People sometimes forget that to be a good comedian is to be a good writer. Not always, but for the most part, these talents go hand in hand. Jokes, bits, monologues: They’re often the little brothers and sisters of the short story and the memoir. They may be crass younger siblings, but if David Sedaris has taught us anything, it’s that you can’t choose your family.
One of the best things about books written by comedians doesn’t actually involve any reading — which is great if, like me, you’re a person who enjoys being entertained and being lazy simultaneously. Funny audiobooks present the added bonus of timing and inflection. When they’re read aloud by the author, which appears to be convention for books by comedians, the delivery is even better. Funny voices and pregnant pauses make for a quality listening experience, the type you can talk about with the same affected tone as your friend who only reads Salinger in “first or second editions” — that is: for the experience.
We’ve compiled a list of eight such experiences, all of which were recently released and available for purchase through iTunes or Amazon/Audible. Enjoy!
Kirkman is a writer at Chelsea Lately, but we won’t hold that against her. She’s a genuinely funny comic who made her mark by impersonating her thickly accented Bostonian mother. Ruminations on parenthood, or rather non-parenthood, abound in I Can Barely Take Care of Myself, including an incident where the author mistakenly inspires a three-year-old boy to become a future murderer.
Britain’s answer to Tina Fey has yet to wet her toes in the American market, but her eponymous sitcom on BBC is arguably one of the funniest shows in all the Anglosphere. In Is It Just Me?, Hart brings her talents to the literary realm, presenting a memoir that is one part one-woman show, one part tongue-in-cheek advice column and all parts general hilarity. Pay special attention to the chapter in which she describes an impromptu pantless meeting with a group of very sober BBC development execs.
You may recognize Jim Gaffigan from his guest stint on IFC’s Portlandia (as Donald, the gay stew-truck co-owner) or from being the only tolerable aspect of 2010’s Going the Distance. His stand-up is excellent, and he doesn’t disappoint with the perfectly titled Dad is Fat, a fresh take on Bill Cosby’s Fatherhood that explores such nebulously philosophical topics as toddler taco-eating methodologies.
Any time I see a photo of Rachel Dratch, I immediately think “Poor Rachel Dratch.” Dratch is the Michelle Williams to Saturday Night Live’s Destiny’s Child: Despite her hilarious tenure on the late-night comedy hour, her talent has been all but totally obscured by contemporaries Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. In Girl Walks into a Bar, Dratch explores the rougher years post SNL with that signature combination of dry cynicism and wide-eyed earnestness we know and love. All we needed was a little reminder.
Another SNL alum makes the list with his much-awaited memoir, Still Foolin’ ‘Em. America’s favorite funny guy/perennial Oscars host casts a brighter ray of light on the mustier topics of age and looming death, riffing on the endearing (grand-parenting) to the everyday (getting dental work) with that trademark irreverent charm. Billy, thanks to Still Foolin’ ‘Em, we almost forgive you for Parental Guidance.
Stephen Tobolowsky is “That Guy” — “Oh, That Guy! From that show or that movie! Yeah, I know him!” It’s an illustrious middle name. An architect of the modern character actor, it might come as a surprise to some that Tobolowsky, who is known for his comically dragging voice and effeminate caricatures on shows like Glee and The Mindy Project, is also a prolific writer and gifted essayist. The Dangerous Animals Club is a funny and poignant take on art, life and thought from one of the hardest working men in Hollywood. Also: the voice. ‘Nough said.
I know: Surely we’ve all had enough of the beautiful, leggy Hollywood-type baring all of her quirky (but ultimately not at all embarrassing) misfortunes in the trendy memoir-essay hybrid collection. At first glance, Self-Inflicted Wounds appears to be just that. But Tyler, a veteran of the national comedy circuit, is actually quite smart. She went to Dartmouth, like some of our other favorite funny-women, and presents a memoir that is by no means a vehicle for self-flattery — unless you consider nearly gutting yourself on a discarded hobby horse “flattering.”
And finally, we can’t discuss funny audiobooks without bringing up the master himself: Let’s Discuss Diabetes with Owls explores David’s life as an established writer, and through essays like “Laugh, Kookaburra” and “Obama!!!!!”, we learn that fame and accomplishment has done little to affect his sharply observant, yet comically clueless accounts. Plus, no one does that nasally Sedaris rasp better than the man himself.
Jake Flanagin is a writer living in Washington, D.C., where he does story research for The Atlantic magazine and writes about pop culture and social issues. He holds a B.A. in comparative literature from New York University and thinks the bagel situation in D.C. is deplorable. In his free time, he likes to watch reruns of Growing Pains and remains steadfastly ambivalent on the issue of Kirk Cameron.
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