Looking for more darkly comic memoirs/essays.
January 7, 2011 10:48 PM   Subscribe

Help me find good books by comedians or about being a comedian!

I just finished reading Zombie Spaceship Wasteland and read Sleepwalk With Me a little while ago, and greatly enjoyed both. I'd like to find more books of this stripe--comedic memoirs are great, and I'd really like to find more stuff about the (frequently unpleasant) nitty gritty about being a comedian. Is there more out there?

Failing the comedian-specific request, what are your other favorite semi-bittersweet/kinda dark comedic memoir/essay books? David Sedaris seems like the obvious choice, but I'm not sure where to start there. Recommend me away! And, of course, books with Kindle editions are a definite plus.
posted by whitneyarner to Media & Arts (18 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Steve Martin's Born Standing Up is fascinating and insightful.
posted by scody at 10:56 PM on January 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

Not a book, but Mark Maron's WTF podcast--where he interviews comedians in the biz--might be of intetest to you.

I've learned more being a standup from his candid imterviews than anything I've ever read.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 10:59 PM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

er...more ABOUT being a standup. Wish I could claim to actually being one.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 11:14 PM on January 7, 2011

How I escaped my certain fate by UK altenrative comedian Stewart Lee is a wonderful meditation on the ups and downs of two decades of a career, plus annotated scripts for three of his shows that give a very thorough insight into how his comedy is constructed.
posted by greycap at 12:00 AM on January 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

I don't really have any suggestions of books that are about life as a comedian.
Except maybe George Carlin's "Last Words"

and kind of Paul Rudnick's "I Shudder"

But, as for the second part of your question:

If you are not familiar with Augusten Burroughs, I highly recommend you read his memoirs. Especially "Dry" and "Possible Side Effects".

"Me Talk Pretty One Day" is a good place to start with Sedaris.

Not semi-bitter sweet at all and pretty crass and nasty is Charles Bukowski. Hilarious, nasty and controversial material.
I would recommend a some-what autobiographical and less tame Ham on Rye

Also maybe
James Thurber's "My Life and Hard Times"

Another funny memoir is "Dumbfounded" by Matt Rothschild
posted by KogeLiz at 12:11 AM on January 8, 2011

The Belz Baby

Before he had a acting job, he made his pay in front of a brick wall.

Not all like this tome, but I loved it when I got it.
posted by Dagobert at 12:48 AM on January 8, 2011

In the UK, Stuwart Lee's How I escaped my certain fate is pretty gritty, any funny to boot. It takes the form of a transcript of his live shows, with copioius footnotes that shed light and dark on the routine and it's subjects.
posted by choppyes at 7:29 AM on January 8, 2011

Howie Mandel was a standup before (and during) his acting and hosting gigs. His autobiography talks about his OCD and ADHD amongst other things.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 7:45 AM on January 8, 2011

Not about a comedian, but dark and funny: The Elfish Gene, by Mark Barrowcliffe.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:00 AM on January 8, 2011

Thirding Stewart Lee's How I Escaped My Certain Fate - really good at analysing ideas he tried, changes he made, how different audiences reacted, why he wouldn't do some of the routines from a few years again now.

If you don't know Lee, it's probably worth watching some of his stand-up on YouTube or whatever to get the sense of his delivery, which is very precise, before reading the transcripts. Actually, that probably goes for any comedian!
posted by fabius at 8:12 AM on January 8, 2011

And Here's the Kicker* is one of my favorite books- series of interviews with comedians and comedy writers. It's the bee's knees. Very similar to the Marc Maron podcast mentioned above, which is essential and awesome.

*looks like the website has some bonus materials. Sweeeeeet.
posted by COBRA! at 8:17 AM on January 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

I really enjoyed Kathy Griffin's Official Book Club Selection. She's got good stories and is pretty brave about naming names.
posted by hermitosis at 8:48 AM on January 8, 2011

Superstud by Paul Feig and The Bedwetter by Sarah Silverman.
posted by Chenko at 8:52 AM on January 8, 2011

Loved Born Standing Up.
posted by brainwane at 10:26 AM on January 8, 2011

Yikes, sorry for the typos. Posting from my mobile device wasn't as successful as I thought.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 10:37 AM on January 8, 2011

I enjoyed I Killed: True Stories of the Road from America's Top Comics. There's a variety of stories by a large selection of comedians.
posted by Nedroid at 12:08 PM on January 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding Marc Maron's WTF podcast - the ones with Judd Apatow and Carlos Mencia are especially eye-opening about what it takes (or used to take) to get ahead in comedy, positively and negatively.

Nthing Born Standing Up. And "Live From New York" does an amazing job of taking you through the history of Saturday Night Live, entirely through 1st-person interviews

Finally, it's not at all dark, but for my money the best comic autobiography is Harpo Marx's "Harpo Speaks" - he was the only person who was not only part of Hollywood/Vaudeville's inner circle, but also a member of the Algonquin Round Table as well.
posted by Mchelly at 4:16 PM on January 8, 2011

Response by poster: Lots of great suggestions, thanks! Especially loving the WTF podcast... pretty much exactly what I was looking for.
posted by whitneyarner at 12:13 PM on February 7, 2011

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