This week saw the release of Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir), by internet-famous comedienne Jenny Lawson, whose tagline is “Like Mother Teresa, Only Better.” Well, we don’t think we’re quite ready to give an opinion on that, but the release of Lawson’s hilarious memoir got us thinking about how much we love a good true-to-life rib-cracking tale. In truth, many of the most successful memoirs are funny, if only because the trials and tribulations of any human life always tend to have a little bit of absurdity to them, and because any good memoir cuts the pain a little bit with a joke or two. But these go above and beyond the usual wry self-deprecation, and are guaranteed to have you giggling to yourself long into the night. Click through to read our list of the funniest memoirs we could think of, and be sure to suggest your own favorites in the comments.
Snarky and winking and completely irresistible, if Lawson’s spastic prose doesn’t win your heart in a page or two, you might be totally boring. As Neil Gaiman wrote, “The Bloggess writes stuff that actually is laugh-out-loud, but you know that really you shouldn’t be laughing and probably you’ll go to hell for laughing, so maybe you shouldn’t read it. That would be safer and wiser.” That said, we think you just might benefit from a walk on the wild side.
Auslander is referred to over and over again as Philip Roth’s much angrier heir, and the comparison is apt — Auslander is just as dirty and just as clever as the master, but perhaps even more rebellious. Ferociously, grimly, corrosively funny, the book is a no-holds-barred romp through Orthodox Judaism and back again.
We defer wholly to Ira Glass, who said of the memoir, “Fiction Ruined My Family had me laughing out loud, which I almost never do, with one jaw-dropping scene after another. On nearly every page there’ some sentence that’s so perfect, in an old-school Oscar Wilde/Dorothy Parker sort of way, that it made everything I’ve ever written or said seem like dull, drunken mumbling.” Not so, Ira! But we get the point.
In this book, Crisp tells of “brazening it out” as a gay man and an unwilling corporate drone in London during the 1920s and 1930s, recounting a series of misadventures in dry, witty prose. The title, if this gives any indication, refers to Crisp’s idea that being a nude art model is just like being a naked civil servant — just as boring and rote, at least. Filled with good-hearted snark and whip-smart observances, it shouldn’t be missed.
David Sedaris is the undisputed king of the comic memoir — Me Talk Pretty One Day could also have easily made this list — a talented storyteller with enough personal tics and absurdities to keep us entertained for days. Even more impressive is the fact that he relates some serious stuff — his childhood OCD, the death of his mother, his personal acceptance of his homosexuality — and manages to move the reader just as well as he tickles them.
Here’s something extra fun — a comic memoir in comic form! Sorry, we couldn’t help ourselves. In another writer’s hands, this story, of a young girl dealing with her own sexuality, the sexuality of her father, societal gender roles, suicide, and all the regular coming-of age stuff too, could have been a serious, heartwrenching tale alone. It is those things, but Bechdel’s openness and built in commentary (along, of course, with the form), make it also a funny, wonderful story of growing up.
Another indisputable mainstay of the comic memoir format, Burroughs’s writing is snarky, witty, and impossibly hilarious. Though Running With Scissors was the bigger hit, we like Dry, about his years as a New York ad man and raging alcoholic, somewhat better — it’s just as darkly funny and irrepressibly candid, but there’s even more of a perfectly sharp bite.
You may think that a 1953 memoir about a family’s life in rural Vermont might be boring, if charming in the daisy-picking way, but we assure you that coming from the author of classic horror stories The Lottery and The Haunting of Hill House, it is a merciless takedown (and celebration) of motherhood. After all, what could be more ridiculous than life with small children?
Adapted from her popular one-woman show, Princess Leia’s memoir is droll and infectiously self-deprecating, much more like the recent cameo she made on 30 Rock than like the stalwart heroine we remember. Her stories are fascinating and hilarious — George Lucas wouldn’t let her wear a bra because, in his world, there was no underwear in space — and her prose is charmingly intimate, like the coolest best friend you could ever imagine whispering secrets in your ear and then laughing out loud, bursting your eardrums.
How could we do a post about funny memoirs without including one of our favorite recent additions to the genre (and the proud bearer of one of the funniest memoir covers around), a book filled with Fey’s inordinately witty musings on the life of a mother, nerd, lady comedian, boss, and cake lover. If you like Fey’s sarcastic, self-deprecating style, you’ll laugh out loud the whole way through — and you might even learn something.