My interest in audiobooks read by female writers themselves started with Anna Kendrick’s Scrappy Little Nobody. After a particularly frustrating week, a friend gifted me the audiobook on Audible and said “go for it.” What unfolded was a powerful young comedic (and sometimes serious) actress explaining her life not only in her own terms, but in her own voice. There is something truly powerful about a female comedian, and most of that has to do with the difficultly of even making a name for yourself in the world of comedy. It can take countless hours of standup gigs, small roles on quickly cancelled television shows, the occasional co-star role in a film, and even when a comedienne has finally made it, she’s subjected to constant scrutiny about her appearance and her decisions to either pursue or set aside the concept of marrying and starting a family. What these audiobooks provide us voices and inflections we might not otherwise hear when learning another’s story. Often, we miss the sarcasm and joking nature of a particular passage if we’re only reading it I’ve gathered a few lessons from these women and I’d love to share them with you.
One of the greatest gifts a woman can receive is another woman cheering her on and telling her she is on the right path. I found great comfort in Judy Greer’s I Don’t Know What You Know Me From. Greer has had roles in television shows like Archer and Arrested Development. She’s played the mom in Ant-man and also Jurassic World. She is usually cast as an awkward friend, a failed flirt, or more recently as a mother. In her real life, she is a stepmom learning to balance her career with two kids, a husband, and her husband’s extremely accomplished ex-wife. In her book, she doesn’t claim to have all the answers. In fact, she basically shares the message that she is doing the best she can and that it’s okay to learn from your mistakes. This is especially true when those mistakes involve not really being sure what you’re supposed to feed preteens or how to balance youth sporting events. You also see this in Bossypants from Tina Fey and Yes Please from Amy Pohler. It’s no secret that Pohler and Fey are good friends, and both take time out of their books to praise the important friendships between women and not shy away from the difficulties of trying to work and have a family. Too often (and I’ve been guilty of it in my younger days too) I hear young girls say they avoid female friendships because they are “too much drama” or “guys are easier to talk to.” If you ever want to see my face crumple, make sure I’m in earshot of one of these conversations. As I got older, I kept my male friendships but like Pohler and Fey discovered that often times another woman is the best person to talk about what you’re going through. Chances are she’s been through the same issue, or faced a similar situation. There is no shame in that female friend game, and comediennes are sharing the news.
The comedienne you listen to may have a very different life from your own, but they have many lessons to share with you. Though I haven’t really seen too much of the work of Tiffany Haddish, I was deeply impressed by her unflinching honesty in the book The Last Black Unicorn. Haddish grew up in Los Angeles and was in and out of foster homes after her step-father attempted to kill her mother to try and get some insurance money. She makes a point to show where she came from, what she went through, and how she kept moving herself forward. This meant often taking control of situations that were pretty awful. A great deal of this can also be see in Sarah Silverman’s The Bedwetter. Sarah Silverman’s comedy is not really my sort of thing, but I wanted to give the book a chance. Her descriptions of childhood embarrassment from bed wetting and her years of her mental healthcare being incorrectly handled by doctors is absolutely horrifying. Like Haddish, Silverman went through some serious life trauma and made it out the other side with a sense of humor. They took their life situations, turned them into comedy, and pulled themselves forward.
Your differences are what can make you great. Aisha Tyler’s Self-Inflicted Wounds is a hilarious account of her life growing up as a vegetarian, Sci-Fi loving, Buddhist of African American descent. Being the tallest girl, the only African American and vegetarian during her days in elementary school set her apart and taught her to have a strong sense of humor. Still, Tyler’s experiences and refusal to give up at standup gigs would lead to her doing regular shows and becoming the voice of Lana Kane on the animated show Archer. She delivers her story in devastatingly funny anecdotes that most women can relate to. Mindy Kahling talks about growing up with strict parents and a concern about being a very good girl in the book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me. She doesn’t shy away from the things that she loves and admits when she’s trying to sound cooler than she thinks she is. She even talks about how sometimes when we move away from what the most popular thing is, we can truly see what the most important things are.
These audiobooks also teach that the ability to laugh at your social skills or wardrobe malfunctions can make all the difference. One of the most interesting threads in all of the audiobooks I’ve listened to from actresses and comediennes is this: you will wear something that others will mutter about, and you can’t let that ruin your life or keep you from every leaving the house again. Aisha Tyler goes on for a long time about a particularly see-through dress that she still cringes over. Sarah Silverman talks about designing a blue dress for a red carpet that the brand actual took their label off of. Anna Kendrick discusses an outfit she and her stylist chose for a premiere and her utter embarrassment of being stared down by others. Oh, and there’s Tiffany Haddish being told by a fellow actress that to be taken seriously she’s got to start rocking a more expensive look if she wanted to get free gifts from designers. You can hear in their voices as these women tell their stories that they were embarrassed by the mutterings of paparazzi and fashion magazines, but came out stronger on the other side and laughing it off. All of these women still show up to red carpets, still have their pictures taken, and still stand up straight in the paparazzi, because what they’ve discovered is one fashion nightmare does not mean your life is ruined forever.
Audiobooks read by comediennes can help improve a day, teach us life lessons, and make us laugh. When you hear their words spoken aloud with their own inflection and their own nuances, it can drive the message a bit deeper and help it stick with us during our more difficult days. I am thankful for the honesty and being able to hear the stories in their own words.