5 Lady Comic Memoirs, Ranked (Spoiler: #1 Is Not “Bossypants”)

July 17, 2014

There’s a lot to look forward to this fall, like crunchy leaves and pumpkin everything and not being so hot you want to die, but there’s one thing that stands out: I’m talking about a book. But not just any book — it’s a book by AMY POEHLER. And it’s her memoir! It’s called Yes Please, and it’s coming out on October 28th, thus making Halloween only the second coolest thing to happen that week.

(Lena Dunham also has a memoir being published in the fall, Not That Kind Of Girl, out on September 30th. It’s also exciting but like, not as exciting as Amy’s.)

I know that it’s only mid-July and late October is in fact a long ways away. So in the meantime, I’ve read and analyzed five lady comic memoirs that already exist, and ranked them here. (I’m not trying to be judgmental — I love them all — I’m just trying to keep myself busy while I wait for Poehler to break out the big guns.)
Please note that in this ranking, I’ve prioritized genuine honesty and wisdom over laugh-out-loud humor. Truth is a trend in comedy these days — think Louis CK’s albums and Tig Notaro’s viral special “Live.” Both comedians hit such a nerve because they talk about genuine tragedy and find the comedy within it. This is comedy evolved, and I’ve awarded these five memoirs accordingly.


#5: The Bedwetter by Sarah Silverman

Sarah Silverman’s memoir came out in 2010, so it gets some points for originality since it didn’t just hop on theBossypants bandwagon. Other than that, though, it doesn’t have a ton to say for itself. Sarah spends many chapters on her difficult New Hampshire childhood, which included (spoiler) chronic bedwetting. As she then goes on to her career as a comedian, she devotes a lot of time to defending various bits that made people mad (like when she trashed Brittany Spears at the 2007 VMAs right after Brittany had that really brutal “comeback” performance … with the bikini … you remember). It’s interesting to hear about Sarah’s year as a writer on “SNL,” and her work on “The Sarah Silverman Program,” but, like in the stand up she’s known for, she just never comes across as likable. Being unlikable works better in a comedy act than it does in a memoir.


#4: Girl Walks Into A Bar by Rachel Dratch

Aww Rachel Dratch. I wish this were a longer list so that this book could be higher up on it, because it’s a really sweet one. While she does talk about her years at Second City and on “SNL”, the focus isn’t her career. Ultimately, it’s about trying to find love in New York City and how much of a nightmare that is, and then about the ways that life can surprise you. Case in point: Dratch became pregnant by accident at age 44.

There’s some underlying bitterness in this book, because um, I think we would all be bitter if we were only offered parts as weird-looking, troll-like lesbians. But mostly it’s an amusing look at the life of someone who seems pretty awesome, so I can get down with that.


#3: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling

This book is obviously hilarious. I’m sure you know that already, and if you don’t, what’s up? From Mindy’s childhood in a Boston suburb to her post-college days as a production assistant on a TV psychic show, all the way to “The Office” and right up to just pre-”The Mindy Project,” it’s an awesome and laugh-out-loud in a friendly way kind of ride. If you follow Mindy on Twitter or Instagram (and if you don’t, again, what’s up?), then you know that it’s easy to feel like you know her and she’s your best friend. That feeling is all over this book, which is written in a voice that is half straight up Mindy Kaling, and half her alter ego, Mindy Lahiri (i.e., at her funeral she would like people to look “chic devastated”). It’s the best.


#2: Bossypants by Tina Fey

I assume you also already know that this book is hilarious and incredible. After destroying every bestseller list in 2011, it essentially spawned the two books I just talked about. It made the female comic memoir hip, and it’s easy to see why.

Tina talks about her childhood theater camp days, her time at Second City, her years at “SNL,” and, of course, at ”30 Rock.” She offers spot-on observations of New York City women in a nail salon, and wisely advises that you don’t ever go on a cruise. All excellent stuff.

But as with Mindy, I do have one criticism, which is that Tina also never lets us know her. For example, what’s her relationship with her husband like? It’s unclear. But we can forgive her, because the book is gold.

BONUS: While reading Bossypants on the page is a great time, listening to the audio version, which Tina herself reads, is even better. Just do it.


#1: I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron

I knew right away that I’d  have to give Nora Ephron top billing. And it’s not because her book is quite as LOL-inducing as Tina’s or Mindy’s (although it is really funny). It’s because this book is genuinely wise.

As the title suggests, I Feel Bad About My Neck is aimed at older women (I first discovered it on the shelf at my elderly aunt’s house). But really women of all ages (I’m almost 30) should be the ones to read this. It’s full of amazing observations and advice like:

  • “All stories about love begin with a certain amount of rationalization.”
  • “Love may not be homesickness, but homesickness is most definitely love.”
  • “If anyone young is reading this, go, right this minute, put on a bikini, and don’t take it off until you’re thirty-four.”

This book came out in 2006, and Nora died six years later. It feels lucky that she left these observations behind. Reading this is like receiving wisdom from your mom’s best friend who always takes you out for drinks. It’s a lot of things that the previous memoirs I’ve mentioned are — funny, insightful about career, a picture of life in New York — but it transcends the others by being deeply personal. This is the good stuff.

Re-live the list on The Frisky.

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