Stand up comedy books worth reading

Here are a few books about stand-up comedy that I’ve personally read and found useful or at least interesting. If you’ve got any suggestions, leave them in the comments.

Off the Mic, Deborah Frances-White & Marsha Shandur

Probably one of the most informative books on the art of stand-up that I’ve read. The authors have interviewed an interesting collection of successful acts from the UK and America to get their thoughts on writing and performing stand-up comedy.

How I Escaped my Certain Fate, Stewart Lee

Stewart Lee has written a few books about stand-up, but I think this is probably the most useful for a newbie looking for useful insight.  As well as charting Lee’s career path and providing an inside look at the mechanics of the comedy business, the book provides transcripts of three of his shows with detailed notes on his creative thinking. If you want to learn from the masters, this is a good place to start.

This is Not Fame, Doug Stanhope

A strong contender for the title of ultimate comedian’s comedian, Doug Stanhope is the archetypal road-comic. This book recounts his experiences of over 25 years of touring comedy clubs across America and around the world. But it’s not just the tales of debauchery you’d expect, there’s also a lot of insight into the art of stand-up, even though the author himself argues that most stand-up advice is worthless.

Born Standing Up, Steve Martin

Before he was a Hollywood star, Steve Martin was one of America’s most successful stand-up comics. This biography focuses on his stand-up career, from his early days as an open mic act to the heights of fame that led him to the big screen. Compared to the other books here, this feels a bit dated, from a different time, but there’s still a lot to learn from one of the founding fathers of modern stand-up.

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