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7 Knee-Slapping Memoirs by My Favorite Stand-Up Comics

November 5 2020

One of my favorite self-care activities is watching stand-up comedy. From rewatching John Mulaney specials (I have probably memorized all of them by now) and Saturday Night Live sketches—to unwinding after a long day with a hot chocolate and stand-up comedy—comedians never cease to give me something to laugh at. I have found the same to be true about reading comedians’ memoirs. Like your favorite stand-up special, these seven memoirs, whether they are joke-laden or filled to the brim with hilarious anecdotes, will lift your spirits and prove that laughter is the best medicine.

Is This Anything?
by Jerry Seinfeld

Jerry Seinfeld’s first book in twenty-five years is not only for comedy lovers and Seinfeld fans, but also for those who just want a good laugh. Including both Seinfeld’s trademark observational humor and tips on the art of crafting jokes, IS THIS ANYTHING?—the title is inspired by comedians asking each other if their material “is anything”—takes readers through five decades of Seinfeld’s favorite jokes, covering everything from children’s bounce houses to chopsticks. This unique and unforgettable memoir may be the closest anyone gets to understanding the inner workings of Seinfeld’s comedic mind.

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Is This Anything?
Jerry Seinfeld

The first book in twenty-five years from Jerry Seinfeld features his best work across five decades in comedy.

Since his first performance at the legendary New York nightclub “Catch a Rising Star” as a twenty-one-year-old college student in fall of 1975, Jerry Seinfeld has written his own material and saved everything. “Whenever I came up with a funny bit, whether it happened on a stage, in a conversation, or working it out on my preferred canvas, the big yellow legal pad, I kept it in one of those old school accordion folders,” Seinfeld writes. “So I have everything I thought was worth saving from forty-five years of hacking away at this for all I was worth.”

For this book, Jerry Seinfeld has selected his favorite material, organized decade by decade. In page after hilarious page, one brilliantly crafted observation after another, readers will witness the evolution of one of the great comedians of our time and gain new insights into the thrilling but unforgiving art of writing stand-up comedy.

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Survival of the Thickest
by Michelle Buteau

Michelle Buteau has had what one may call a slow burn career. Beginning her stand-up career in 2001, just after 9/11, her star began to rise with her set on The Comedy Lineup in 2018, followed by her breakout year in 2019 where she had roles in Russian Doll, Always Be My Maybe, Tales of the City, and The First Wives Club. Buteau shows no signs of stopping in 2020, as she hosted the hit Netflix show The Circle, and just released her first hour-long special, Welcome to Buteaupia. The comic brings her trademark sass and charisma to SURVIVAL OF THE THICKEST. In this collection of comedic essays, she discusses growing up Caribbean, Catholic, and “thick” in New Jersey, working as a newsroom editor during 9/11, and beginning her stand-up career shortly thereafter, followed by marrying into her husband’s Dutch family, IVF, and surrogacy.

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Survival of the Thickest
Michelle Buteau

From the stand-up comedian, actress, and host beloved for her cheeky swagger, unique voice, and unapologetic frankness comes a book of comedic essays for fans of Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me by Mindy Kaling and We’re Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union.

If you’ve watched television or movies in the past year, you’ve seen Michelle Buteau. With scene-stealing roles in Always Be My Maybe, First Wives Club, Someone Great, Russian Doll, and Tales of the City; a reality TV show and breakthrough stand-up specials, including her headlining show Welcome to Buteaupia on Netflix, and two podcasts (Late Night Whenever and Adulting), Michelle’s star is on the rise. You’d be forgiven for thinking the road to success—or adulthood or financial stability or self-acceptance or marriage or motherhood—has been easy; but you’d be wrong.

Now, in Survival of the Thickest, Michelle reflects on growing up Caribbean, Catholic, and thick in New Jersey, going to college in Miami (where everyone smells like pineapple), her many friendship and dating disasters, working as a newsroom editor during 9/11, getting started in standup opening for male strippers, marrying into her husband’s Dutch family, IVF and surrogacy, motherhood, chosen family, and what it feels like to have a full heart, tight jeans, and stardom finally in her grasp.

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The Last Black Unicorn
by Tiffany Haddish

Early in her life, Tiffany Haddish utilized humor as a means of survival. She counted on being funny as a way to convince her classmates to let her copy their homework, and as protection from being beaten up by the foster kids she lived with. When she was given the choice to attend the Laugh Factory comedy camp or counseling to recover from issues she faced while in foster care, she chose the former, and found her calling. Through hard work and grit, Haddish earned a breakthrough role in Girls Trip, and has since starred in two stand-up specials, as well as the television series The Last O.G., and has voiced Tuca on the criminally underrated series Tuca & Bertie. THE LAST BLACK UNICORN showcases all the honest and hilarious moments of Haddish’s life, and she does not hold back. Through it all, readers get a glimpse into comedy’s fundamentality in her life and how it defines her.

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The Last Black Unicorn
Tiffany Haddish

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

“An inspiring story that manages to be painful, honest, shocking, bawdy and hilarious.” —The New York Times Book Review

From stand-up comedian, actress, and breakout star of Girls Trip, Tiffany Haddish, comes The Last Black Unicorn, a sidesplitting, hysterical, edgy, and unflinching collection of (extremely) personal essays, as fearless as the author herself.

Growing up in one of the poorest neighborhoods of South Central Los Angeles, Tiffany learned to survive by making people laugh. If she could do that, then her classmates would let her copy their homework, the other foster kids she lived with wouldn’t beat her up, and she might even get a boyfriend. Or at least she could make enough money—as the paid school mascot and in-demand Bar Mitzvah hype woman—to get her hair and nails done, so then she might get a boyfriend.

None of that worked (and she’s still single), but it allowed Tiffany to imagine a place for herself where she could do something she loved for a living: comedy.

Tiffany can’t avoid being funny—it’s just who she is, whether she’s plotting shocking, jaw-dropping revenge on an ex-boyfriend or learning how to handle her newfound fame despite still having a broke person’s mind-set. Finally poised to become a household name, she recounts with heart and humor how she came from nothing and nowhere to achieve her dreams by owning, sharing, and using her pain to heal others.

By turns hilarious, filthy, and brutally honest, The Last Black Unicorn shows the world who Tiffany Haddish really is—humble, grateful, down-to-earth, and funny as hell. And now, she’s ready to inspire others through the power of laughter.

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MENTIONED IN:

7 Knee-Slapping Memoirs by My Favorite Stand-Up Comics

By Sharon Van Meter | November 5, 2020

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Dear Girls
by Ali Wong

The first time I ever saw Ali Wong was through her stand-up special Hard Knock Wife, and my first reaction was simply “wow.” I had never seen a female comedian, let alone a pregnant female comedian, perform the raunchy, no-holds-barred comedy that she does, and I could not get enough of it. I’m not alone in my admiration for Wong—after her first stand-up special, Baby Cobra, released on Netflix, she resonated with people so deeply that she became a Halloween costume. DEAR GIRLS is a series of hilarious letters from Wong to her two daughters for them to read when they’re older. The letters encompass a wide range of topics, from Wong’s childhood in San Francisco to dating in New York City, and ultimately to how she “trapped” her husband and survives (and thrives) as a working mom in a male-dominated profession.

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Dear Girls
Ali Wong

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A Very Punchable Face
by Colin Jost

I started watching Saturday Night Live regularly around the time when Colin Jost became a co-head writer and co-anchor of the show’s popular “Weekend Update” segment. As watching SNL became my Sunday morning ritual in college, I was able to witness more of Jost’s comedic talents and appreciate his writing on such genius sketches as “Diner Lobster.” Jost further shows off his comedic writing prowess in A VERY PUNCHABLE FACE, with topics spanning his upbringing on Staten Island in a family of firefighters to the worst guest star he ever had to work with on SNL. Taking readers through turns equally hilarious and moving, it’s debatable whether you’ll want to punch Jost’s face after reading his memoir, but you’ll definitely want to laugh out loud.

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A Very Punchable Face
Colin Jost

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Comedy in Color, Volume 1
by Laugh Out Loud

While this isn’t a memoir, COMEDY IN COLOR is the essential audio series for all comedy lovers. Hosted by Lil Rel of Get Out fame, this collection features forty of the brightest stand-up comedians from all over the world, and contains five hours of curated stand-up sets from the world-famous Just for Laughs comedy festival in Montreal. As someone who is always on the lookout for my next favorite stand-up comedian, I am greatly looking forward to listening to this diverse collection of comedians. Additionally, two comedians I discovered in the past year, Nate Bargatze and Gina Yashere, are included in this collection, so I am very excited to dive into those two sets.

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Comedy in Color, Volume 1
Laugh Out Loud

A brand-new audio series collecting live recordings of the most hilarious stand-up comedy routines from Laugh Out Loud’s hit Comedy in Color franchise, which debuted on Pluto TV.

Comedy In Color, Volume 1 welcomes listeners to the largest international comedy festival on earth with curated stand-up sets from ten jam-packed shows at the world-famous Just For Laughs Comedy Festival in Montreal. Lil Rel Howery (best known for his breakout role in Jordan Peele’s Oscar–winning film, Get Out, and the Fox series, Rel) will serve as host, providing original material and personal stories from his experiences at JFL, as well as introducing our line-up of forty of the funniest comedians from Comedy In Color, including Chris Distefano, Aida Rodriguez, Vir Das, Godfrey, Ronny Chieng, and Nate Bargatze. Lil Rel’s set is also featured in Volume 1. Laugh Out Loud debuted the Comedy In Color stand-up franchise on Pluto TV earlier this year, and has already seen immense success, bolstering Laugh Out Loud as one of the top comedy channels on Pluto TV.

In addition to Howery, additional comedians featured in Volume 1 include: Aisha Alfa, J.B. Ball, Tone Bell, Nate Bargatze, Joel Kim Booster, Aisha Brown, Sophie Buddle, Ronny Chieng, Vir Das, Tim Dillon, Chris Distefano, Dominique, Naomi Ekperigin, Rachel Feinstein, David Gborie, Godfrey, Matt Ingebretson, Gary “G Thang” Johnson, Josh Johnson, Russell Kane, Michael Kosta, Nish Kumar, Mike Lawrence, Ismael Loutfi, Ms. Pat, Mark Normand, Jessimae Peluso, Charlie Pickering, Tony Roberts, Jordan Rock, Aida Rodriguez, Ron G, Ahir Shah, Beth Stelling, Sarah Tiana, Jesus Trejo, Ahamed Weinberg, Gina Yashere and Jenny Zigrino.

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MENTIONED IN:

Attend Your Own Private Stand-Up Show with These Hilarious Comedy Audiobooks

By Gabrielle Audet | November 20, 2020

7 Knee-Slapping Memoirs by My Favorite Stand-Up Comics

By Sharon Van Meter | November 5, 2020

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Born a Crime
by Trevor Noah
I’m not exaggerating when I say that BORN A CRIME isn’t just one of my favorite books read this year, but one of my favorites of all time. Trevor Noah’s memoir about growing up in South Africa is a truly special book: it’s both enlightening and entertaining, as it reads like a stand-up comedy special. (I plan to go back and listen to this one on audio since the author narrates it himself!) Born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother under South African apartheid, Noah’s birth is a criminal act in itself. From there, the book’s essays detail South African politics, racism, and class on both the macro and micro levels—Noah sheds light on these topics in historical background sections at the beginning of each essay, as well as discusses his own experiences with each of these phenomena. However, what may be the most extraordinary part of this book is the relationship between Noah and his mother, Patricia. Noah’s writing truly shines when he discusses their unique and memorable relationship.
 
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Born a Crime
Trevor Noah

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Photo credit: Boris_Kuznets / iStock

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