Somehow I realized a few years ago that I have read quite a few funny memoirs, mostly from stand-up comedians. It probably started with Steve Martin’s Born Standing Up; at least that is the first one I remember finding funny. Although I liked Martin before I read his book, I was still pleasantly surprised. I enjoyed learning about his life and how his stand-up comedy developed, and I was not expecting that.
Without meaning to, I have probably read or listened to at least 10 or more memoirs from stand-up comedians. As someone who is most definitely never ever going to do stand-up comedy, I have still really enjoyed these.
Here are a few of my other favorite funny memoirs, because who couldn’t use more laughter in their lives these days?
When Tina Fey’s Bossypants came out, I was already a fan of her comedy so I definitely wanted to read her book. While I still find the cover slightly disturbing, I really enjoyed her musings. I was even interested in her thoughts about comedy writing, despite that fact that it is something I never plan to attempt in own my life.
In contrast, I was not Trevor Noah’s biggest fan before I listened to his memoir Born a Crime. However, his book is phenomenal. He explains what it was like growing up in Johannesburg as the child of a Xhosa mother and a Swiss-German father. Keep in mind that he was born before apartheid ended so the book’s title is not an exaggeration. Suffice it to say that it was complicated for him.
Noah is also multilingual, so I highly recommend the audio. He reads some of it in the different languages he speaks, something I would have missed if I had not chosen to read this on audio. It was very cool to listen to him.
However, if you are hoping for a detailed recounting of Noah’s rise to fame, you will have to wait for another book. He focuses mainly on his life before he became the host of the Daily Show. Also be forewarned that he is frank about family violence.
Another memoir I listened to and enjoyed is Ali Wong’s Dear Girls. I laughed so hard I stopped listening in public so as not frighten others with my unexpected chortling. Sometimes there is nothing scarier than a stranger laughing loudly behind you, am I right?
If you’re not familiar with Wong’s comedy, you should know that her subject matter and style are very adult. She can also be a bit graphic, so perhaps not the best to listen to around sensitive audiences (or just around anyone scared by really loud laughter).
I would also put in a plug for her movie Always be My Maybe. It was good and I say that as someone who does not like romantic comedies much. There is usually too much romance for my tastes.
A few years ago I also listened to Jimmy O. Yang’s How to American and loved it too. Yang is someone I only discovered thanks to Silicon Valley (likewise Martin Starr, who is also hysterical in that series). Yang’s memoir reminded me some of Eddie Huang’s Fresh Off the Boat, another book I did not expect to enjoy as much as I did. Yang and Huang grew up in very different circumstances from each other, but I found them both to be funny, smart, and insightful. Huang does talk about some rough parts of his childhood, so it is not all laughter and successes.
Another memoir that mixed both humor and sadness, Roz Chast’s Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant? is a graphic memoir. Chast is a cartoonist for The New Yorker and her book details her last years with her parents, both of whom lived well into their 90s. She is very honest about both the wildly absurd moments and the emotionally wrenching decisions that have to be made as her parents age. There is a lot of love and huge amounts of anxiety in this one—and a lot of yelling. Both funny and brutal is the way I remember it.
For example, I have not gotten around to Issa Rae’s The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl and I somehow missed Samantha Irby’s new book Wow, No Thank You until recently. It definitely looks like something that would make me laugh. I look forward to reading it and to snorting and chortling all the way through.