Laugh On Hold

GIRL NAMED ZIPPYIt’s not easy to find a good laugh. But I often find myself thinking, “I sure could use a good laugh.” Comedy is tough business, which is why most nights when I go looking to laugh all I end up with is crossed eyes from an optical illusion and an urban definition for the phrase “throw shadow.” Oh why can’t I read that “Making Fun of Anthropologie” article and laugh as hard the second, or third, or tenth time? Comedy is quick business, too.

ME TALK PRETTY ONE DAYWhich is why I am wondering why I didn’t include comedy in my Best Books list. I guess I don’t usually think of reading comedy (as opposed to watching it). I can’t tell you any comedy books I have read. Perhaps Haven Kimmel’s Girl Named Zippy and She Got Up Off the Couch. I have meant to read Me Talk Pretty One Day for years of NPR listening, but I just never have. I think, deep down, I consider comedy writing to be somehow inferior. Despite the fact that it might be one of the hardest things to write. Despite the fact that I sure could use a good laugh.

PRIVATE PARTSWhat happened is Private Parts popped up on my TBR (like for a year from now). And I thought, heck no, and then I looked into it and actually it’s supposed to be a great book. Like moving. And funny. And surprising. So–in like a year from now–I guess I’ll give it a shot, partly because it sounds so good to read and laugh. And that made me wonder, why didn’t I put comedy on the TBR? As a matter of fact, why don’t I read comedy? (The TBR includes YA, general, literary, classics, theology and religion, philosophy, and fantasy. Actually, that makes me wonder why I didn’t include memoirs, nonfiction, and history, because I like a good one of those, too.)

So I did a little online research. (Isn’t that what “research” implies, anymore?) And I came up with a list of best comedy books synthesized from here and there. I was not surprised that I had read almost none of them but had heard of many of them. And the funny thing is (funny peculiar, not funny ha-ha) that I am still reluctant to add them to my TBR and stir them in with War and Peace and Of Mice and Men. I mean, isn’t looking to laugh somehow inferior to literary enlightenment? Pah! (I do, however, pause at this: it is entirely possible that many of these books pull from the baser human tendencies in order to be funny. I do have a line. And comedians often cross it. Then again, finding superb, clean comedy is so rewarding, just like finding a superb, clean show or movie these days makes it extra special.)

It’s a long list, but somebody had to do it. Maybe I’ll just scoot over here and pick up one of these whenever I just really need it.

  • 20BOSSYPANTS30, Albert Brooks
  • America, Jon Sterwart
  • The Areas of My Expertise, John Hodgman
  • The Ascent of Rum Doodle, W. E. Bowman
  • Assassination Vacation, Sara Vowell
  • A Bad Idea I’m About to Do, Chris Gethard
  • The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B, J. P. Donleavy
  • The Bedwetter, Sarah Silverman
  • Blue Boy, Rakash Satyal
  • The Bottle Factory Outing, Beryl Bainbridge
  • Born Standing Up, Steve Martin
  • Bossypants, Tina Fey
  • ThBRIDGET JONES DIARYe Boy Who Never Slept and Didn’t Have To, D. C. Pierson
  • Breakfast of Champions, Kurt Vonnegut
  • Bridget Jones’ Diary, Helen Fielding *
  • The Broke Diaries, Angela Nissel
  • Catch-22, Joseph Heller
  • The Code of the Woosters, P. G. Wodehouse
  • Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
  • Comedy at the Edge, Richard Zoglin
  • The Comedy Writer, Peter Farrelly
  • The Commitments, Roddy Doyle
  • CATCH-22A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole
  • Crooked Little Vein, Warren Ellis
  • Daddy’s Boy, Chris Elliott
  • Dangerously Funny, David Bianculli
  • Dave Berry Slept Here, Dave Berry
  • Decline and Fall, Evelyn Waugh
  • The Diary of Nobody, George Grossmith and Weedon Grossmith
  • Essays of E. B. White, E. B. White
  • Fraud, David Rackoff
  • Gargantua and Pantagruel, Francois Rebelais
  • Gasping for Airtime, James Mohr
  • GOOD OMENSGirl Walks Into a Bar, Rachel Dratch
  • God, If You’re Not Up There, I’m F**cked, Darrel Hammond
  • Good Omens, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
  • Going Too Far, Tony Hendra
  • Great Comedians Talk About Comedy, Larry Wilde
  • Happy Accidents, Jane Lynch
  • And Here’s the Kicker, Mike Sacks
  • The History Man, Malcolm Bradbury
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams ***
  • How I Became a Famous Novelist, Steve Hely
  • HITCHHIKERS GUIDE TO THE GALAXYHow to Be a Woman, Caitlin Moran
  • How to Sharpen Pencils, David Rees
  • Humblebrag, Harris Whittels
  • I Am America (and So Can You!), Stephen Colbert
  • I Feel Bad About My Neck, Nora Ephron
  • I Didn’t Ask to be Born, Bill Cosby
  • I Don’t Care About Your Band, Julie Klausner
  • I Like You, Amy Sedaris
  • I Love You More Than You Know, Jonathan Ames
  • I’m Dying Up Here, Willam Knoedelseder
  • The Importance of Being Ernest, Oscar Wilde
  • IreI FEEL BAD ABOUT MY NECKne Iddlesleigh, Amanda McIttrick Ros
  • Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Mindy Kaling
  • John Dies At the End, David Wong
  • Kasher in the Rye, Moshe Kasher
  • Kick Me, Pail Feig
  • Kill Your Friends, John Niven
  • Lamb, Christopher Moore
  • The Late Shift, Bill Carter
  • A Liar’s Autobiography, Graham Chapman
  • The Life and Opinions of Tristan Shandy, Gentleman, Laurence Sterne
  • Live From New York, Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller
  • LAMBLet’s Pretend This Never Happened, Jenny Lawson
  • Lost in the Funhouse, Bill Zehme
  • Lucky Jim, Kingsley Amis
  • The Loved One, Evelyn Waugh
  • M*A*S*H, Richard Hooker
  • Me Talk Pretty One Day, David Sedaris *
  • Molesworth, Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle
  • Mr. Mike, Dennis Perrin
  • My Horizontal Life, Chelsea Handler
  • An Object of Beauty, Steve Martin
  • On the Real Side, Mel Watkin
  • THE PRINCESS BRIDEThe Onion Book of Knowledge, The Onion
  • Pnin, Vladimir Nobokov
  • Porterhouse Blue, Tom Sharpe
  • Portnoy’s Complaint, Philip Roth
  • The Princess Bride, William Goldman **
  • The Pro, Garth Ennis
  • Puckoon, Spike Milligan
  • Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About, Mill Millington
  • Queen Lucia, E. F. Benson
  • Running With Scissors, Augusten Burroughs
  • SCTV, Dave Thomas
  • The Second City Almanac of Improvisation, Anne Libera
  • RUNNING WITH SCISSORSShow Me the Funny!, Peter Desberg and Jeffrey Davis
  • Side Effects, Woody Allen
  • Someone Could Get Hurt, Drew Magary
  • Sleepwalk With Me, Mike Birbiglia
  • The Stench of Honolulu, Jack Handey
  • The Sugar Frosted Nutsack, Mark Leyner
  • Tasteful Nudes, Dave Hill
  • Thank You, Jeeves, P. G. Wodehouse
  • This Is Where I Leave You, Jonathan Tropper
  • There Is a (Slight) Chance I Might Be Going to Hell, Laurie Notaro
  • Three Men In a Boat, Jerome K. Jerome
  • THANK YOU JEEVESThe Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams **
  • Wake Up, Sir!, Jonathan Ames
  • A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson
  • The War for Late Night, Bill Carter
  • What a Carve Up!, Jonathan Coe
  • Where’d You Go Bernadette, Maria Semple **
  • The Will to Whatevs, Eugene Mirman
  • Without Feathers, Woody Allen
  • You’re Lucky You’re Funny, Phil Rosenthal
  • You’re Not Doing It Right, Michael Ian Black
  • Zombie Spaceship Wasteland, Patton Oswalt

2 thoughts on “Laugh On Hold

    • What other Terry Pratchett would you recommend? And I have a feeling this list is divided into modern humor and eyebrow-raise funny (like perhaps the Nabokov). I would also say “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” belongs on here.

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