The summer is a good time to catch up on some reading, and I have come up with a short list of books all about making it in the world of comedy that I think you would really enjoy inside in the air conditioning or outside in the sun.
So if the summer movies disappoint, here some book that won’t.
- Stay Hungry
by Sebastian ManiscalcoI love books like this one by Sebastian Maniscalco, which tells the story of a kid growing up in Chicago’s northwest suburbs who becomes one of the most popular touring stand-up comedians today. He is so successful he has been included in Forbes’s list of “The World’s Highest Paid Comedians.” He regularly sells out huge concert-sized venues, yet he is still not a household name. In this book, he takes us on his journey from growing up Italian in Chicago to moving to LA in his 20s to pursue his dream, and then becoming the success he is today. Along the way he shares with us the ups and downs on the often bumpy and unpredictable road of show business. I especially liked the parts where he is honest about his failures, and he has the ability to share the lessons he learned from his mistakes. He gives practical advice to anyone who is interested in pursuing comedy, and you can’t help but be inspired by his incredible work ethic.
- Just The Funny Parts… And A Few Hard Truths About Sneaking into the Hollywood Boy’s Club
by Nell ScovellIf you want to write for TV, this is a must read. For 30 years, Nell Scovell wrote for such memorable shows as The Simpsons, Late Night With David Letterman, Murphy Brown and more, and she created the show Sabrina The Teenage Witch.In this book, she takes you behind the scenes on the sets of many of these memorable shows and shares the good, bad and ugly that is writing for television. She also shares her experience about the David Letterman sex scandal, which broke in 2009, and talks about what happens when she publicly spoke out about the lack of women writers on the late night talk shows.
Scovell is a terrific storyteller – funny, vulnerable and brave. She is candid with her readers about her struggles breaking into the male-dominated business and gives us a glimpse of some of the bad behavior she experienced. What I particularly liked was how comfortable she was in sharing with us her insecurities and how brutally honest she was about the disappointments and the egos that come along with working in television. Yet she also shares how rewarding working in television can be. I really enjoyed reading it and could not put it down. I loved how passionate Scovell is about what she does, and I also appreciated that she was giving it to us straight, which made it a fantastic read.
- Letterman: The Last Giant of Late Night
By Jason ZinomanIn the ’80s and early ’90s, I was a huge fan of David Letterman’s old NBC show. It seemed like everyone that I knew in comedy looked up to him. He was a comedy god. Zinoman does a great job of deconstructing that god and taking him off the pedestal a bit. Zinoman lets the reader know who Letterman really is, which as a fan is a little disappointing but not at all surprising. You get the sense that Letterman is a pretty self-hating and unhappy guy amidst all his success. Not only does Zinoman capture the personality of the host, but also he chronicles the evolution of his show from the its early days at NBC to its days at CBS, including his sex scandal. I loved all the back stage stuff and was surprised to learn how much Merrill Markoe, a former head writer on the show and Letterman’s former girlfriend, was responsible for developing the voice of the NBC show.