Sit Down with Stand-Ups

My colleagues inform me that March is the official month of mirth, a more depressing concept I truly cannot think of. Despite my enormous reservations with such a frivolously joyful demarcation (what next, Cake and Presents Day?!?), I resign myself to acknowledging such trivialities in my role of public servant.

So here we are. Mirth. Laughs. Jollies. Chortles and/or guffaws. Who better to administer a professional prescription of glee than stand-up comedians? It seems like two decades ago the apex of a comedian’s career was landing an eponymous sitcom on broadcast television. Since the sitcom is now a relic of simpler times the only recourse for gagsters appears to be quill and parchment. 

The funniest nail in the sitcom coffin has got to be Larry David’s HBO comedy series Curb Your Enthusiasm. Two of the show’s side-splittingly hilarious co-stars, Susie Essman and Jeff Garlin released books recently. Ms. Essman’s What Would Susie Say? takes its tone from the foul-mouthed, outspoken housewife she plays on the show and runs full tilt with it. She also reminisces on her career and the struggles inherent in being one of the only female comedians on the stand-up scene of the 1980s.

Mr. Garlin’s book My Footprint: Carrying the Weight of the World is a double-sided memoir, chronicling Jeff’s attempts to both lose weight and lower his carbon footprint. It is an unflinching portrait of a man who is all too aware of his eating addiction and the difficult struggle to overcome it. Plus, jokes!

Ribald raconteur Sarah Silverman’s The Bedwetter is a well-written and frank tale of the comedienne’s life, including her early years of depression and her rise to prominence on the stand-up scene. Special guest appearance by a naked Louis C.K.

The most recent example of this literary trend is Ratatouille star Patton Oswalt’s Zombie Spaceship Wasteland, a delightful mixture of personal history, comics and short stories infused with Mr. Oswalt’s perspicacious view on everything from Dungeons and Dragons to R.E.M.

And finally, if one is interested in the actual craft of honing jokes, playing to drunken tourists and putting an arrow through one’s head, the best book on the subject is art critic Steve Martin’s memoir, Born Standing Up.

                                   ~Michael S, University Branch

2 thoughts on “Sit Down with Stand-Ups”

  1. You are right about the contrived nature of the ‘Month of Mirth’, but we did do a book display about it at CAP–and the books moved pretty well. We emptied our collection out of the mirthful titles, incl. J titles, and have moved on to ‘Joy Spring’ which not only can go beyond March, but can mean whatever we want it to. Mirth is, after all, one thing and one thing only….

  2. I really loved Bedwetter (much better than David Cross’s recent title – plus she stabs Al Franken in the head with a pencil) and am looking very much forward to reading Patton Oswalt’s book. Folks who enjoy these might check out Chris Elliott’s fiction, and Russell Brand’s Booky Wooks I and II.

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