Best Books For Aspiring Comedians
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If you want to learn comedy from the best, one of the smartest places to start is with And Here's The Kicker by Mike Sacks, which is a collection of 21 in-depth interviews with some of the best living humor writers around, from Dave Barry to Allison Silverman, to Jack Handey. These interviews are filled with delightful anecdotes that will thrill anyone interested in comedy history, but at the same time they dive deep into matters of craft, from famous comedians' writing processes, to what some of our greatest minds think laughter is all about.
The other required memoir for comedy writers is Tina Fey's Bossypants, which follows the 30 Rock comedian from her childhood to her head writing role at SNL. One of the things that makes the book so great is that it's about comedy, but it also contains a huge number of jokes, too, so you can learn about comedy life while also watching one of our best living comedians at work.
Stand-ups shouldn't just read about stand-up comedy. Comic novels can help you learn tons about joke writing, character, comedic situations, and pacing. One of the best writers to learn from is P.G. Wodehouse, who wrote the timeless series about Wooster and his very patient valet Jeeves. All of the books in the series are extremely funny and fun and fast-moving, but my favorite is The Code of the Woosters. Reading any of the books can help you get into the right mood and mindset to write your own original material. At the very worst, even if you don't get inspired, you get to take in humor from one of the all-time greats.
From probably the most famous and successful comedy nerd out there comes a very big and long book of interviews with famous comedians: Sick In The Head. Like Mike Sacks' books, they offer mountains of advice, ideas, and theories from the people we look up to most, intertwined with stories from their lives and careers. These interviews can be seriously inspiring in moments when you feel like giving up, and they can be hugely insightful if you're stuck on a project or suffering from writer's block.
The Comedians is a pretty straightforward history of comedy in the United States, from roughly 1900 on. In 350 pages, author Kliph Nesteroff takes us from Vaudeville to SNL, offering all of the biggest stories and events from the very best comedians. It's a great overview of how comedy developed over the last hundred years, and a good map to see where we might go next. It's not quite as engaging as the other comedy histories I listed, and at times it feels like a parade of straight white men (which... well, it often was, but that doesn't mean you can't cover other stuff). This is a great reference (it has a wonderful index) and a great way to discover notable comedians of the past that you might not be familiar with.
Whether you want to write comedy, or are a pop-culture nerd, this is a must-read among comedy writing books. NPR voted it one of the best books of the year in 2014. How about a no-pressure quote like this to get you started:
LH: The best thing about cartooning for me is the simpler, the better. All you need is one distinguishing feature. All of my characters look practically identical, except the one that represents me has dark hair, in all my books.
As I read the book, I began taking notes because of all the insights that Martin shares about his life in comedy. Those insights contain valuable lessons, not only for aspiring comedians, but also for anyone who wants to speak well in public.
Many comedians view performing as a skill that can only be learned through experience. That is far from the case. A Bachelor of Fine Arts in Drama can help aspiring comedians learn the skills needed to better mastery over their bodies and voices to help elevate their comedic performance.
A Bachelor of Fine Arts in Advertising is a fantastic option for aspiring comedians. It teaches many relevant skills to a comedy career while also preparing students for a viable career path right out of school. Students in a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Advertising will learn how to communicate clearly and effectively with an audience. This skill is integral to standup comedy.
A Bachelor of Arts in Literature is also another great degree option for aspiring comedians as an English degree. A Bachelor of Arts in Literature introduces students to various world literature while developing their understanding of different literary theories. Through exposure to different world literature, students will develop a greater appreciation and understanding of language and writing.
Another outside-the-box pick, a Bachelor of Entrepreneurship, is another great option for aspiring comedians. A major part of a career in standup comedy is running your own successful small business. Comedians have to manage their finances, market, and promote themselves, all while developing their act.
Now Jerry uses his experience and joke-writing skills to teach other aspiring comedians and humor writers how to write jokes and how to become a comedian who can generate material on a daily basis in this very competitive but very rewarding business.
Jerry spent many years working with and studying the best comedians and why they get laughs. He has met with top comedy writers and developed a deep understanding of the fundamentals of comedy and what triggers human laughter. He has broken down the art of comedy into a science. You can find it all in his book Breaking Comedy's D.N.A., which has been called the "best book on understanding comedy out there!"
Usually, comedians will write a joke that gets the main idea of the joke across to the audience and test it out. From there, they repeatedly revise and test their joke out until they find the best way of writing and delivering a line. Many comedians do this 20, 30, or 50 times before settling on the final form of the joke.
Networking is the #1 marketing strategy in stand-up comedy. Every one of your paid gigs is going to be as a result of who you know. A fellow comedian will enjoy your set on an open mic and invite you to perform on a showcase or a paid gig. A recommendation can get you in the door of a comedy club much faster than the best promo video. Network with fellow comedians. Then use your network.
Zombie by Joyce Carol Oates is a disturbing look into the mind of a serial killer. Loosely based on serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer's notorious life and murders, Quentin P. is a young man struggling to come to terms with his disintegrating mental state as he succumbs to his urges and a psychopathic blood-lust. I recommend this book not because it is one of Oates's best books, but because it is one of her most interesting in the way it manages to capture such a realistic portrayal of the workings of a psychopathic mind. Unique, disturbing and thought-provoking, and well worth a read if you like SK novels.
A virtual comedy show is great for remote teams, distanced family gatherings, and virtual happy hours. From Summit Comedy to the StandUp4 Experience, here is a list of the best virtual comedy shows and virtual comedians.
Like most careers in the entertainment industry, comedy is hard to break into. The rewards for success can be so great, though, that hordes of aspiring comedians keep on trying year after year. In fact, the top 15 comedians in the world are worth so much that we think we should give a career in comedy a shot.
Some comedians practice in front of a mirror; others say that won't work, that you need a live audience, even if it's only one person. The bottom line is that practice is essential, and honing your material in a workout room is the best practice of all. There's no substitute for stage time. Will the nerves ever go away? Nope. Will you gain confidence and presence? Absolutely.
Adam Cayton-Holland started in stand-up comedy by attending open mics at Denver dive bars in 2003. In 2006, Cayton-Holland competed against nearly 200 other aspiring comedians for Comedy Works' New Talent showcase, and won.
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I had to add one of my own books at the end here. This book is a compilation of years of information gathered from experts through interviews for The Premed Years podcast and my experience doing mock interviews for premeds. It has consistently been the best medical school interview book on Amazon. 2b1af7f3a8