It’s no secret that the comedy scenes in Britain and America are two very different beasts. As an American, my first thought about ‘British comedy’ is the old reruns of One Foot in the Grave that used to air on public television. But in the here-and-now, the landscape of British ‘funny’ looks very different. Stand-up is mainstream in a way that it just isn’t in America. Comedians seem to be everywhere, they permeate your everyday life. Your favorite funny person probably moonlights as a radio DJ, a game show host, or a children’s book author.
But regardless of anything else, a great comedian is a great storyteller. They take you on a journey, sculpting the narrative flow and choosing specific words for maximum impact. So really, hearing a comedian recount their life story is something worth paying attention to. The tales of personal sacrifice, chance encounters, and witty observation usually make for a great road trip or commute companion.
Here are a few recent autobiographies, read by the authors, that give a little glimpse of what the world looks like according to British comedians.
British Comedian Audiobooks
Windswept and Interesting – Billy Connolly
At its heart, this book is a treatise on the meaning of life, a swear-heavy philosophy constructed by someone who truly embodies the definition of ‘windswept and interesting.’ Born in a Glasgow tenement, Connolly came to comedy via a successful folk music career, which is fascinating on its own. However, one of the most poignant aspects of this book is knowing that the author is reflecting on this ‘life well lived’ while living with Parkinson’s disease.
The author has a comforting Scottish lilt that makes this audiobook special. You can hear the simple melodies of his childhood and the punctuated emotion behind his life experience. This book is great on a road trip, like a travel companion with a deep reservoir of interesting stories to keep you entertained.
Listen to Windswept & Interesting on Audible.com.
Perfect Sound Whatever – James Acaster
This memoir is told through the lens of music. To anyone that connects music to periods of their life, this thoughtful and introspective framework will feel fitting. And Acaster’s ability to take the reader through the winding woods of a story only to bring it right back to a 2016 album release (with laser-sharp wit) is incredibly satisfying.
One of the most striking aspects of this book, aside from the use of an albums-as-storytelling frame, is how Acaster talks about his struggles with mental health. The value of hearing about men’s mental health journeys is huge. And while the musical context may be unfamiliar to some, the stories will be familiar to anyone who has ever said “I’m fine” when it couldn’t have been further from the truth.
Listen to Perfect Sound Whatever on Audible.com.
Who Am I, Again? – Lenny Henry
Henry’s autobiography is a testament to his past self, suggesting that he wrote it about ‘someone I used to know.’ The author takes you on a journey from his early life, steeped in the culture of his Jamaican roots through his early career. Listening to this, you get the benefit of hearing Henry’s lighthearted impressions of his family that are so much a part of him.
This honest look at British society during this time reveals a lot about identity in the shadow of the Windrush era (when people from Caribbean islands emigrated to the United Kingdom at the invitation of the British government). Henry reflects on the tension of feeling ‘not black enough’ alongside the institutional prejudice that underscored his early career.
Listen to Who Am I, Again? on Audible.com.
What’s your favorite audiobook from a British comedian? Let us know in the comments below!