If I were stymied while writing a story of my own in the early days of my career, I’d grab my increasingly beaten-up Wired paperback and be inspired anew. 


Who am I?

I’m a senior writer at Rolling Stone, where I cover a wide range of music-related topics. But as a child of the Seventies, I was shaped by the defining and enthralling pop culture of that era, from singer-songwriters, Southern rock, and disco records to Norman Lear sitcoms. In some of my work, I’ve chronicled the highs and lows of that era, perhaps as a way to answer a question that haunted me during my youth: Why did my older sisters and their friends keep telling me that the Sixties were the most incredible decade ever and the Seventies were awful? What did I miss? And how and where did it all go wrong?


I wrote...

Fire and Rain: The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, James Taylor, CSNY, and the Lost Story of 1970

By David Browne,

Book cover of Fire and Rain: The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, James Taylor, CSNY, and the Lost Story of 1970

What is my book about?

As a new decade arrives, so do seismic shifts in rock and roll: Three of the most iconic bands of the era break up, and new talent, reflecting the more inward and less political trends of the Seventies, busts out of the gate. The first book on the musical, political, and cultural changes of the year 1970, Fire and Rain tells the story of four landmark artists, their key albums (the Beatles’ Let It Be, Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s Déjà vu and James Taylor’s Sweet Baby James), the intertwining personal ties between those artists, and the ways in which their songs and journeys mirrored the end of one era and the start of another, equally jarring one.

You'll Grow Out of It

By Jessi Klein,

Book cover of You'll Grow Out of It

Comedian Jessi Klein explores the nexus of American femininity and female masculinity in this hilarious memoir. I particularly love her pithy statements on how commercial culture sells a somewhat toxic form of femininity that can make even the most female-identified person reconsider their gender. She cuts to the heart of the tensions of growing up in a culture that places gender on a spectrum but continues to market it as an extreme binary.


Who am I?

As a young girl, I thought I was a tomboy—or I wanted to be one, because the image of a “normal” girl was far too pink and frothy and shallow for my tastes. For me, being a tomboy was less about being boy-like than being unable to claim the markers of femininity. As a historian of women and girls, I wondered how young women saw their futures in this modernizing America, with its True Women and New Women and the opening of advanced education. Did tomboys grow into the rebels who changed the world? Or, like the tomboys in so many fictional stories, did they renounce their assertive sense of self upon marriage and motherhood?


I wrote...

American Tomboys, 1850-1915

By Renée Sentilles,

Book cover of American Tomboys, 1850-1915

What is my book about?

American Tomboys is my answer to the question “when did it become a good thing for a girl to behave like a boy?”  Although “tomboy” had been around since the 1500s, it did not become a term for girls until the Civil War era, and then only in the United States. After reading over a hundred diaries and memoirs, as well as juvenile fiction, plays, songs, and newspaper features, I came to see that the tomboy who emerged in the mid-nineteenth century was both a transgressive and conservative figure, depending on the perspective of the reader. We know a tomboy when we see one, but at the same time her identity is ambiguous—and therein lies the power of the tomboy. 

The Comedy Writer

By Peter Farrelly,

Book cover of The Comedy Writer

Half of the brother duo behind Dumb and Dumber and There’s Something About Mary, Farrelly studied writing in the 1980s and penned a fairly forgotten novel called Outside Providence. He followed it with his second fiction work in the late-1990s, serving as a fictionalized account of himself broke, starving, and trying to break into Hollywood. I can listen to Peter talk all day on podcasts and interviews because he’s so natural and honest. Those traits translate here, with a story centering around a sympathetic protagonist trying to find his way. With real stories like how Farrelly wrote for Seinfeld and was introduced to Los Angeles by someone trying to leap from a building, any writer will instantly connect with this breezy human story about creativity in your twenties. 


Who am I?

I’m a classic Hollywood fanatic. I can name you every Best Picture Oscar Winner on command. I’ve written screenplays and seen the industry firsthand, but if I had my choice, I’d go live through the Hollywood Golden Age. I've published numerous non-fiction film history books and have a whole lot more classic-film-inspired novels coming. And I do it all simply for the single reason that writing a book is the closest thing to time travel that I can find. Immersing myself in this world with actors that have lived, and even a few that I’ve made up, is pure heaven that transports me back to the days of the silver screen. 


I wrote...

He's No Angel

By Ryan Uytdewilligen,

Book cover of He's No Angel

What is my book about?

In this new humorous take on Hollywood, Charlie Fritz is a talent agent hanging onto his career by a thread. After embarrassing himself at a movie screening, he's in need of a comeback and a superstar client. Luckily, success comes his way in the form of his presumed-to-be dead father.

When Bernie Fritz mysteriously arrives, it's evident he doesn't remember anything about his prior life. All he has is a cryptic message from the afterlife to share with anyone who will listen. After Bernie's message goes viral and creates a social media sensation, Charlie seizes the opportunity to become his dad's agent. It's the perfect opportunity for them to finally connect and find a little meaning in their lives—even if for one of them, life is technically over.

We Are Never Meeting in Real Life.

By Samantha Irby,

Book cover of We Are Never Meeting in Real Life.

This author always cracks me up, with her outrageously candid, sometimes bawdy confessions of awkward slips and romantic misalliances. She is so smart and insightful, yet so down to earth, that you just have to love her. I’m also a big fan of her collection Meaty.


Who am I?

I have been a champion of the essay form for some time, starting with my popular anthology Art of the Personal Essay and extending to my more recent trio of anthologies of the American essay. At the same time I have written four personal essay collections of my own, and I know I am really cooking when I can still laugh or at least smile at my jokes after the fifth or tenth reading of a piece I wrote. I have to admit that I can only appreciate writing (by myself or others) that is amusing or at least ironic, never solemn: to me the truth of existence is comic, like it or not.


I wrote...

To Show and to Tell: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction

By Phillip Lopate,

Book cover of To Show and to Tell: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction

What is my book about?

In this book, all the secrets of a lifetime of teaching nonfiction, especially the personal essay and the memoir, are shamelessly revealed. How do you turn yourself into a character, how do you end an essay, what is the role of imagination in a factual account, how do you write about childhood while maintaining an adult perspective, and so on. It’s a good place to start if you are contemplating any kind of autobiographical account and are temporarily overwhelmed by the sheer backlog of context and memory.  

Harpo Speaks!

By Harpo Marx, Rowland Barber,

Book cover of Harpo Speaks!

Okay, I am totally cheating here. Harpo Speaks! is not specifically a kid’s book at all (although it would be wonderful to read with and to upper primary and older), but it is my favourite book of all time, and I couldn’t not include it here. Harpo Speaks! is the autobiography of Harpo Marx. I have read it at least ten times, and every time I learn something new. 

The Marx Brothers show how life can and should be fun, but that the fun comes after and while you are working incredibly hard towards a dream. And of all of them, Harpo’s attitude to and joy of life is a lesson to us all. I can’t recommend this highly enough.


Who am I?

I am obsessed with personal development, having attended seminars to walk across hot coals and jump from crazy heights to test my limits, and I have read hundreds of books and watched hundreds of videos on self-improvement. But sometimes the best lessons come in fiction, and kid’s books do this so wonderfully. And they are a lot quicker to read and absorb! They also teach with humour, rhythm, and joy, and can change a child’s life simply by letting them escape into a world of laughter and joy, expanding their imaginations, and letting them absorb the lessons, sometimes without even realising it.


I wrote...

How to Catch a Leprechaun

By Adam Wallace, Andy Elkerton (illustrator),

Book cover of How to Catch a Leprechaun

What is my book about?

How to Catch a Leprechaun is a crazy, chaotic St. Patrick’s Day Eve rhyming romp through the houses of kids trying to catch a Leprechaun. With a mixture of slapstick, STEM, and escalation, How to Catch a Leprechaun has hit the New York Times Bestseller List four years in a row leading up to St Patrick’s Day.

Talking to Canadians

By Rick Mercer,

Book cover of Talking to Canadians: A Memoir

Rick Mercer is an authentic storyteller because all his stories are true. He has fought against the odds because he didn’t know he shouldn’t. He’s like a self-cleaning oven. He just shimmers every time he tells a tale of his climbing over the shards of a prior failure. They are his gold, that and his sharp wit and clear-eyed understanding of the human condition. He’s laugh-out-loud funny and deeply relatable as he doesn’t know to cover up any of the disasters that could have felled almost everyone else. All that and he is also whip-smart.

I am a dress designer, actress, author, and ‘inspirational’ speaker whose major talent is in revealing my failings. There are many… They are also what have given me a measure of success. I didn’t know any better not to. I like people who have taken chances against all odds. Rick Mercer is one of those…


Who am I?

I am fortunate to have been blessed with a positive disposition. When my toast falls on the floor I like to believe it will land butter side up. I learned at a very early age that owning one's mistakes and airing them out loud could bring on laughter or a smile of recognition that many of us suffer the same fears as we navigate this often uncharted life with our fingers crossed or hands in prayer, that we will mostly get it right. This is why I write the books I write. By nature, I am a happiness ambassador… And humor is my weapon of choice.


I wrote...

Getting Waisted: A Survival Guide to Being Fat in a Society that Loves Thin

By Monica Parker,

Book cover of Getting Waisted: A Survival Guide to Being Fat in a Society that Loves Thin

What is my book about?

Getting Waisted is a vivid look at growing up fat. It's a hilarious and painful ride from chubby baby to a never really thin adult. Monica’s story is also a love story, one where she comes to love herself and in the process finds her true Prince Charming. Monica is an actor, writer, and producer. Most notably she co-wrote the beloved All Dogs Go to Heaven. One of her proudest achievements was creating her insightful one-woman show, Sex, Pies and A Few White Lies. Her latest memoir, the very funny but brutally honest Oops I Forgot to Save Money—(not a how to but a don’t ever!) came out in the fall of 2021. Currently, she is hard at work on her first novel.

I'm Down

By Mishna Wolff,

Book cover of I'm Down: A Memoir

Delightful, clear, and unpretentious. The author shared what she thought as a child during each stage of her unique upbringing. The juxtaposition of her state of happiness while living in poverty compared to that of her affluent teenage classmates was a stark revelation. Racial issues were not shied away from, but dealt with tenderly and humorously. 


Who am I?

The first twenty-five years of my life appeared to be atypical for an inner-city African American boy from a large family. Only a small number of children were bused to more “academically advanced” schools. I earned that honor by frequently running away from the local school. Overcoming the challenges of being a minority in a demanding, predominantly Jewish, school district eventually benefited me greatly. In the early 1970s, my parents did something unprecedented for a working-class African American family from Queens: They bought an old, dilapidated farmhouse in Upstate New York's dairy country as a summer home. What other unusual life experiences that impact people of color have taken place on the American tapestry? 


I wrote...

Mugamore: Succeeding without Labels - Lessons for Educators

By Jonathan T. Jefferson,

Book cover of Mugamore: Succeeding without Labels - Lessons for Educators

What is my book about?

Written from a unique in-depth child's point of view, this book is designed to trigger a paradigm shift from automatically labeling children to patiently allowing them to grow into themselves. The author compares common disabilities chapter-by-chapter in sync with the child's intentions (or lack thereof). This sharing of the educational lives of two children, coupled with peer reviewed literature and research, provides powerful motivation for change.

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