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Searching for something different to read with all this newfound time? Look no further than your favourite comedian.
Many stand-up stars have turned their hand to writing. From memoirs and autobiographies to essays and even children’s fiction, they’ve used their verbal expertise as a springboard for sharing inspiring stories.
After searching our shelves and digital devices, we put together a list of ten true page-turners. Not only are these books by comedians full of witty banter to keep you laughing, but you’ll also find cultural insight, political satire and plenty of heart-warming moments.
The comedian-turned-star of The Daily Show reveals his story of growing up as the ultimate outsider. Born in South Africa to a white Swiss father and black Xhosa mother at a time when interracial marriage was illegal, Trevor Noah had an extraordinary childhood. Often hidden indoors during his early years, he finally experienced the joy of freedom as a young man when apartheid crumbled. A collection of 18 unflinchingly honest personal essays that cover everything from subsisting on caterpillars to high school dating dilemmas, you’ll be moved by Noah’s struggles to find a place in a world where he wasn’t supposed to exist.
Ever wonder how Romesh Ranganathan got where he is? He definitely took a lesser travelled path to comedy stardom. After delivering a stand-up set at a holiday camp talent competition at the age of nine, he flirted with being a freestyle rapper under the name “Ranga” and then went on to become a maths teacher. Fortunately for us, Ranganathan found his way back to the mic. Divided into chapters with hip-hop inspired titles, Straight Outta Crawley is full of his self-deprecating humour as he divulges more details about that journey as well as his various struggles as both a child and now a parent. Although labelled “memoirs of a distinctly average human being”, this book proves Ranganathan is anything but that.
After exploding on the comedy scene in the early ’70s, Steve Martin walked away from it in 1981 to pursue acting, art and writing. Follow him from a 10-year-old boy peddling souvenir guidebooks at Disneyland and hopeful young stand-up performing at drive-in movie theatres all the way through to becoming a megastar comedian selling out stadiums. Full of his beautiful prose, Born Standing Up shares the discipline, sacrifices and isolation of that time when Martin says he “was seeking comic originality, and fame fell on me as a by-product”.
Set to tour the UK with warm-up shows this autumn, there’s no better time to immerse yourself in John Bishop’s observational comedy. Released just last year, How To Grow Old is packed with laugh-out-loud advice about ageing – and none of it comes from a sociological or anthropological perspective. Whether confessions about becoming “a victim of the unintended stealth fart”, ways to avoid dressing as an old man or tips to get out of exercise by mentioning “knee problems”, Bishop’s book highlights the humour in how bodies and attitudes change with middle age.
Recently on tour with a live show by the same name, Adam Kay offers a no-holds-barred glimpse at life as a junior doctor. Awarded Book of the Year at The National Book Awards, This Is Going To Hurt is a unique mix of comedy and tragedy. Based on entries from diaries Kay kept while working 97-hour weeks for the NHS, he describes endless days and sleepless nights. “I’ve not sat down for 12 hours, let alone rested my eyes, my dinner’s sitting uneaten in my locker and I’ve just called a midwife ‘Mum’ by accident,” he writes. But even amid all of that, his book overflows with humanity as he shares hilarious and at times heart-breaking encounters with patients.
With many books under his belt, Stephen Fry’s most recent offering is this retelling of a selection of Ancient Greek myths. Firmly entrenched in Western tradition, you’ll love his humorous, contemporary take on the soap opera-ish lives of gods such as Zeus, Athena and Aretmis as well as other well-known figures like King Midas. You’ll be surprised by how relevant their stories are, while Fry also weaves in themes of community, psychology and humanity throughout Mythos. And there are some important life lessons to be learned – for instance, it’s easier to hide 100 mountains from a jealous wife than it is to hide a mistress.
Although the legendary American funnyman passed away in 2008, these last words from his extraordinary 51-year career were published a year later. Put together by Hertfordshire writer and George Carlin’s longtime friend Tony Hendra from numerous recorded conversations they’d been having since the mid ’90s, this book is often described as a “sortabiography”. While covering Carlin’s life, times and evolution as a comedian and cynic, it doesn’t shy away from examining his business, drug and relationship troubles. Known for having one of the sharpest voices on the stand-up scene, Last Words truly captures the same brash honesty that defined his life.
Comedian Steve Coogan’s most famous creation is Alan Gordon Partridge, and this is a mock biography of the inept broadcaster’s life. A man with a fascinating past and amazing future, it’s all covered in this celebration from his glorious birth in King’s Lynn and rise as a North Norfolk Radio celebrity to his primetime BBC chat show Knowing Me, Knowing You. Filled with laughs on every page, you’ll also discover scandalous details about his Toblerone addiction and ex-Ukrainian girlfriend, Sonja, with whom he had sex at least twice a day. Like the man himself, I, Partridge is a literary tour de force.
This comedy star has taken the world of children’s literature by storm. Following the release of Slime last month, David Walliams now has 14 books to his credit. “All children love slime, so I hope they will love this book too,” he says. A story about how the ooey-gooey stuff was created, you’ll meet a boy named Ned who uses it to get revenge on nasty grown-ups. Another fantastically funny tale, prepare to go on a journey to the Isle of Mulch as you enter the wild and whimsical realm of Walliams’ unbridled imagination.
This Houston-raised stand-up was one of kind. He found an enthusiastic audience in the UK for his acerbic, introspective comedy since making his mark at Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 1991. A firebrand on stage, Hicks tore into everything from religion and modern society to unbridled government. Tragically, he died at the age of 32 from pancreatic cancer, but Love All The People gives you a sense of the brilliant thinker and controversial comedian he was. Published posthumously, it’s split chronologically into four sections. Filled with a collection of his routines, letters and journal entries, there’s no shortage of laugh-out-loud material.
Find more information about your favourite comedians in our Comedy Guide.