Splitsider

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

The Ultimate Comedy Library: 57 Books Every Comedy Fan Should Read

Books are smart and reading is good for you!

This can be hard to remember because of podcasts and television and movies and all the other things begging for attention from your eyeballs and ear holes. A lot of funny stuff is in the media, we get it! But books can be funny, too. Just look at all the comedians making books! Comedians are always writing books about themselves, or about comedy history, or about writing, or just fun stuff called "fiction." And a lot of it is worth reading.

Because we are here to help, we made for you a list of some of the best comedy books — broken down into memoirs, humor, history, and fiction — that would be right at home on any comedy lover's shelf (or on your "E-reader").

Memoirs

Bossypants by Tina Fey
Tina Fey chronicles her life from nerd-dom to motherhood and everything in between, including her work on Second City, SNL, 30 Rock, and more.

Zombie Spaceship Wasteland by Patton Oswalt
Oswalt mixes stories of his formative years as a D&D-playing nerd with other vignettes including poems, movie reviews, greeting cards.

Born Standing Up by Steve Martin
Steve Martin's 2007 biography (not an autobiography, Martin said, "because I am writing about someone I used to know") tracks his life, from Disneyland to Knott's Berry Farm to Hollywood, focusing on the development of his wit and humor.

Girl Walks Into a Bar… by Rachel Dratch
Former SNL-er Rachel Dratch opens up about unexpectedly finding love and then a baby while in her mid-40s.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? And Other Concerns by Mindy Kaling
Before she had her own show on Fox, but after she wrote for and starred on The Office, Mindy Kaling wrote a book of essays on her life, friends, family, and career.

Sleepwalk With Me by Mike Birbiglia
REM Sleep Behavior Disorder changed Mike Birbiglia's life. After telling his story at The Moth, Birbigs turned it into a one-man show, a book, and a movie (all with the same title). Here's the book one.

The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee by Sarah Silverman
Sarah Silverman, actress, writer, and poop joke connoisseur, released her memoir in 2010. In it, she talks about her comic style, her influences, and her semi-fictionalized public persona. The afterword is by God.

Kick Me: Adventures in Adolescence by Paul Feig
The Freaks and Geeks creator and Bridesmaids director also recounts his nerdy childhood. A lot of it went into Freaks and Geeks and presumably less of it into Bridesmaids but the sentiment is still there.

God, If You're Not Up There, I'm F*cked by Darrel Hammond
Darrel Hammond's darkly comic memoir includes stories of a life filled with abuse, alcoholism, and psychiatric issues leading up to becoming SNL's longest-tenured cast member.

A Bad Idea I'm About to Do: True Tales of Seriously Poor Judgment and Stunningly Awkward Adventure by Chris Gethard
Comic, actor, writer, and Chris Gethard Show creator Chris Gethard tells of all his life's moments that have been beyond awkward, like more awkward than yours when you say things are awkward.

Kasher in the Rye: The True Tale of a White Boy from Oakland Who Became a Drug Addict, Criminal, Mental Patient, and Then Turned 16 by Moshe Kasher
LA stand-up comedian Moshe Kasher relates his story, a complicated one that you can probably get an idea of from this memoir's lengthy subtitle.

Daddy's Boy: A Son's Shocking Account of Life with a Famous Father by Chris Elliott
Famous father with a famous father Chris Elliott writes about life as the youngest son of Bob Elliott of comedy duo Bob and Ray. The memoir has a unique format — Chris and his dad switch off chapters, Bob providing a rebuttal for every story Chris shares.

A Liar's Autobiography by Graham Chapman
The Monty Python actor's unique memoir, originally published in 1980, was released as a 3D animated movie in 2012. Unusual for an autobiography, the book is credited to five authors: Chapman, his partner David Sherlock, Alex Martin, Douglas Adams, and David A. Yallop. Eric Idle provides an afterword.

You're Lucky You're Funny: How Life Becomes a Sitcom by Phil Rosenthal
Creator and executive producer of Everybody Loves Raymond tracks his life from growing up in the Bronx, trying his hand at acting in New York City, and working on countless now-forgotten sitcoms before landing on the project that made his career.

I Didn't Ask to Be Born (But I'm Glad I Was) by Bill Cosby
Bill Cosby's lengthy career as a stand-up, entertainer, and activist has resulted in a number of books, among them the bestsellers Fatherhood and Cosbyology. This is his most recent, a 2012 collection of essays on the human condition.

You're Not Doing it Right: Tales of Marriage, Sex, Death, and Other Humiliations by Michael Ian Black
Michael Ian Black's memoir goes the way of a self-deprecating look at his experience with marriage and parenthood.

Happy Accidents by Jane Lynch
Happy Accidents combines comic memoir with inspirational narrative as Jane Lynch tracks her career from anxiety-ridden teen to happily married television star.

Tasteful Nudes …and Other Misguided Attempts at Personal Growth and Validation by Dave Hill
In 17 short autobiographical essays, likably observant humorist Dave Hill makes funny about depression, death, and adolescence.

I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron
Published in 2008, the late Nora Ephron's I Feel Bad About My Neck writes with her dry sense of humor about the tribulations of women growing older, including menopause, empty nests, and the bigger picture of life.

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
Although David Sedaris is more writer than comedian, his naturally storytelling lends itself to hilarious autobiographical material. This collection of essays is split into two parts: the first chronicles his childhood in North Carolina and the second his experience living in Normandy with his boyfriend.

Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs
Augusten Burrough's true story of his nightmarish youth being raised by his mother's psychiatrist was an instant hit when it was released in 2002 and he followed it up with a bunch more that are also good.

I Love You More Than You Know by Jonathan Ames
The man behind Bored to Death shares essays of his everyday loneliness, neuroses, and pain, all of them very funny.

Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell
Sarah Vowell chronicles her macabre choice for a vacation where she looks at scenes from the assassinations of four politicians, making this the funniest book you'll probably ever read about presidential killing.

Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson
Journalist and blogger Jenny Lawson (of the award-winning website The Blogess) tells about her strange experiences with her career and her family.

Humor & Non-fiction

I Am America (And So Can You!) by Stephen Colbert
Stephen Colbert writes rants in character, creating a companion piece to The Colbert Report. Sequels include America Again and I Am A Pole (And So Can You!). 

America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction by Jon Stewart
Like Colbert, Jon Stewart created a book to go along with his intelligently funny and political news show. Actually, Jon Stewart did it first. Great job, Jon Stewart!

I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence by Amy Sedaris
Amy Sedaris of Second City and Strangers With Candy fame shares her love of dressing up, baking, and crafts by creating a book that is funny but also a serious guide to party hosting and hospitality.

The Areas of My Expertise, More Information Than You Require, and That is All by John Hodgman
In his trilogy of complete world knowledge, deranged millionaire and Daily Show correspondent John Hodgman provides all the fake information you could possibly want, including a guide to New York City's underground league of mole people and a list of which presidents had hooks for hands.

The Onion Book of Known Knowledge: A Definitive Encyclopaedia of Existing Information by The Onion
Another book of knowledge, The Onion takes its parody seriously, this time moving away from its usual current events and Local Man stories to tackle encyclopedic information.

Humblebrag: The Art of False Modesty by Harris Wittels
Harris Wittels collects the best of the worst of Twitter, each tweet showcasing a twitterer's simultaneous self-pride and desire to hide that self-pride.

How to Sharpen Pencils by David Rees
Humorist and former Get Your War On cartoonist David Rees shares his very real love of artisnal pencil sharpening by creating an exaggeratedly detailed guide on the subject.

The Will to Whatevs: A Guide to Modern Life by Eugene Mirman
Stand-up and Bob's Burgers' voice actor Eugene Mirman gives a guide to life, or, you know, whatevs.

Biographical & History

And Here's the Kicker: Conversations with 21 Top Humor Writers on their Craft by Mike Sacks
For Here's the Kicker, humor writer and Vanity Fair staffer Mike Sacks talked to great humor writers like Buck Henry, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, Sacha Baron Cohen, and quite a few people on this list! Maybe you've already read it — it was the pick for the Splitsider Book Club last year.

Show Me the Funny!: At the Writers' Table with Hollywood's Top Comedy Writers by Peter Desberg and Jeffrey Davis
Desberg and Davis discuss comedy writing with successful writers including Peter Casey (Cheers), Ed Decter (There's Something About Mary), Bob Myer (Roseanne), Leonard Stern (Get Smart) and more.

Great Comedians Talk About Comedy by Larry Wilde
Because there can never be enough of good writers talking about writing, or good comedians talking about comedy, Wilde's book, originally published in 1968, features interviews with seventeen comedians, including Woody Allen, Jack Benny, George Burns, Johnny Carson, Phyllis Diller, and Jerry Seinfeld.

I'm Dying Up Here: Heartbreak and High Times in Stand-Up Comedy's Golden Era by William Knoedelseder
In the mid-70's when reporter William Knoedelseder was assigned by the Los Angeles Times to cover the city's burgeoning comedy scene, newcomers included Jay Leno, David Letterman, Andy Kaufman, Richard Lewis, and Robin Williams. At the book's center is a labor dispute between the stand-ups and L.A. Comedy Store owner Mitzi Shore, who refused to pay comics — a dispute that is still relevant today.

Comedy at the Edge: How Stand-up in the 1970s Changed America by Richard Zoglin
Zoglin's Comedy at the Edge covers approximately the same time period as I'm Dying Up Here but in both L.A. and New York City. Read about the careers of stand-ups George Carlin, Richard Pryor, and Robert Klein, and, later, Steve Martin, Albert Brooks, Robin Williams, and Andy Kaufman launching as they took the stage at the Comedy Store, the Improv, and Catch a Rising Star.

Lost in the Funhouse: The Life and Mind of Andy Kaufman by Bill Zehme
In Lost in the Funhouse, Zehme takes on the difficult task of writing a biography of a comic who made a career of lying and tricking his entire audience (and wrestling ladies).

Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour" by David Bianculli
This book tells the dramatic history of Tom and Dick Smothers' politically charged TV series in the 60's. The story starts at the brothers' childhood and ends with the cancellation of the program.

Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live, as Told By Its Stars, Writers, And Guests by Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller
In 2001 SNL turned 25 and journalists Miller and Shales collected anecdotes from cast members, writers, and hosts to chronicle the show's history in this definitive book.

Gasping For Airtime: Two Years In the Trenches of Saturday Night Live by Jay Mohr
Although Mohr's contribution is a much narrower account of the SNL experience compared to Miller and Shales's, it dives deep into Mohr's time as a writer and featured performer for the show's 1993-1995 seasons.

The Second City Almanac of Improvisation by Anne Libera and Second City Inc
The Second City Almanac collects ideas from the north side Chicago theater's teachers, writers, and directors, drawing from a huge pool of alumni that includes Fred Willard, Mike Nichols, Joan Rivers, Bill Murray, Gilda Radner, Martin Short, Tina Fey, Bonnie Hunt, and more. The book includes practical instruction, personal accounts, and inspiration for anyone who likes comedy.

SCTV: Behind the Scenes by Dave Thomas
After the success of the theater came the Canadian late-night program that launched the careers of the likes of John Candy, John Belushi, Dan Ackroyd, Dave Thomas, and Rick Moranis. Cast members and production staff contribute stories in addition to photos from the show's archives.

The Late Shift: Letterman, Leno, and the Network Battle for the Night and The War for Late Night: When Leno Went Early and Television Went Crazy by Bill Carter
Bill Carter wrote two definitive accounts of the battles of late night talk show hosts. In The Late Shift he chronicles Letterman and Leno fighting for the Tonight Show host gig following Johnny Carson's retirement in 1992, while The War for Late Night covers the more recent Conan/Leno Tonight Show debacle.

Mr. Mike: The Life and Work of Michael O'Donoghue by Dennis Perrin
Dennis Perrin looks at the wild life of Michael O'Donoghue, a founding writer of National Lampoon and the groundbreaking first head writer of SNL.

On the Real Side: A History of African American Comedy by Mel Watkin
First published in 1999, On the Real Side is a comprehensive history of black humor in American pop culture, looking at how figures like Fetchit, Bert Williams, Moms Mabley, and Redd Foxx, paved the way for Richard Pryor and contemporary (or late nineties-contemporary) comics such as Whoopi Goldberg, Eddie Murphy, and Bill Cosby.

Going Too Far–The Rise and Demise of Sick, Gross, Black, Sophomoric, Weirdo, Pinko, Anarchist, Underground, Anti-establishment Humor by Tony Hendra
British humorist, improv performer, and National Lampoon writer Tony Hendra published Going Too Far in 1987. Hendra mixes stories from his own career with a history of black humor and anti-establishment humor popular with the baby boomer generation at the time and pioneered by comics like Mort Sahl and Lenny Bruce.

Fiction by Comedians

Without Feathers by Woody Allen
Emily Dickinson said "hope is the thing with feathers" and so that's the joke Woody Allen is going for. Without Feathers is a 1970 collection of Allen's short stories and two one-act plays.

An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin
Steve Martin's latest novel follows a young, ambitious woman making her way through the art world around the turn of the millenium.

The Comedy Writer by Peter Farrelly
Writer and director Peter Farrelly's semi-autobiographical novel tells the story of a Boston nobody with a can-do attitude who tries to make it big as a screenwriter in Hollywood.

2030: The Real Story of What Happens to America by Albert Brooks
Albert Brooks's debut novel imagines America's future as a place where cancer has been cured but the elderly's longer life span tanks the economy leaving the young people to clean up the mess. Brooks mixes tragedy with humor in his vision of the future.

The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep and Never Had To by D.C. Pierson
Comedian/rapper/actor/writer D.C. Pierson's first novel, published in 2010, tells of two high schoolers, both social outcasts, one of which never sleeps.

How I Became a Famous Novelist by Steve Hely
Steve Hely has written for many TV shows, including 30 Rock, The Office, and Late Show with David Letterman. In this, his first novel, he takes on the pretentions of the literary world in the form of a fake memoir by a famous author.

Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple
This novel by former Arrested Development and Mad About You writer Maria Semple follows the story of Bernadette Fox, a frustrated, brilliant misanthrope, one who up and vanishes from her life and family in Seattle.

No list is ever definitive or complete, so let us know what we missed in the comments!

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  • Jimmy

    57 books and Truth in Comedy doesn't make the cut…?

    • ian_macintyre

      Truth In Comedy was one of the first comedy books I ever read, but personally I think Napier's "Improvise" is a better book.

  • BonzoGal

    I'd like to add Craig Ferguson's auto-bio, "American On Purpose," as
    well as his wonderful novel "Between the Bridge and the River."

    Also: "From Fringe to Flying Circus," a history of British comedy starting with the Goons and going up through Monty Python.

    • http://twitter.com/yellojkt Yellojkt

      I gotta second the Craig Ferguson book. It is much, much better than Mindy Kaling's. Or at least he's had a much more interesting life.

      • george

        i gotta third: craigyferg's bio is amazing, but i didn't enjoy the novel. i didn't get invested in the characters and i didn't enjoy the writing style. if you like the movie "go" http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0139239/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1 then you're familiar with the style of his novel. it bounces around multiple storylines which eventually merge in predictable and inane ways. it reminds me of every robin williams late night talk show appearance since the late 90s…a drug-induced mishmash of trying too hard and not making sense. just my opinion on the novel, but i loooove craig!
        also….read everything about andy kaufman. and, i really like alan alda's "never have your dog stuffed…" and, of course, you can't lose with any of george carlin's books.

  • Dee

    Kathy Griffin

  • LoisB

    Artie Lange "Too Fat to Fish"

  • Perlstein

    Eh Truth in Comedy isn't that great. What is good, Kiss Me Like a Stranger, Gene Wilder.

  • Glo

    The Nerdist Way by Chris Hardwick

  • http://www.facebook.com/andrea.delesdernier Andrea Delesdernier

    Jenny, This is a great list! I would add "Quick Shots of False Hope: A Rejection Collection" by Laura Kightlinger

  • Shawn Westfall

    This list skews toward (a) stand-ups and (b) stuff written within the last 10 years. Here's some glaring omissions:

    Non-fiction:

    Though she publishes too infrequently due to her now decades-long case of writer's block, Fran Lebowitz was debarred by nature from not writing anything worth reading. Seriously: whatever you can find, buy it and read it. An object lesson in how comedic writing should be done.

    Ian Frazier's humorous non-fiction is brilliant, and his collection "Coyote v. Acme" is his best, and whatever jokes and premises you're already conjuring up from reading the title, the title essay the book comes from bests you handily.

    Joe Queenan's "If You're Talking To Me, Your Career Must be In Trouble" is a collection of brilliant dispatches from Hollywood where he not only wields a sharp blade, but coats it in rat poison first. Check out his piece in which he decides to be "Mickey Rourke for a Day," indulging the same behavior that Mr. Rourke's protagonists did in his movies

    And can I put in a good word for the late great Veronica Geng? Pick up "Love Trouble," published posthumously following her death in 1997. One of my favorite lines from her is brilliant parody of NYT Wedding Announcements in which she wrote that the bride's "previous marriage ended in pharmaceuticals."

    History:

    "Satiristas: Comedians, Contrarians, Raconteurs & Vulgarians" — inexplicable how this was left off, especially since it harkens back to a time before the great stand-up/improv dust-up of Dec-Feb 2012-2013 when the authors of the book assumed that Satirists could come from any comedic genre (stand-up, improv, sketch, advertising, etc.) and sought commentary on satire from across this spectrum.

    Fiction:

    Sorry, but the funniest novel ever written was Kingsley Amis' "Lucky Jim." No "comedian" in the traditional sense has ever come close to this masterpiece.

    • ian_macintyre

      Huge second for Satiristas.

    • Michael B.

      Huge seconds for Frazier and Geng.

  • James

    Fun Fact : the audiobooks for many of these are narrated by the author. Everything you lose in pictures or diagrams you absolutely make up for by having John Stewart, Tina Fey or John Hodgman reading to you. Also, lots of them have extra bits added special for the audio version. Worth checking out, even if you're not usually big on audiobooks.

  • http://twitter.com/manleycomics Jeffery J. Manley

    Lenny Bruce?.. Talk Dirty and Influence People?

    • BonzoGal

      Second on this book. It's a classic.

  • Scott Wisdom

    Mr. Westfall makes a good point–the list does skew to contemporary
    American stand-ups. That said, it does pick out some good books from
    that genre. Without making this list huge by adding a lot humorous
    fiction writers (e.g. Rabelais, Waugh, Gaddis, …), here's are (a few)
    choice omitted (mostly American) comedy books:

    Control Freaked by Mark Breslin
    Jokes by Ted Cohen
    The Compass by Janet Coleman
    It's Not Easy Bein' Me by Rodney Dangerfield
    Nigger: An Autobiography by Dick Gregory
    Comedy by the Numbers by Eric Hoffman and Gary Rudoren
    Revel with a Cause by Stephen Kercher
    The Jerusalem Syndrome by Marc Maron
    Groucho & Me, Memoirs of a Mangy Lover, The Groucho Letters & Beds by Groucho Marx
    Harpo Speaks! by Harpo Marx
    Seriously Funny by Gerald Nachman
    Pryor Convictions by Richard Pryor
    Heartland by Mort Sahl
    Stalin Ate My Homework by Alexei Sayle
    Shock Value and Crackpot by John Waters

    • Scott Wisdom

      And for Canadian content, Stand and Deliver: Inside Canadian Comedy by Andrew Clark.

      • Paul Fint

        I was just in Ireland and read some great ones I picked up over there. Two by Roddy Doyle were great, The Van and The Snapper. Randumb by Mark Hayes was another good one I read on the plane back. Tickling the English by Dara Brian is funny in parts too.

    • Adam B.

      Came to the comments just to vouch for SERIOUSLY FUNNY. It's a fantastic read on how comedy pivoted in the late 1950s and 1960s.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Hank-Rosenfeld/100000555641983 Hank Rosenfeld

      Scott, check out THE WICKED WIT OF THE WEST by Irving Brecher, for some great Groucho and Harpo tales!

  • Rezpect

    I want to read ALL of these books! But here is a good one I'd like to add: "Diary of Indignities" by Patrick Hughes

  • Harold B

    Where is "Andy Kaufman Revealed! Best Friend Tells All" by Bob Zmuda????

    • Patrick O

      it was good but I thought Lost in funhouse was more in depth into Andy's ealy life and career

  • Coach Bombay

    DC Pierson's "The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep (and Never Had To)" was the best, most inspired YA book I read all last year (and I read The Fault in Our Stars last year, so that's saying something!) It was nice to see teenaged boys written EXACTLY like teenaged boys. Not older, not more mature, just…. dopey and sometimes violent, and wounded. It was really a great read. The ending hit me hard, too.

  • Jared Mazzaschi

    There's some great stuff on this list as well as some I was unaware of. I'm just about finished with "Wake Up, Sir" by Jonathan Ames and it has me rolling. Got a few minutes on your hands? Read some dumb stories here: http://www.whydontyoulikeme.com

  • Chauncy Squiggleman

    Wow, no books from Howard Stern? You guys should visit New York sometime, comedians there will educate you about a man referred to as THE KING OF ALL MEDIA.

  • souper_crackers

    I highly recommend "All My Best Friends" by George Burns. It starts with an applause sign, and gets better from there.

  • mariana

    To get some older material in, and some more political material, check out Alice Duer Miller's "Are Women People?" and "Women Are People!" from 1915/1917. Funny poems and lists that tear down anti-suffrage arguments. Feminist humor ftw.

  • Patrick O

    good list but I can't believe any of Carlin's books missed the cut. I also would have included Jim Breuers memoir along with Seinlanguage and Monty Python's autobio

  • efreed

    "We Killed: The Rise of Women in American Comedy" Yael Cohen

  • http://www.facebook.com/ron.mwangaguhunga Ron Mwangaguhunga

    Paul Mooney's "Black is the New White"

  • Lenny

    Our Dumb Century is a glaring omission.

  • Kablooie

    Hmm. What about writers of comic fiction who aren't "comedians"? George Saunders' short stories are some of the funniest I've read in ages. I'll also throw in Philip Roth's comic works, John Barth's "The Sot Weed Factor", and Mary Leyner's "Et tu, Babe?" which is simply amazing. And ANYTHING by Charles Portis ("Dog of the South" particularly), whom David Cross, Bob Odenkirk and Conan have all cited as an influence.

  • popnlocke

    I recommend the short stories book "Ant Farm" by Simon Rich. It's great, and an easy, quick read. Many of those shorts cracked me up. He wrote for SNL, and was Harvard Lampoon's president.

  • http://twitter.com/wohdinhel wohdin

    >skims through list
    >fails to see Lewis Black

    son, disappoint, etc.

  • Mike

    "How I Escaped My Certain Fate" by Stewart Lee

  • Bitterpeace

    I was surprised by how many I had read. Some of them I forgot about, but there are some stand outs. Bedwetter by Sarah Silverman was great. My very first book I went out and bought (that I remember) was a book of short stories by Steve Martin.
    'I Like You' by Amy Sedaris must be my favorite. Because I get it out and look though it every week.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Thompson/1278476864 Mike Thompson

      Ah yes, Cruel Shoes…fondly remember that one

  • Rich M.

    Letter from a Nut series by Ted L. Nancy

  • person with a book

    I Killed: True Stories of the Road from America's Top Comics — compiled by Ritch Shydner and Mark Schiff

  • Asillie

    Groucho Letters is one of the funniest things I have ever read. I think all of the books Groucho Marx penned were funny.

  • Daniel

    Absolutely Satiristas. One of the best.
    Also, George Carlin has some great books.
    And why not put Freud: Wit & It's Relation To The Unconscious, if we're talking comedy collections

  • Tim Strom

    Dan Jenkins wrote two comedies way back in the day and though dated, "Baja Oklahoma" and "Semi-Tough" and remain near the top of my comedy list. Irreverent, definitely not PC but filled with wry humor and great dialogue.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Thompson/1278476864 Mike Thompson

    Love All the People – Bill Hicks. We should never forget Bill Hicks.

  • Donald

    No Robert Benchley or S.J. Perelman?

  • Pearce

    Saturday Night: A Backstage History of Saturday Night Live, written by Doug Hill and Jeff Weingard, is hands down the best book I've ever read about the show. Hill and Weingard focus primarily on SNL's first five seasons, but expertly place their history and analysis within the context of the TV landscape at that time. An essential read for anyone who's a fan of the show's raw, groundbreaking years … and anyone who watches it now and wonders "What went wrong?"

  • http://www.facebook.com/danielhedger Daniel Hedger

    A good list, but Stewart Lee's 'How I Escaped My Certain Fate: The Life and Deaths of a Stand-Up Comedian' is better than quite a few of the ones listed. Also, any one of John Swartzwelder's novels, but no more than one.

  • http://www.facebook.com/maryl.hershelman Maryl Hershelman

    More books by David Sedaris….His essay about being an elf in Macy's Santa Land Diaries is a must read or listen (most of his books are read by the author).

  • http://www.facebook.com/millroseinn Terry Baldwin

    Nothing in Moderation: A Biography of Ernie Kovacs belongs on this list

  • the author

    SOMETHING WONDERFUL RIGHT AWAY — the oral history of the founding of Second City with Paul Sills, Mike Nichols, Del Close, Alan Arkin, Joan Rivers, Alan Alda, Robert Klein, David Steinberg, Gilda Radner, Sheldon Patinkin, Avery Schreiber, Barbara Harris, and most of the rest of the gang who reinvented American sketch comedy. Some of the books you refer to above quote from this book.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-Taylor/100001056840582 John Taylor

    If you can find them, the MASH books by Richard Hooker are great comedy fiction. Cracxkerjack Marines too. Also Cap'n Fatso by Daniel Gallery.

  • Comedy Fan

    Need to include "Just Kidding: Using Humor Effectively" by Louis Franzini (2012). His best book so far and a key chapter on PC and humor.

  • Art Sandal

    Jack Handy's What I'd Say To The Martians! Seriously, you messed up bad by not including it.

  • Jonny

    I recommend Richard Pryor's autobiography "Pryor Convictions: and Other Life Sentences"

  • Whereverwhenever

    You missed out Roy Blount Jr., and it's a shame because from this list I think you would love him.

  • http://twitter.com/grouchobeer MATTHEW HAHN

    There were no comedy books pre-1980? How about HARPO SPEAKS, THE LAST LAUGH, and anything by Robert Benchley?

  • Katie

    Any and all of Simon Rich's books. He has 3 books of short stories and one novel and writes for SNL. And is great.

  • balboaactually

    The Pleasure of My Company, Steve Martin

  • Mike Gibbons

    You gotta add "My Custom Van" by Michael Ian Black to this list. Some of the funniest stuff I've ever read.

  • Mike Gibbons

    Also, "Cruel Shoes" by Steve Martin is a glaring omission…

  • ComedyLover
  • Sweatpants & Tuxedo Jadket

    I love the list. But I would also want to add "Labor Pains". Its is some great hilarious fiction about a guy who hates his cubicle job.

  • Stan M.

    How about "Hollywood Said No!" by David Cross & Bob Odenkirk?

  • secretcream

    Concrete Comedy: An Alternative History of Twentieth-Century Comedy, by David Robbins. Obviously. Plus Benchley, Veronica Geng, George W.S. Trow.

  • TS Idiot

    The Groucho Letters and The Letters of Fred Allen are great reads (Fred Allen, for those who don't know, was one of the greatest radio comedians of the 30s/40s, often losing sponsors for his political and anti-commercial barbs). Both were highly intelligent, hilarious men and their brilliant personalities come through in their correspondences with friends, political figures, literary giants and regular folks.

  • TS Idiot

    Also, while not strictly 'comedy' books, the works of Terry Pratchett are some of the funniest and smartest takes on humanity around (albeit seen through the prism of a world populated with trolls, vampires, wizards, Death, giant flying space turtles and so on).

    • Lisa B.

      YES YES YES!

  • Sarah

    I just finished reading Wigfield by Amy Sedaris, Stephen Colbert, and Paul Dinello, and I loved it.

  • Dylan Brody

    Deeply disheartened that Laughs Last did not make the list. I only hope it is because you have not yet read it. http://www.amazon.com/Laughs-Last-Dylan-Brody/dp/0989455254/ref=tmm_pap_title_0

  • OK72

    Didn't Jimmy Fallon write a couple books before he got famous? I love some of the Onion Books like "Our Dumb Century" and the one that's like an Atlas. I love Jay Mohr and Darrell Hammond's books. I'm surprised no one mentioned Dave Barry's books.

  • Notthemusicstore

    The Other Shulman by Alan Zweibel should qualify, heard him read part of it on Letterman, that excerpt(and the fact it won a Thurber award…which isn't given out for like anything except humor) got me to buy a copy…and when I finished it gave it to a friend whose last name is Shulman as a birthday gift…so it's funny and cost effective…unless you don't have friends names Shulman, Other, or The, in that case it's just funny…very funny

  • Jernigens Fitch

    If anyone's into cartoonish style comedy "Rascals In Paradise" by the Great Raconteur is good. Plus the little ones can read it to.