Top 10 Funny Books: Ian Moore
The funniest books of all time chosen by one of the funniest authors
Top 10 Funny Books brought to you by comedian and bestselling author Ian Moore. Want to find the funniest books of all time? Who better to suggest than one brilliantly funny comedian who has successfully translated laughter from the stage to the page.
Twenty-six years I’ve spent as a stand-up comedian.
I have performed all over the world, in cities, tiny villages, war zones, on boats, on beaches and one time, in a hotel suite in front of seven Harley-Davidson executives. It wasn’t the only gig I’ve done that felt more like a hostage situation. I’ve played to royalty, politicians, powerful CEOs, criminals, footballers, nurses, Freemasons, and an entire audience in Bahrain that spoke no English at all.
The fact that I have kept that going for twenty-six years means that you would think I’d know something about ‘funny’. Now, what I have also learned in half a century of wider experience is that ‘nobody knows nothing’, especially when it comes to comedy.
‘Nobody know nothing’, especially when it comes to comedy
It is that most subjective of things, and there can be absolutely no universal agreement, so don’t let anyone tell you that something is empirically funny and that if you don’t agree you are simply wrong and boneheaded. This goes for stand-up, screen comedy, TV and film, and theatre.
In my opinion, it’s even more so for books.
You imbibe the humour in books differently, you read the words, you re-read the words (repetition and scrutiny are the death knell for humour) and then you can take your time to decide whether it is funny or not.
You might not agree with my personal list of Top 10 funny books
Or, it hits you immediately on a gut level and you just can’t help yourself and that is an incredibly difficult thing to achieve with prose.
What I’m saying is, you might not agree with my personal list of Top 10 funny books – and that is your absolute right – because frankly five minutes after writing this, I will probably have changed my mind anyway.
Ian Moore’s Top 10 Funny Books
1. The Code of the Woosters
P. G. Wodehouse
Everybody starts a list like this by cutting off dissenters at the pass and saying ‘in no particular order’… and that is true for this list of Top 10 funny books, except for the number one spot.
P. G. Wodehouse is utterly peerless in the art of comic writing. Anything before him wasn’t as good, and anything after him owes him at least a passing nod if not an enormous debt of gratitude.
The Code of The Woosters is the very best of a quite phenomenal output, and if you don’t agree you are simply wrong and boneheaded.
2. Wishful Drinking
The late Carrie Fisher’s autobiography is one of the rawest, most heartfelt and honest memoirs I have ever read.
It is also the funniest and therefore sits confidently in spot number two of my Top 10 funny books. She talks about her life constantly teetering on the edge of sanity and addiction and often falling over that edge. Fisher pulls absolutely no punches at all and does so with an acerbic, self-deprecating humour that at times will have you wincing, then laughing and then shaking your head in admiration.
It is brutally funny and drops so many names it’s like an A-Z of pop culture.
3. The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4
Along with Douglas Adams, the modern comic writing behemoth.
I was 12 years old, I read it and two things struck me. First, Adrian is a bit of a berk and secondly, how is this woman in my head?!
As with Carrie Fisher the humour comes through excruciating situations and the human response to them. Knowing that that human is basically you is very painful indeed, but absolute comic genius.
4. The Thin Man
I’ve always loved the The Thin Man film series, William Powell and Myrna Loy firing snappy dialogue at each other. They are timeless although the first one was made fully eighty-six years ago.
What I didn’t know was how much of that dialogue was lifted directly from Hammett’s book. I thought it was a Hollywood-ized version of a more hardboiled noir. It isn’t.
All the fun and humour are in the original and yet the mystery is top notch too. This has to be an absolute basic of ‘comedy’ thriller writing: it must work as a comedy on its own and as a thriller on its own.
5. Catch 22
Humour doesn’t get much darker than this and yet while dealing with massive existential subjects like war, fear and greed Joseph Heller absolutely nails it.
This is a book peopled by grotesques in a grotesque world, all except Yossarian who tries to plead insanity to be sent home.
Only there’s the catch, only a sane man would claim insanity in a war… At times it’s a painful read, but also another work of comic genius that belongs in my Top 10 funny books list.
6. The Wimbledon Poisoner
I’ve tried to concoct this list from books as I remembered them. I haven’t gone back to re-read or do a load of research. I wanted it to be honest – books that made me laugh, that stay with you because of that.
Nigel Williams was my favourite author for a while. His novels, mostly set in London SW19 were brilliant portraits of apparent suburban mundanity but with a wicked sense of humour and again great plots.
It left a big impression on me of what life I eventually wanted. Not to be a suburban murderer of course, but a comic writer. Then, he just stopped writing books and that’s a big shame.
7. Dangerous Davies: The Last Detective
Another one dredged up from the deep recesses of memory. It was another inspiration for me.
Comedy writing doesn’t have to be about big themes and grand thoughts, it’s about detail. Successful stage stand-up comedy largely is about observation, taking a detail that the audience knows all about and extending it, sometimes only slightly, and mining for the humour.
A run-down, bottom of the pile detective is perfect fodder for that.
8. Going Off Alarming
As I say, I have tried to do this from memory, but I think the specific incident I’m talking about is from Danny Baker’s second autobiographical instalment. It involves a caravan and kept me in laughter tears for a full week.
As I said earlier it is mighty difficult to create a laughing gut reaction in prose, but Baker does this ridiculously often through three volumes of his memoirs.
And if you think three volumes is putting on some side, read them. There is nothing wasted here – what a memory, what a life, what a storyteller.
There’s a connection here with Carrie Fisher in that Nora Ephron wrote When Harry Met Sally and Carrie was in that film.
This is a ‘fictional memoir’, but like Fisher’s it is brutally, honestly written and concerns the breakup of Ephron’s marriage to Carl Bernstein when she was pregnant.
In all my time as a stand-up there is a common complaint, and it comes frighteningly often from women, that women ‘just aren’t funny’. You really are wrong and boneheaded if you carry that around with you. This is wonderfully funny, moving, superb and thoroughly deserves a spot in the Top 10 funny books selection.
10. Me, Cheeta: The Autobiography
I didn’t know whether to love this or hate it when I first read it. It tramples all over my Golden Age Hollywood sacred ground.
This is written from the point of view of a chimpanzee, a lucky chimpanzee, wrenched from his mother in the jungle but who ends up in Hollywood playing in the Jonny Weismuller Tarzan films.
It is a wonderfully caustic view of entitled human behaviour that never drags.
Enjoy Ian Moore’s Top 10 Funny Books? Try out his bestselling Follet Valley murder mystery series set in rural France, perfect for fans of Richard Osman, Janice Hallett, or MC Beaton.
Death and Croissants
A Follet Valley Mystery (Book 1)
Richard is a middle-aged Englishman who runs a B&B in the fictional Val de Follet in the Loire Valley. Nothing ever happens to Richard, and really that’s the way he likes it.
One day, however, one of his older guests disappears, leaving behind a bloody handprint on the wallpaper. Another guest, the exotic Valérie, persuades a reluctant Richard to join her in investigating the disappearance.
Richard remains a dazed passenger in the case until things become really serious and someone murders Ava Gardner, one of his beloved hens… and you don’t mess with a fellow’s hens!
Death and Fromage
A Follet Valley Mystery (Book 2)
A scandal erupts in the nearby town of Saint-Sauver when its famous restaurant is downgraded from three ‘Michelin’ stars to two. The restaurant is shamed, the town is in shock and the leading goat’s cheese supplier drowns himself in one of his own pasteurisation tanks. Or does he?
Valérie d’Orçay, who is staying at the B&B while house-hunting in the area, isn’t convinced that it’s a suicide. Despite his misgivings, Richard is drawn into Valérie’s investigation, and finds himself becoming a major player.
Praise for the Follet Valley Mystery series
If you find reading comedy difficult, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t easy. You just haven’t found the right funny book for you. But what about writing comedy? We asked the author of the witty Mathematical Mystery series, Jonathan Pinnock.
We’ve selected twenty of the funniest books out there. Books that make you smile, snort, splutter, cackle, howl, guffaw, chuckle, chortle, roar, bust a gut, snigger, giggle, and have your sides splitting like never before.
How do you write a crime story? Commit a crime yourself, apparently! Well, that’s what award-winning author of eleven or so comic and satiric crime novels Bill Fitzhugh is saying.