comedians

Born Standing Up by Steve Martin

Born Standing Up by Steve Martin

In Born Standing Up, Steve Martin looks back at his comedy career in a way that few artists are able to do. He not only has succeeded in his craft, he also has the luxury of being able to step back from the act and make sense of just what it was all about.

In the 1970's and 80's, Martin attained a kind of success usually reserved for rock stars. He filled up arenas and released number one albums, but  Martin is quick to point out that this was no overnight sensation. He spent his youth trying to break into the entertainment business by working at Disneyland and writing for the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.

Nerd Do Well: A Small Boy’s Journey to Becoming a Big Kid by Simon Pegg

Nerd Do Well: A Small Boy’s Journey to Becoming a Big Kid by Simon Pegg

While some memoirs are incredibly complex and intrinsically difficult to categorize, most of the ones I’ve read tend to fit in one of two general groups: the experience-driven and the persona-driven. Avi Steinberg’s Running the Books exemplifies the experience-driven category. Steinberg was an unknown when his memoir was published, and that relative obscurity meant that most readers were not drawn to the book because of his persona or celebrity. It was the topic of the autobiography that caught the public’s attention--the fact that this young man had worked in a prison library and found a way to describe the disorienting experience with both clarity and depth. 

Here's the Deal, Don't Touch Me

By Howie Mandel with Josh Young

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"A frank, funny, no-holds-barred memoir that reveals the Deal or No Deal host's ongoing struggle with OCD and ADHD-and how it has shaped his life and career. Now, for the first time, he reveals the details of his struggle with these challenging disorders. He catalogs his numerous fears and neuroses and shares entertaining stories about how he has tried to integrate them into his act. 'If I'm making myself laugh,' he writes, "then I'm distracted from all the other things going on in my head that are, at times, torturous." And he speaks frankly and honestly about the ways his condition has affected his personal life-as a son, husband, and father of three."

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Speedbumps: Flooring it Through Hollywood

By Teri Garr with Henriette Mantel

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"...the popular Oscar- nominated actress muses about movies, men, motherhood, and MS in a book that is both Hollywood hilarious and personally moving.

From Speedbumps:

I was originally up for the principal female role in Young Frankenstein . Mel Brooks was directing. He had just finished Blazing Saddles , and was at the top of the comedy world. Mel had picked me out of five hundred girls, but admitted that he was still trying to convince Madeline Kahn to take the lead role. After I auditioned three times, Madeline finally did decide to take the part of the fianc e. I was crushed. I’d never come so close to getting a major part in a major movie. But then Mel told me that if I came back the next day with a German accent I could read for the part of Inga, Gene Wilder’s buxom lab assistant. A German accent in twenty-four hours? Luckily, I was still on The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour, and, as fate would have it, Cher’s wig stylist was German. So, I sat in on Cher’s hairstyling session (that gave me hours of study!) and emerged with a perfect German accent when saying, 'Mein Gott, zis vig veighs forty pounds.' That would translate to the script!

"There was one last thing I needed for Inga. Or two, actually. I realized Inga’s part was really all about the boobs, so the next day I went in to the audition wearing a bra stuffed with socks. People pay over five thousand dollars for a boob job today. Mine cost under five dollars at Woolworth’s, and got me the part, my biggest to date. I was thrilled. I’d been chosen by one of the best. My career was finally in motion. I got to thinking that I should have stuffed my bra with socks for every audition."

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Kiss Me Like a Stranger: My Search for Love and Art

By Gene Wilder

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"In this personal book from the star of many beloved and classic film comedies -- from The Producers to Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory -- Gene Wilder writes about a side of his life the public hasn't seen on the screen. Kiss Me Like a Stranger is not an autobiography in the usual sense of the word, and it's certainly not another celebrity 'tell-all.' Instead, Wilder has chosen to write about resonant moments in his life, events that led him to an understanding of the art of acting, and -- more important -- to an understanding of how to give love to and receive love from a woman. Wilder writes compellingly about the creative process on stage and screen, and divulges moments from life on the sets of some of the most iconic movies of our time. In this book, he talks about everything from his experiences in psychoanalysis to why he got into acting and later comedy (his first goal was to be a Shakespearean actor), and how a Midwestern childhood with a sick mother changed him. Wilder explains why he became an actor and writer, and about the funny, wonderful movies he made with Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Richard Pryor, and Harrison Ford, among many others. He candidly reveals his failures in love, and writes about the overwhelming experience of marrying comedienne Gilda Radner, as well as what finally had to happen for him to make a true and lasting commitment to another woman."

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Zombie Spaceship Wasteland by Patton Oswalt

Zombie Spaceship Wasteland by Patton Oswalt

Not all stand-up comedians can translate their live energy and timing into textual representation. For Patton Oswalt, however, the transition from stage to page feels effortless and strangely appropriate. In Zombie Spaceship Wasteland, Oswalt treats us to an engaging romp through a motley assortment of his personal experiences, pop-culture obsessions, and comedic experiments. Oswalt introduces the book with a very appropriate confession: “Comedy and terror and autobiography and comics and literature – they’re all the same thing. To me.” And, for once, he isn’t joking.

Zombie Spaceship Wasteland is extremely eclectic, which makes it difficult to relegate to a singular category.  There are sections that lean towards the autobiography/memoir side of the spectrum. But there are also humor pieces and miscellaneous experiments, such as an illustrated chapter that feels like a slightly zanier, compressed version of Dylan Dog. There is also an epic poem dedicated to Ulvaak, the last character Oswalt played in Dungeons and Dragons. While the sheer variety of Zombie’s vignettes might seem overwhelming, the book is actually compulsively readable. I found myself eagerly turning the pages, wondering what Oswalt’s fevered brain would churn out next.

Comedy at the Edge: How Stand-up in the 1970s Changed America

By Richard Zoglin

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"In the rock-and-roll 1970s, a new breed of comic, inspired by the fearless Lenny Bruce, made telling jokes an art form. Innovative comedians like George Carlin, Richard Pryor, and Robert Klein, and, later, Steve Martin, Albert Brooks, Robin Williams, and Andy Kaufman, tore through the country and became as big as rock stars in an era when Saturday Night Live was the apotheosis of cool and the Improv, Catch a Rising Star, and the Comedy Store were the hottest clubs around.

"In Comedy at the Edge, Richard Zoglin gives a backstage view of the time, when a group of brilliant, iconoclastic comedians ruled the world--and quite possibly changed it, too. Based on extensive interviews with club owners, agents, producers--and with unprecedented and unlimited access to the players themselves-- Comedy at the Edge is a no-holdsbarred, behind-the-scenes look at one of the most influential and tumultuous decades in American popular culture."

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