Everybody knows a hardcore comedy fan. That person who has a Simpsons quote for every occasion, or who can discuss and recommend comedy albums the way a music person can key you in to a band you’ve never heard of. There’s so much comedy out there to consume, from movies to TV to standup, but books are just as robust a medium. Here are some fantastic comedy and humor books from the past year that any comedy nerd would love to be gifted, and also which will make you seem pretty cool for giving them. Win win. “It’s in the hole!”
Young Frankenstein, by Mel Brooks
Mel Brooks is responsible for at least three of the top five comedy films of all time, and topping that list is Young Frankenstein. In this coffee table book, Brooks relates in tantalizing detail the process of how his classic spook of classic monster movies was conceived, produced, and received. (In short, it was the idea of dearly departed star Gene Wilder to make a movie about the grandson of Dr. Frankenstein, a legitimate scientist who can’t but help to reanimate live tissue in an old castle. He took it to Brooks, who took it to studios, who somehow let him do it in black and white.) Actors, designers, and other people involved in the film add in their two cents (along with a forward by comedy icon Judd Apatow), which weave around script excerpts and never before seen set photos.
Never Flirt with Puppy Killers: And Other Better Book Titles, by Dan Wilbur
This is a great gift for the really smart comedy fan on your list—the well-read one. Actually, any voracious reader would get a kick out of this. Comedian/author Wilbur takes well recognized covers of well known books and photoshops them so that they have the titles they ought to have: funny ones that are way more accurate, a little dark, and which give away the plot. (The title, for example, is a sendup of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. And The Picture of Dorian Gray makes much more sense with Wilbur’s suggested title: Never Stab a Magic Painting.)
Carry This Book, by Abbi Jacobson
Jacobson is one half of the duo that created and stars in Broad City, one of the freshest and hippest TV comedies of the past few years. Jacobson is also a trained graphic designer (the show’s credits are based on her illustrations), and here she combines her skills of gentle comedy and doing art. In Carry This Book, Jacobson probes one of the most intimate things about humanity: what they carry around in their purses and messenger bags. Jacobson hilariously draws what might be (and probably is) inside the bags of real people (Hillary Clinton, Blue Ivy), as well as fictional characters (Batman, Barbie).
Choose Your Own Misery: The Office, by Mike MacDonald and Jilly Gagnon
The problem with those old Choose Your Own Adventure books is that they don’t carry the same allure they did when you were a kid. This is a loving sendup and expansion, but taking the scenarios away from mystical caves, alien worlds, and dark forests and into the realm of the ridiculously mundane: life in an office. Choose Your Own Misery makes real, boring life an adventure, what with how to handle awful bosses, and just how to approach that tedious paperwork. It’s all far more relatable, and thus more hilarious, than some friendly alien inviting you onto his UFO.
Hardcover $21.21 | $22.95
Almost Completely Baxter: New and Selected Blurtings, by Glen Baxter
Glen Baxter has been working as a singular single-panel cartoonist for more than 30 years. He was ahead of his time then, and he’s ahead of his time now. In an aesthetically lovely hardbound-in-orange collection, the New York Review of Books purports to collect, as the title suggests, as much of his work as possible, particularly his recent work. “Blurtings” is probably the best way to describe it, but nothing can really describe the work of Glen Baxter. He combines art with that would’ve be out of place in an early 20th century children’s adventure novel with captions that you would not and could not ever anticipate. “It was at Chaundley Camp that I first learned to set fire to my kneecaps,” for example, or “Permission to moisturize, sir?”
Hardcover $23.40 | $26.00
Seinfeldia: How a Show About Nothing Changed Everything, by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong
This is not your usual book about the history of a TV show. Your beloved comedy nerd probably knows everything there is to know about “the show about nothing” already, as the cast and creators have discussed the creation and development of Seinfeld plenty of times already. Seinfeld was special because it was a show about minutia. While other sitcoms of the ’90s went broad and warm, Seinfeld went small and strange. For example, one of Armstrong’s subjects is the woman who posed for the movie poster on the fake Seinfeld movie Rochelle, Rochelle. Now that is some fan service.
What are you getting for the comedy nerd in your life?