What Are the Best Comedy Writing Books? Top 6

Do you like making people laugh out loud as a stand-up comedian, or writing short stories or scripts for TV shows? Read our list of best comedy writing books. 

Comedy writing is about more than joke writing and wordplay. The best comedians and humor writers take real-life situations and show us the kicker; the punchline. For stand-up comedy and sitcoms, it’s often about taking the mundane and making it hilarious, like Jerry Seinfeld.

Sometimes, it’s just realizing that we’re all living in that daily improv show called Life. Regardless of what kind of comedy writing you’re trying to achieve, at least one of these 6 comedy writing books is sure to help you get funnier.

So, do you want to know what are some of the best books on writing stand-up comedy jokes? Or, what are some of the great books about humor or comedy writing?

You’ll find the crème de la crème here, with helpful links, so you can go get it on your Amazon Kindle or in your hands and start brainstorming. 

1. The Comedy Bible by Judy Carter: Best Step-by-Step Guide Comedy Writers

The Comedy Bible by Judy Carter

This is a fabulous place to start, whether you want to break into sitcoms, write for The Onion, wow ‘em at open-mic night or become the next big stand-up comedian in New York or Los Angeles. Judy Carter’s The Comedy Bible takes you through the everyday comedy writing process, how to construct a stand-up routine and how to write your first script. 

It’s loaded with comic advice from the greats, practice exercises and checklists to help you reach your goals. There are even a lot of great tips for creating your personal comedy brand and landing gigs.

What’s not to love about learning how to get paid for joke writing and making people laugh? Take a look at one of the quotes from the book, and you’ll see some of that comedy wisdom shine through: 

“When a singer sings, he acts out his feelings. Good comics don’t simply tell jokes, they act them out with a very specific emotional attitude. Attitude is the heartbeat of an act. Material cannot be emotionally neutral. Your subject matter has to disgust you, pain you, thrill you because audiences don’t respond to words, they respond to feelings.”

Judy Carter
The NEW Comedy Bible: The Ultimate Guide to Writing and Performing Stand-Up Comedy
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Carter, Judy (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 294 Pages - 01/26/2020 (Publication Date) - Indie Books International (Publisher)

2. Born Standing Up by Steve Martin: The Life Story of a Stand-Up Comedian

Born Standing Up

If you have your mind set on breaking into a stand-up comedy club, there’s nothing like a good book written by an actual stand-up legend like Steve Martin. Born Standing Up takes you through his journey, which wasn’t always the stage slapstick, crazy improvisation, one liners and Hollywood moments most of us remember. 

In this comedy memoir, Martin looks back on his life making people laugh and shows how much work and persistence goes into the craft, and how it can almost be an otherworldly experience in the moment. Whether you’re a fan or not, it’s a great read on the craft of stand-up and how much work actually goes into it, as illustrated by this quote from the book: 

“I did stand-up comedy for 18 years. Ten of those years were spent learning, four years were spent refining, and four years were spent in wild success. I was seeking comic originality, and fame fell on me as a byproduct. The course was more plodding than heroic.”

Steve Martin
Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Martin, Steve (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 226 Pages - 11/20/2007 (Publication Date) - Scribner (Publisher)

3. Comedy Writing Secrets by Mark Shatz and Mel Helitzer: Best Book About How to Write Funny and Get Paid for It

Comedy Writing Secrets

One thing you’ll learn from Comedy Writing Secrets from Mark Shatz and Mel Helitzer is that humor writing is serious business. One of the strengths of the book is that it shows you how to “see” the humor in everyday situations that you may not have looked at as funny before.

Once you learn how to think like a comedian and how to use some of the joke writing and one-liner structures taught in this book, your writing will get funnier. 

Another helpful aspect of this book is that it shows you ways to break into the business as a humor writer, which can be very difficult on a normal day. Every bit of advice helps.

Those are some of the most useful comedy writing secrets if you’re serious about getting a paycheck for a punchline. A quote to get you started brainstorming: 

“The first part, the setup, sets the stage. The second half, the punchline, provides an unexpected ending. It’s the surprising conclusion that causes laughter.”

Mark Shatz And Mel Helitzer
Comedy Writing Secrets: The Best-Selling Guide to Writing Funny and Getting Paid for It
  • Shatz, Mark (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 240 Pages - 03/18/2016 (Publication Date) - Writer's Digest Books (Publisher)

4. Poking a Dead Frog: Conversations with Today’s Top Comedy Writers by Mike Sacks

Poking a Dead Frog

For insight from today’s funniest writers and comedians, look no further than Mike Sacks’ Poking a Dead Frog. Making people laugh out loud may seem like a mystery, and to some extent, it is a mystery within all of us.

Learn some behind-the-scenes secrets from legends like Amy Poehler, Adam McKay, Bill Hader, George Saunders, Mel Brooks, and many others. 

You’ll get to see what it’s like working at The Onion, how a sketch rises to the level of Saturday Night Live status, and insights to one of the most ground-breaking sketch comedy show ever: Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

Whether you want to write comedy, or are a pop-culture nerd, this is a must-read among comedy writing books. NPR voted it one of the best books of the year in 2014. How about a no-pressure quote like this to get you started: 

“Part of success is just starting something, working toward a goal, and then living long enough to achieve it.”

“Part of success is just starting something, working toward a goal, and then living long enough to achieve it.”

Mike Sacks
Poking a Dead Frog: Conversations with Today’s Top Comedy Writers
  • Sacks, Mike (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 480 Pages - 06/24/2014 (Publication Date) - Penguin Publishing Group (Publisher)

5. Sick in the Head by Judd Apatow: Inspiration for Getting Funnier

Sick in the Head

Speaking of a classic comedy nerd, if you’re just looking for inspiration to keep going in a very demanding comedy writing career, starting your own comedy podcast, or getting to your next open mic, Sick in the Head by Judd Apatow provides a huge list of interviews with some of comedy’s best names.

Replete with examples of the pros learning how to get unstuck and overcome writer’s block, you’re sure to find the inspiration you need to wake up and laugh another day here. Here’s a snippet of a conversation between Apatow and Jerry Seinfeld from the book: 

Jerry: I think anyone should do whatever they like. I don’t think there should be any rules. Judd: As long as it gets laughs? Jerry: If it doesn’t get laughs, you’re not gonna get work, and you’re not gonna be a comedian. So the audience ultimately decides. It’s a very democratic system.” 

Judd Apatow
Sick in the Head: Conversations About Life and Comedy
  • Apatow, Judd (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 576 Pages - 05/31/2016 (Publication Date) - Random House Trade Paperbacks (Publisher)

6. The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse

The Code of the Woosters

If you want to write funny, be funny and make stand-up funny, you need to read the comedy classics. For learning about comic setups, situations, characters, pacing and zinging one liners, it’s hard to beat P.G. Wodehouse’s classic Jeeves and Wooster books.

Code of the Woosters is just one to check out; all the books in the series are a pure joy to read and can get your brain in the right place for comedy writing inspiration. 

And Wodehouse reminds us that when in doubt, just add pants: 

Wooster: “There are moments, Jeeves, when one asks oneself, ‘Do trousers matter?’” Jeeves: “The mood will pass, sir.”

P.G. Wodehouse
The Code of the Woosters (1)
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • P. Wodehouse (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 263 Pages - 04/30/2020 (Publication Date) - Aegitas (Publisher)

Final Word on The Best Comedy Writing Books for Making People Laugh Out Loud

Sure, there are hundreds of books about stand-up comedy, joke writing, script writing and the like. And the ones mentioned here are certainly some of the most helpful books on comedy writing, improvisation, breaking into the business and learning how to be a funnier person in general. 

But one thing they all have in common is to tell you this: Work hard. Don’t give up. Keep your eyes open. When all else fails, go get a massage or something. Comedy inspiration ebbs and flows, and you can’t have the flow without the ebb. 

FAQs on the Best Comedy Writing Books

What are some of the best books on writing standup comedy jokes?

Judy Carter’s The Comedy Bible and Comedy Writing Secrets from Mark Shatz and Mel Helitzer are great places to start with the basics of writing stand-up comedy jokes that land well with the audience. 

What are some good books on writing comedy scripts?

Again, a good place to start with formatting is The Comedy Bible by Judy Carter. It makes sense to check out Mike Sacks’ Poking a Dead Frog and Sick in the Head by Judd Apatow to get some ideas and learn about what pros in the business are doing.

  • Bryan Collins is the owner of Become a Writer Today. He's an author from Ireland who helps writers build authority and earn a living from their creative work. He's also a former Forbes columnist and his work has appeared in publications like Lifehacker and Fast Company.