Getting weird looks for laughing in public: a list of my favorite memoirs by funny women

by zoeibarker

If you enjoy a good book and a good laugh, the kind that gets you looks from strangers when reading in public – this is for you!

In the past seven or eight years I’ve gotten into reading books by female comedians, usually memoirs. Much like the list of thrillers from my last book post, this is a themed list of reviews.

As you may know, I read on the train during my commute every day. It’s about 40-45 minutes, twice a day, where I get to sit in the quiet car and read. The quiet car is the designated car on the Metra that doesn’t allow talking – in fact, the rare noisy passengers get death-stares from those too timid to say something or are strongly told off, shushed, or asked to leave by the brave defenders. It is almost always blissfully quiet and the perfect environment for reading.

I usually try to rotate my books by genre so I don’t get too bogged down by thrillers, fantasy, sci-fi or dystopian young adult series, and when I need a complete shift I like to pick up a funny book. Sometimes I can keep the giggles to myself, or it’s the kind of funny that’s like “ha!” in your head and not the out-loud kind of laughter. But sometimes a book will be so funny that my stomach will hurt from trying to stifle my chuckles. I’ll be on the verge of tears and need to take a breather to try and stop myself from snorting. Those are the books that are rated 5/5 – that I couldn’t read on the train.


I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley


If you have a short attention span or are frequently interrupted while reading, this is a great place to start. I Was Told There’d Be Cake is a series of short essays about the author’s experiences living in New York, starting out on her own, and some random thoughts and anecdotes that come together seamlessly. Not only is Sloane Crosley an excellent writer and immensely funny, she’s also intimate and indiscrete. She’s the voice inside your head when you’re obsessing over bits from your past, only slightly less self-deprecating and much wittier. I found it relatable, honest, and at times a little crude (in a good way). It’s refreshing and full of almost-in-tears laughter. Do not read in public.


Bossypants by Tina Fey


I feel like everyone read this when it came out in 2011, but in case you were living under a rock or were waiting until the hype died down and then never got around to it, I highly recommend picking up Bossypants. It’s exactly what you’d expect from Fey: a funny, off-kilter collection of stories from her life and career, sprinkled with a few touching moments and life lessons, observations and sincerity. Probably wouldn’t get kicked off the quiet car – has many very funny moments, but it’s safe to read in public.


Yes, Please by Amy Poehler


Looking for a similar vibe to her BFF’s memoir, I picked up Yes, Please as soon as it came out. I was slightly disappointed though, since it seemed like the whole book was about how hard it was to write the book. It felt a little unfinished and some of it was too meta, but learning about Amy’s life was so much fun. Usually I don’t like getting life advice directly from books, as it can make the author seem pretentious, but I didn’t mind it from Amy. She doesn’t brag or boast. She’s honest and genuine. One of my favorite bits was this: “You do it because the doing of it is the thing. The doing is the thing. The talking and worrying and thinking is not the thing.” Even though parts of it felt padded, there were enough bright spots to save it and it was still an enjoyable read. Safe to read in public, and I recommend picking it up.


Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson


Honestly, I didn’t know who Jenny Lawson, AKA The Bloggess, was before picking up this book, but after my mom recommended it and I skimmed the back cover, I knew I had to read it. I’m having trouble finding a way to describe how funny this book is or compare it to anything. Lawson’s life is pure comedy with steadying bits of humility. Her deadpan style and incomparable quirk left me nearly in tears throughout. I would have to stop reading to catch my breath from laughing too hard (this was when I was alone – I quickly learned not to take this book on the train otherwise I’d disturb the other passengers). I can’t recommend this book enough – it’s both very weird and very charming. Definitely get it if you’re in need of a good laugh. Read at home and try not to drink anything (for risk of it coming out of your nose).


The Bedwetter by Sarah Silverman


I’ve always been a fan of Sarah Silverman, but I understand that she can be a little too much for some people. I believe though, that this book would be enjoyable even for people who aren’t as into her brand of humor. She’s able to make fun of herself and reveal more serious aspects of her life, including her struggles with anxiety and depression. But she does it with honesty and class and without making you feel sorry for her. It has both highs and lows and is packed with candid memories, silly encounters and corresponding photos. I didn’t read this one in public coincidentally (I think it was over a summer or holiday break during college), but I’d be cautious since it has a lot of laughs.


Girl Walks Into a Bar by Rachel Dratch


Because I read Fey and Poehler’s books, I felt it was only right to read Dratch’s as well. It dives into her time at SNL, but is also sprinkled with early life and current stories. This book is short and entertaining, definitely on-par with others like it but with a more refreshing point of view. Not having known much about her going into it, I ended up not only feeling like I got to know Dratch, but also wanting to know more. It was interesting seeing her side of her career and how it compares to those of her peers. Feel free to read in public, but get ready to stifle a giggle here and there.


Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me by Mindy Kaling


I read the majority of Kaling’s book on a Megabus to Minneapolis to spend a week with my best friend Roz over winter break my junior year of college. Not known for being a quiet environment, it wouldn’t have mattered if I’d laughed aloud either way. Though humorous and fun, this book was not my favorite. I really liked the parts about her early life and family, but the bits where’s she’d jump into giving advice felt a little unwarranted. Compared to others, the book came off as kind of self-serving. I haven’t read her second book, but I’d hope it to be more grounded. Worth reading, but not life-changing.


Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick


Kendrick is charming and forthright in this short and sweet memoir. I found myself relating to her quite a bit, which made it even more enjoyable. I loved her insights into life as a celebrity and how she keeps herself steady, as well as her background in acting and how she rose to fame. It’s a fast read with really funny moments and good storytelling. Kendrick’s short, almost Mitch Hedberg-like one-liners and set-ups are flawless. I found myself laughing aloud often, so think twice before taking this book out and about.


Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham 


It’s hard to accurately summarize what the show Gilmore Girls means to me, so just know that it’s my favorite of all time and it’s my go-to comfort show. I watch at least part of an episode almost every single day (usually before bed), and have most of it memorized. Graham’s character had a huge impact on my life and while it’s nice that she’s similar to Lorelai in a lot of ways, I’m glad she’s also different and that both come out in her writing. I read Graham’s novel, Someday, Someday Maybe and really enjoyed it. It was well-written and fun. Since it was loosely based on her early life as an actress, I had some insight going into Talking As Fast As I Can. I’ve also read a lot of interviews with her over the years. But the most interesting parts were the things I didn’t know – like that she spent a large part of her childhood living on a houseboat and that she always dreamed of having her picture on the wall of the first theatre company she was part of. The best parts of the whole book (as a diehard Gilmore fan) though, were her reflections re-watching the series and the section from her diary during the filming of the Netflix reboot. Graham is witty and charming and gives fans exactly what they want. Safe to read in public and immensely enjoyable for fellow Stars Hollow residents.