So far this year I’ve read three books by some very funny people – Zombie Spaceship Wasteland by Patton Oswalt, Sleepwalk with Me by Mike Birbiglia, and Bossypants by Tina Fey. All three of these books are worth picking up if you’re a fan of any of these people or just interested in finding out what it is like to work in the comedy business. Oswalt and Birbiglia focus on the stand-up career path, while Fey discusses her life in improv, Saturday Night Live writer, and 30 Rock creator.
The one things I”ve noticed about these kinds of books is that there are always these very “jokey” chapters. I can’t figure out if these chapters are included because the comedian felt they had to write something outright funny or if their publisher requested it of them. Because these “jokey” chapters are always the least entertaining part of the books. When Oswalt writes about growing up in the suburbs of Washington D.C., working at a shitty move theater over the summer with some very eccentric individuals, I found myself laughing at how ridiculous real life can be. But when the chapter about hobos in thea 1930s started…I was bored very quickly because the whole thing felt forced. (I actually listened to Oswalt’s book, and even he seemed less enthused about these chapters when reading them) Tina Fey writes about traveling with her husband for Christmas with his family in rural Ohio and the catastrophe that was their honeymoon. Hilarious. Tina Fey writes “responses” to comments left online for her and silly lists about being skinny/fat – meh, you might smile while you read them but the laughs do not flow as freely.
I don’t remember this issue with Mike Birbiglia’s book, but to be fair, the book came from his award-winning Broadway show so he had a bit more time to tweak his words and stories. This was probably my favorite of the three because it really is just a memoir and Mike’s life is funny. Sometimes it’s LOL funny, sometimes a bittersweet funny…and sometimes it’s just life and it still works because you know he’s just being honest.
So, if you’re a comedian and you’re thinking of writing a book – PLEASE, just write your story. We know you’re funny, the publisher would not have given you a book deal otherwise, so please don’t feel that you must write “funny”. If you just write the way you always talk – with whatever the attitude is, then your fans will get it. And if it’s your publisher/editor telling you to make it more “jokey”, stand your ground. It’s the honest truth of how strange life is that makes readers smile and laugh.
Zombie Spaceship Wasteland – ***
Sleepwalk with Me ****