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Funny Audiobooks That Are Better Than Stand-Up Comedy

By Christopher Grillo

When life seems plagued by dark clouds, listening to a powerful comedic audiobook can lift spirits like nothing else. Ultimately, we laugh the loudest when the author tells their own humorous tale precisely as the words were contrived during the writing process — almost like experiencing a stand-up comedy special.

These hilarious audiobooks, narrated by their authors, take authenticity to another level, promising genuine chuckles with every listen.

Born Standing Up by Steve Martin, narrated by the author. 4 hours, 2 minutes.

Steve Martin came onto the comedy scene in the mid-70s and has been a renaissance man within the art form ever since — from stand-up and musical comedy to films and best-selling fiction.

In 1978, Martin was the biggest concert draw for comedy in history. Then, three years later, he quit. This sometimes hysterical, sometimes poetic, and always entertaining memoir is the story of “why I did stand-up and why I walked away.”

Steve Martin’s next project is the cartoon collection A Wealth of Pigeons, in collaboration with New Yorker cartoonist Harry Bliss. On sale November 2020.

The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish, narrated by the author. 6 hours, 29 minutes.

Tiffany Haddish has become something of a polyglot, conquering stand-up comedy and comedic acting and making it look easy. However, before her career in entertainment, she spent time in foster care and conquered such challenges as illiteracy, attending a nearly all-white high school, and the series of dead-end jobs that followed.

After listening to The Last Black Unicorn, it becomes clear that Haddish does not merely reflect on those times with satire, but rather satire got her through. The sadness of the author’s reality throughout adolescence bleeds through her underdog story but is almost entirely overshadowed by optimism and her comedic perspective.

I Can’t Make This Up: Life Lessons by Kevin Hart, narrated by the author. 11 hours, 15 minutes.

It’s rare to find someone who can be funny in the stadium, on the page, and in the audiobook recording studio. But Kevin Hart crosses boundaries from one medium to the next effortlessly. In this exceptional audiobook, listeners may even mistake Hart’s narration for a comedy album, with each story as part of a bit.

The subject matter is objectively gut-wrenching (growing up with a drug-addicted father, trying to escape beatings), but it is never presented as such. The takeaway is always positive for the author, helping readers understand how Hart has continued to defy immeasurable odds on a path towards the life he has built today: one in which he is the most successful comedian in the world.

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris, narrated by the author. 5 hours, 51 minutes.

At this point, it is actually hard to imagine a Sedaris audiobook read by anyone else, since so much of his writing centers around his own life and family stories. This is especially true of Me Talk Pretty One Day.

The heartfelt and witty book is Sedaris’ most widely known work, likely because it is one of his most linear memoirs. But beyond form, the collection highlights Sedaris’ respect for and mastery of comedy. The audio is just as deliberate and well-produced as the writing, and even features recordings from the author’s live readings.

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah, narrated by the author. 8 hours, 44 minutes.

South African-born comedian Trevor Noah is best described as the ultimate political satirist. So, it’s fitting that the title of his memoir refers to a law prohibiting the intermingling of white colonists and black natives — one of the many rules Noah’s bold mother chose to ignore throughout her righteous, courageous life when she becomes pregnant by a European man.

Though occasionally frightening, the stories embedded in Noah’s reflective essays are eye-opening, especially for American listeners, and absolutely hilarious.

To ease readers into eminent culture shock early in the book, Noah describes defecating into a newspaper to avoid using an outhouse shared by his extended family. When his blind grandma picks up the scent, she is convinced a demon has entered their home. The family burns Trevor’s poop in front of the house, and the entire community gathers to watch the evil spirit as it is cast off.

Life will be the Death of Me by Chelsea Handler, narrated by the author. 5 hours, 25 minutes.

In Life will be the Death of Me, Chelsea Handler tells the story of the year that she broke free of her privilege, became more self-sufficient, and started therapy to work through a childhood marked by the loss of her brother, the emotional abandonment by her parents, and the recent death of her father.

It’s another comedic work driven by the objectively unfunny things that happen to people. However, the thing that sets this memoir apart is that Handler’s starts smack in the middle of her already illustrious career and is a story of rediscovery, relying on the author’s legendary brand of funny to hold the whole narrative together.

A healthy fixation with Special Counsel Robert Mueller and an ayahuasca trip are just a taste of what’s in store for readers of this thrillingly honest, insightful, and deeply, darkly funny memoir.

Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern, narrated by the Sean Schemmel. 3 hours, 8 minutes.

We all have an impression of our fathers. Some of us may even have old school, curmudgeonly dads like author Justin Halpern. But there are few retellings of fatherly wisdom as poignant and funny as those that Halpern weaves through his book Sh*t My Dad Says.

Halpern describes going through a breakup and moving back home to live with his then 73-year-old dad at the age of 28. The tough love begins immediately and reminds the author of his father’s many tidbits that have stuck with him over the years. The listener is then cast down a rabbit hole of memories, each marked by a line of fatherly advice that reads more like R-rated Yogi Berra quotes. The book is a heart-warming, relatable, and joyful listen.  

Based on a True Story by Norm Macdonald, narrated by the author. 7 hours, 18 minutes.

The ironic title of this book is just the tip of the comedic iceberg for Macdonald’s memoir. The book follows the stand-up comic, actor, and writer from the farms of Canada to Star Search to Saturday Night Live‘s Weekend Update and beyond.

Based on a True Story is a collection of life moments that could easily fit into entirely separate genres. Still, it is Macdonald’s storytelling that gives these pages their unique, unforgettable identity. Littered with comedic bits and the author’s absurdist take on classic Hollywood folklore, this book will quickly remind listeners why Norm Macdonald is so revered in the comedy realm.

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