This is a Book Review for The Comedy Bible: From Stand-up to Sitcom–The Comedy Writer’s Ultimate “How To” Guide by Judy Carter. You can also check out other book reviews on Humor That Works or see our recommendations in our Humor Resources.
Do you think you’re funny? Do you want to turn your sense of humor into a career? If the answer is yes, then Judy Carter’s The Comedy Bible is for you. The guru to aspiring stand-up comics provides the complete scoop on being — and writing — funny for money.
Pavarotti once said, “Learning music by reading about it is like making love by mail.” The same is true for comedy–the best way to get better at comedy (whether it be stand-up, sketch or other) is to get out there and do it. With that said, a book can help speed up the learning curve, so long as it’s the right one.
The Comedy Bible isn’t that book. Don’t get me wrong, Judy Carter does share some helpful information and the book will likely help the novice performer, it’s just not the first book (or second, or third, or …) I’d buy on the subject of comedy.
Not to be a Negative Nancy (apologies to any readers named Nancy), there are some pros of the book. If you are brand new to stand-up comedy, you will learn some of the basic terminology like setup, punch, and callback. It’s also written as if it were a workshop, leaving the reader to do exercises and activities which encourages the best way to get better at comedy: by doing it. Finally, it covers more than just writing comedy, giving a high-level view of the business and industry of comedy.
Now, to be a Negative Nancy (again, apologies), the book isn’t up to par with other books out there. Carter’s understanding of comedy seems misguided at some points (she suggests Bill Cosby tells jokes; far from it, he’s a storyteller who rarely has the traditional setups and punchlines of “jokes”). And for a book that includes Hack Attack Warnings, she presents a number of rules and ideas that would make someone a “hack.” To be fair, the book is from 2001 so it could be that in the last 10 years, comedy has evolved and the old “good” is the new “bad.”
My Favorite Part
To me, the most helpful tips come from the section headings of Funny Money. There’s nothing innovative about the tips, and they are pretty general, but they are the most helpful, including tips like: “Create a ton of material,” “Study other comics,” and “Highlight your persona.”
If you’re brand new to comedy, I’d skip this one until you’ve read something better. If you’ve already read a few books on stand-up and need some help writing material, skim the first part of the book and start in Part Two, forcing yourself to actually adhere to the timelines. If you are looking for more insight into the business side of things, jump straight into Part Three.
Rating (out of 5):