The best stand-up comedy books

Many authors have picked their favorite books about stand-up comedy and why they recommend each book.

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Dave Allen

By Carolyn Soutar,

Book cover of Dave Allen

I was drawn to this book because I had always loved Dave Allen's humour.  

Through Ms. Soutar's book I learned of his early life in Ireland and how his attendance at strict Catholic schools run by nuns helped to shape his later stand-up comedy routines. Not everybody enjoys Dave's kind of irreverent humour, but for me he was a comedy legend.


Who am I?

I have always had an interest in reading factual information about other people’s lives. I am a realist, and prefer reading non-fiction that is true. I am especially interested in reading inspirational stories from people that have overcome adversity, illness, or discrimination.


I wrote...

Waiting in the Wings

By Stevie Turner,

Book cover of Waiting in the Wings

What is my book about?

When my mother told me that she loved me for the first time, I was dumbstruck, as she had never mentioned this before in all of my 58 years. She obviously was desperate for me to reply in a similar vein, but try as I might I could not.  

This is a memoir of the last few years I had with my mother. Neither of us had been overly demonstrative and we had often argued in the past and had never really got on well. However, when I became her carer, a kind of companionship grew from shared memories and by looking at old family photographs. Slowly but surely a closer relationship grew from the ashes of the old.

What a Carve Up!

By Jonathan Coe,

Book cover of What a Carve Up!

This is a masterclass in satirical writing but also just in novel writing. Coe manages to combine a gripping narrative and murder mystery with a scathing indictment of Great Britain in the 80s, when venal wealth was king and the country lost its soul. This was one of those books where I felt like I learned so much, about British culture, politics, corruption, and a 1961 comedy horror movie that shares its name with the book title, but I didn’t notice it because I was having such a good time. There are so many layers to the plot – and inventive dimensions to the way the story is told - and it’s one of my favorite books of all time.  


Who am I?

I’m a writer, journalist, satirist, and novelist. I’ve written humor and satire for McSweeney’s, The New Yorker’s Daily Shouts, The Belladonna, and other publications, often about subjects that make me angry, sad, or both. Sometimes I write as a way to process, to vent, and to make fun of myself. I wrote a humor piece called "Turn Your Princess Toddler Into a Feminist in 8 Easy Steps." The New York Times published it, and it went viral. There was so much interest in the piece it prompted me to start researching the topic of princess obsessed girls. That research became my nonfiction book – The Feminist’s Guide to Raising a Little Princess


I wrote...

The Feminist's Guide to Raising a Little Princess: How to Raise a Girl Who's Authentic, Joyful, and Fearless--Even If She Refuses to Wear Anything but a Pink Tutu

By Devorah Blachor,

Book cover of The Feminist's Guide to Raising a Little Princess: How to Raise a Girl Who's Authentic, Joyful, and Fearless--Even If She Refuses to Wear Anything but a Pink Tutu

What is my book about?

Having a daughter triggers a whole set of fears. You’re mad at the world for When my three-year-old daughter fell down the Disney Princess rabbit hole, I worried that she was already at sea. What did it all mean? Was she learning that girls are judged by their beauty? That the ideal female should be passive? That we need some prince to come along and save us, because we’re too busy singing to the bluebirds on our shoulders and accepting apples from sinister strangers? The Feminist’s Guide to Raising a Little Princess is my exploration into what happens when a little girl becomes consumed with pink, princesses, and all things girly. My research surprised me, entertained me, and even reassured me, and I share it all in the book, along with selected pieces of humor and satire around the subject.

Sorry I'm Late, I Didn't Want to Come

By Jessica Pan,

Book cover of Sorry I'm Late, I Didn't Want to Come: One Introvert's Year of Saying Yes

As an introvert myself, and having tried to deliberately come out of my shell – as I document in my own book– I was intrigued to come across Pan's book. Her year-long experiment living as an out-and-out extravert chimes with a key piece of the advice I give on wilful personality change – that is, having switched up your narrative identity, thoughtfully considered your personal projects, and even worked on your underlying habits, at some point, you have to get out there and really walk the walk. For introverts who wish to become more outgoing, that means being more sociable and willing to take risks. My word, Pan does this in spades, including performing stand-up comedy and joining an improv theatre group. Her hilarious stories will inspire you to see that personal change really is possible, if you are determined enough.


Who am I?

I'm a psychologist and neuroscientist and I've been writing for the public about all things mind and behaviour for more than two decades. Something I've noticed in that time is that the question people want to know the answer to, perhaps more than any other, is how much we can ever truly change, deep down. After all, self-help advice is seemingly endless, but does any of it really work, or are we ultimately destined to always revert to type? That's what motivated me to begin delving into the latest science of personality – defined by psychology as the habits of emotion, behaviour, and thought that make us who we are.


I wrote...

Be Who You Want: Unlocking the Science of Personality Change

By Christian Jarrett,

Book cover of Be Who You Want: Unlocking the Science of Personality Change

What is my book about?

Whether you're an introvert or extravert, creative and open-minded or focused and disciplined, psychology has always taught that there are various personality types. The common perception is that we’re stuck with what we’re given. However, drawing on the latest psychological theories and methods, interviews with leading experts, as well as a personal anecdote, in Be Who You Want I argue that although your initial personality type is moulded by a combination of genetic influences and early experiences, it is not fixed. It is malleable, voluntary even. In my book, which is packed with quizzes and practical exercises, I help you understand how your personality was formed and give you the tools to further shape your traits in the ways you desire and that will benefit you most.

Dad Is Fat

By Jim Gaffigan,

Book cover of Dad Is Fat

Jim Gaffigan is one of the funniest comedians out there, and he’s always one of our favorite in-studio guests. This book uses Gaffigan’s classic sense of humor to describe what it is like to be a dad to his five children. Beyond being extremely funny and a solid memoir, it reveals the underbelly of fatherhood, as only Jim Gaffigan can.


Who am I?

My name is Craig Melvin and I’m an anchor on NBC’s Today show. I’m also a father to my two young kids, Delano and Sybil. Being a dad is so important to me because when you’re a parent, you’re charged with shaping and molding a solid human being whose empathetic, compassionate, and responsible. I don’t take the responsibility lightly. Of the many jobs I have, it’s the most important.  


I wrote...

Pops: Learning to Be a Son and a Father

By Craig Melvin,

Book cover of Pops: Learning to Be a Son and a Father

What is my book about?

A deeply personal exploration of fatherhood, addiction, and resiliency from Craig Melvin, news anchor of NBC’s Today show. 

For Craig Melvin this book is more an investigation than a memoir. It's an opportunity to better understand his father; to interrogate his family's legacy of addiction and despair but also transformation and redemption; and to explore the challenges facing all dads—including Craig himself, a father of two young children. Pops is the story of all these men—and of the inspiring fathers Craig has met reporting his "Dads Got This Series" on the Today show. Pops is also the story of Craig and Lawrence Melvin's long journey to reconciliation and understanding, and of how all these experiences and encounters have informed Craig's understanding of his own role as a dad. 

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