Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
June 22, 2024

This past week, I have had celebrities’ books on the brain. Some of my favorite people in show biz have recently released books and done book signings.

B.J. Novak came to campus last week for the MSE Symposium and the HOP’s annual co-sponsorship. He told jokes, even tried some out on us and incorporated some stories from One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories in his stand up. This book of short stories was published earlier in the year and his stop in Baltimore was one of many. He also did a book signing after. Additionally, John Waters came to Barnes & Noble about a month ago to sign copies of his newest book Carsick. I was so happy to have met these two.

I am not the only one who noticed this influx in book signings recently. Comedienne Chelsea Peretti (Brooklyn Nine-Nine) tweeted that she would be doing a book signing after her live show “One of the Greats,” despite the fact that she had not written a book. People showed up with various books that were meaningful to them, and she signed them with messages like, “This is probably a beautiful book” and “fancy choice.”

Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl was released about a month ago, followed by recent releases in the past week: Martin Short’s I Must Say, My Life As a Humble Comedy Legend, Amy Poehler’s Yes Please, and comedy writer Megan Amram’s Science... For Her! which came out around the same time. While I have not had a chance to read these in full yet, there is a good chance that if I like their work, I will like their books.

Why is it that I can devour a book written by a celebrity hero of mine faster than anything else? For one thing, these celebrities are writing because the demand is there; they write the books for the fans.

It’s a sweet gig because they already have the star quality and because of this, landing a book deal is relatively easy. If they already write for a living, it makes sense to write a book. The only thing is that they accept this challenge with the notion that they will spend most of it talking about themselves. It becomes tricky to not come across as self-indulgent. This is where they can include whatever they want, be it life advice, like Amy Poehler did, funny pictures and anecdotes like Rachel Dratch did in Girl Walks into a Bar, or lists of things that interest the author, like Mindy Kaling did. In her book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), the first few chapters in the beginning talked about her childhood and how she got to where she was in her career, but then later chapters detailed Kaling’s favorite comedic moments in TV and film, just because she could. And all of this is exactly what I want to read — celebrities talking about what inspires them.

Another reason is that they name drop. This delves into our obsession with celebrities, especially ones we like, being friends with each other. Tina Fey devoted a chapter to Amy Poehler in Bossypants and, in turn, Poehler devoted one to Fey in Yes Please. We also especially want to hear about celebrities dating in real life. I am a fan of Nick Kroll, so I will definitely be interested in what Poehler, who is dating him, has to say about him.

Most of all, many of these authors have been very incisive and also candid. I don’t know if it is just because I tend to be drawn to books written by comedians, but many of the stories that they have included are so hilariously honest and ridiculous. Because of this, you feel like you are getting to know the author on a personal level. A perfect example is Dratch’s book where she recounts dating and run-ins with people who kind of recognize her in her post-Saturday Night Live years.

I love that all of the books listed above are completely different than the next. My favorite books are ones where the author details their beginnings and their career trajectories. I want to hear what happened to them on the road to stardom. I want to know what of these experiences has translated into their work, what makes these artists able to produce, what motivates them, what interests them. In the end, I am just a curious fan hoping to gain inspiration from them, and who happens to have a huge reading list ahead of her.

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