Book List, Genre Feature, Staff Post

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

While the months of the “new normal” drag on, I find myself seeking out the media that brings me joy and happiness and I’ve discovered a few things about myself in the process. I had no idea I had such a penchant for celebrity memoirs, and I’m a bit obsessed with British humor and Saturday Night Live (this one less surprising). I’m often asked at the store when recommending a celebrity book if the celebrity in question can actually write, and I realized that the best memoir writers are the ones who are actual comedy writers, with the exception of As You Wish at the end of the list.

So if you’re looking for a book that will cheer you up when “you’re feeling in the dumps, don’t be silly chumps. Just purse your lips and whistle, that’s the thing! And… always look on the bright side of life!”

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life by Eric Idle

Every time I look at Always Look on the Bright Side of Life I want to start whistling the song. Except I can’t whistle. Monty Python alum Eric Idle’s memoir is a highly entertaining trip into the annuls of who’s who of British comedy and rock and roll in the late ’60s through the ’80s (George Harrison was his BFF). The behind the scenes look at the Pythons is priceless, and Eric himself reads the audiobook which is also wonderful!

From the ingenious comic performer, founding member of Monty Python, and creator of Spamalot, comes an absurdly funny memoir of unparalleled wit and heartfelt candor.
We know him best for his unforgettable roles on Monty Python—from the Flying Circus to The Meaning of Life. Now, Eric Idle reflects on the meaning of his own life in this entertaining memoir that takes us on a remarkable journey from his childhood in an austere boarding school through his successful career in comedy, television, theater, and film. Coming of age as a writer and comedian during the Sixties and Seventies, Eric stumbled into the crossroads of the cultural revolution and found himself rubbing shoulders with the likes of George Harrison, David Bowie, and Robin Williams, all of whom became dear lifelong friends. With anecdotes sprinkled throughout involving other close friends and luminaries such as Mike Nichols, Mick Jagger, Steve Martin, Paul Simon, Lorne Michaels, and many more, as well as John Cleese and the Pythons themselves, Eric captures a time of tremendous creative output with equal parts hilarity and heart. In Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, named for the song he wrote for Life of Brian and which has since become the number one song played at funerals in the UK, he shares the highlights of his life and career with the kind of offbeat humor that has delighted audiences for five decades. The year 2019 marks the fiftieth anniversary of The Pythons, and Eric is marking the occasion with this hilarious memoir chock full of behind-the-scenes stories from a high-flying life featuring everyone from Princess Leia to Queen Elizabeth.

A Very Punchable Face by Colin Jost

I actually laughed out loud twice in the prologue. I don’t remember the last time I actually laughed out loud while reading, and the laughs kept coming the further I got into the book. As an AVID SNL fan (it’s been my way of dealing with grief in the past few years) and political/news junkie, I’ve read every book by an SNL alum that I can get my hands on with Bossypants, up until now, being my favorite. And Tina’s from Philly, I didn’t think she’d be succeeded by, well, her successor at SNL. Huh. Probably should have seen it coming really. Anyway, Colin’s hysterical both on screen and in book form. His ability to mock himself is unparalleled and I eagerly anticipate every episode of SNL and try to pick out which sketches he wrote. I look forward to putting his memoir into not only the hands of Tina & Amy fans, but Nick Offerman and Eric Idle fans as well. What a great display all those titles would make together… 

If there’s one trait that makes someone well suited to comedy, it’s being able to take a punch—metaphorically and, occasionally, physically. 
From growing up in a family of firefighters on Staten Island to commuting three hours a day to high school and “seeing the sights” (like watching a Russian woman throw a stroller off the back of a ferry), to attending Harvard while Facebook was created, Jost shares how he has navigated the world like a slightly smarter Forrest Gump.
You’ll also discover things about Jost that will surprise and confuse you, like how Jimmy Buffett saved his life, how Czech teenagers attacked him with potato salad, how an insect laid eggs inside his legs, and how he competed in a twenty-five-man match at WrestleMania (and almost won). You’ll go behind the scenes at SNL and Weekend Update (where he’s written some of the most memorable sketches and jokes of the past fifteen years). And you’ll experience the life of a touring stand-up comedian—from performing in rural college cafeterias at noon to opening for Dave Chappelle at Radio City Music Hall.
For every accomplishment (hosting the Emmys), there is a setback (hosting the Emmys). And for every absurd moment (watching paramedics give CPR to a raccoon), there is an honest, emotional one (recounting his mother’s experience on the scene of the Twin Towers’ collapse on 9/11). Told with a healthy dose of self-deprecation, A Very Punchable Face reveals the brilliant mind behind some of the dumbest sketches on television, and lays bare the heart and humor of a hardworking guy—with a face you can’t help but want to punch.

Bossypants by Tina Fey

I started watching SNL seriously in college, in the prime days of Tina & Amy, and I immediately fell in love with the show, their friendship, and Tina’s humor. I felt as though I could relate to her every-woman life and knowing that she is from the Philly area, I felt an even greater connection to her. Her collection of stories and essays is humorous and witty, and the audiobook, read by her, is also a great listen – my mom and I listened to it on a road trip to Montreal.

Before Liz Lemon, before “Weekend Update,” before “Sarah Palin,” Tina Fey was just a young girl with a dream: a recurring stress dream that she was being chased through a local airport by her middle-school gym teacher. She also had a dream that one day she would be a comedian on TV.
She has seen both these dreams come true.
At last, Tina Fey’s story can be told. From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon — from the beginning of this paragraph to this final sentence.
Tina Fey reveals all, and proves what we’ve always suspected: you’re no one until someone calls you bossy.
Includes Special, Never-Before-Solicited Opinions on Breastfeeding, Princesses, Photoshop, the Electoral Process, and Italian Rum Cake!

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

Kaling’s essays are witty and insightful, so long as you understand that they are not serious suggestions or ruminations. There are a few deeper moments folded into the lighthearted content, but for the most part, even if it doesn’t make you laugh, it will still bring a smile to your face.

In Why Not Me?, Kaling shares insightful, deeply personal stories about falling in love at work, seeking new friendships in lonely places, attempting to be the first person in history to lose weight without any behavior modification whatsoever, and believing that you have a place in Hollywood when you’re constantly reminded that no one looks like you.
In “How to Look Spectacular: A Starlet’s Confessions,” Kaling gives her tongue-in-cheek secrets for surefire on-camera beauty, (“Your natural hair color may be appropriate for your skin tone, but this isn’t the land of appropriate–this is Hollywood, baby. Out here, a dark-skinned woman’s traditional hair color is honey blonde.”) “Player” tells the story of Kaling being seduced and dumped by a female friend in L.A. (“I had been replaced by a younger model. And now they had matching bangs.”) In “Unlikely Leading Lady,” she muses on America’s fixation with the weight of actresses, (“Most women we see onscreen are either so thin that they’re walking clavicles or so huge that their only scenes involve them breaking furniture.”) And in “Soup Snakes,” Kaling spills some secrets on her relationship with her ex-boyfriend and close friend, B.J. Novak (“I will freely admit: my relationship with B.J. Novak is weird as hell.”)
Mindy turns the anxieties, the glamour, and the celebrations of her second coming-of-age into a laugh-out-loud funny collection of essays that anyone who’s ever been at a turning point in their life or career can relate to. And those who’ve never been at a turning point can skip to the parts where she talks about meeting Bradley Cooper.

Iliza Shlesinger

If you haven’t seen or heard of Iliza, allow me to introduce her to you. She is a stand-up comic (but so much more!) and she won Last Comic Standing – the youngest and first woman to ever do so. Her honest and confident approach to life make her a role model for all young women, as well as her peers. And she freely admits that she doesn’t have everything sorted out – that her life is still a work in progress and her success is not a measuring stick for others’. The topics she covers in Girl Logic stem from the female-centered topics of her stand-up and focuses on three primary relationships: the relationship with have with ourselves, with other women, and with men.

From breakout stand-up comedian Iliza Shlesinger comes a subversively funny collection of essays and observations on the secret genius of irrational behavior.
Have you ever been pissed because you’re not pretty enough, and then gotten even more pissed that someone didn’t find you as pretty as you think you are? Have you ever obsessed over the size of your thighs while eating dessert, all the while saying you’ll work out extra tomorrow? Or spent endless hours wondering why you have to bear the brunt of other people’s insecurities? I mean, after all, I’m pretty great. Why cope with insecurities I don’t already have?
That last one’s just me? All right, then.
But if the rest sounds familiar, you are experiencing Girl Logic: a characteristically female way of thinking that appears contradictory and circuitous but is actually a complicated and highly evolved way of looking at the world. You end up considering every repercussion of every choice (about dating, career, clothes, lunch) before making a move toward what you really want. And why do we attempt these mental hurdles? Well, that’s what this book is all about.
The fact is, whether you’re obsessing over his last text or the most important meeting of your career, your Girl Logic serves a purpose: It helps push you, question what you want, and clarify what will make you a happier, better person. Girl Logic can be every confident woman’s secret weapon, and this book shows you how to wield it.

Tall Tales & Wee Stories by Billy Connolly

I first saw Billy Connolly as a wee bairn watching Muppet Treasure Island over and over again. In high school, it was Boondock Saints, and after college, I loved watching him break character in Eric Idle’s What About Dick. His stories in Tall Tales and Wee Stories had me laughing out loud so hard I was crying. It’s the perfect collection for lovers of British comedy and in particular, the Scots unique brand of irreverence. 

In December 2018, after 50-years of belly-laughs, energy, outrage and enjoyment, Billy Connolly announced his retirement from stand-up comedy. It had been an extraordinary career.
When he first started out in the late Sixties, Billy played the banjo in the folk clubs of Glasgow. Between songs, he would improvise a bit, telling anecdotes from the Clyde shipyard where he worked. In the process, he made all kinds of discoveries about what audiences found funny, from his own exaggerated body movements to the power of speaking explicitly about sex. He began to understand the craft of great storytelling too. Soon, the songs became shorter and the monologues longer, and Billy quickly became recognized as one of the most exciting comedians of his generation.
Billy’s routines always felt spontaneous. He improvised, embellished and digressed as he went: a two-minute anecdote could become a 20-minute routine by the next night of a tour. And he brought a beautiful sense of the absurd to his shows as he riffed on holidays, alcohol, the crucifixion, or naked bungee jumping.
But Billy’s comedy could be laced with anger too. He hated pretentiousness and called out hypocrisy where ever he saw it. He loved to shock, and his startling appearance gave him license to say anything he damn well pleased about sex, politics or religion. It was only because he was so likable that he got away with it. Billy had the popular touch. His comedy spanned generations and different social tribes in a way that few others have ever managed.
Tall Tales and Wee Stories brings together the very best of Billy’s storytelling for the first time and features his most famous routines including, The Last Supper, Jojoba Shampoo, Incontinence Pants and Shouting at Wildebeest. With an introduction and original illustrations by Billy throughout, it is an inspirational, energetic and riotously funny read, and a fitting celebration of one of the greatest ever comedians.

Paddle Your Own Canoe by Nick Offerman

There are a lot of rich white dudes who say things about masculinity and women that are toxic and misogynistic. Nick Offerman, thank goodness, is not one of those men. His advice is practical and reasonable and boils down to “be a good person, don’t be an asshole,” words we can all strive to live by. But overall, I would say Paddle Your Own Canoe is about on par with Mindy Kaling’s Why Not Me as far as parts memoir, humor and life advice.

Parks and Recreation actor and Making It co-host Nick Offerman shares his humorous fulminations on life, manliness, meat, and much more in this New York Times bestseller.
Growing a perfect moustache, grilling red meat, wooing a woman—who better to deliver this tutelage than the always charming, always manly Nick Offerman, best known as Parks and Recreation’s Ron Swanson?  Combining his trademark comic voice and very real expertise in woodworking—he runs his own woodshop—Paddle Your Own Canoe features tales from Offerman’s childhood in small-town Minooka, Illinois—“I grew up literally in the middle of a cornfield”—to his theater days in Chicago, beginnings as a carpenter/actor and the hilarious and magnificent seduction of his now-wife Megan Mullally.   It also offers hard-bitten battle strategies in the arenas of manliness, love, style, religion, woodworking, and outdoor recreation, among many other savory entrees.
A mix of amusing anecdotes, opinionated lessons and rants, sprinkled with offbeat gaiety, Paddle Your Own Canoe will not only tickle readers pink but may also rouse them to put down their smart phones, study a few sycamore leaves, and maybe even hand craft (and paddle) their own canoes.

As You Wish by Cary Elwes

Written in collaborative with his Princess Bride costars, As You Wish makes me love the movie and the cast even more. The fact that 30 years after the movie was released, the cast are still in regular contact and still get on well enough to all contribute to the book is an absolute delightful thing to witness. The way the different cast members memories are woven together is pitch perfect for the movie and you often feel like you’re on set with Cary, Robin, Mandy and the others as the narrative moves forward. If you have any sort of love or enjoyment of the film, I wholeheartedly recommend reading As You Wish.

From actor Cary Elwes, who played the iconic role of Westley in The Princess Bride, comes the New York Times bestselling account and behind-the-scenes look at the making of the cult classic film filled with never-before-told stories, exclusive photographs, and interviews with costars Robin Wright, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, and Mandy Patinkin, as well as author and screenwriter William Goldman, producer Norman Lear, and director Rob Reiner.
The Princess Bride has been a family favorite for close to three decades. Ranked by the American Film Institute as one of the top 100 Greatest Love Stories and by the Writers Guild of America as one of the top 100 screenplays of all time, The Princess Bride will continue to resonate with audiences for years to come.
Cary Elwes was inspired to share his memories and give fans an unprecedented look into the creation of the film while participating in the twenty-fifth anniversary cast reunion. In As You Wish he has created an enchanting experience; in addition to never-before seen photos and interviews with his fellow cast mates, there are plenty of set secrets and backstage stories.
With a foreword by Rob Reiner and a limited edition original poster by acclaimed artist Shepard Fairey, As You Wish is a must-have for all fans of this beloved film.

Tomorrow we’ll be sharing the latest adult Indie Next List!

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