Chi-Town Comics Spill the Beans

A lot of funny people have passed through Chicago; some have stayed and some have moved to the other coasts. However, this post is about comedians who were born in Chicago and vicinity, most of whom also grew up and cut their comic teeth here. This is a collection of their autobiographical material.

Bob Newhart was born and raised in Austin, but his family always claimed to be from Oak Park because it was classier. In I Shouldn't Even Be Doing This, Newhart tells mostly funny stories from his life and career, and throws in some of his best-loved routines, such as the Driving Instructor and Abraham Lincoln. While this translates well to the page, I recommend the audiobook for maximum comic effect.

Jim Gaffigan has written two anecdotal books: Dad Is Fat and Food, A Love Story. Dad is Fat originated from Gaffigan's tweets about raising five kids in a two-bedroom New York apartment. Food deals with what made Gaffigan's career: rhapsodizing about comestibles, particularly the unhealthy kind. Barrington native Gaffigan's G-rated humor makes his material appropriate for everyone.

Bill Murray was born in Evanston, raised in Wilmette, and writes about what he's doing when not working in Cinderella Story: My Life in Golf. Being a caddy on a public golf course as a young man taught him life lessons he carries with him on the pro-am circuit and in the rest of his life as well. Just as funny as everything else he does, Murray's book is accessible to sportsmen and laypeople alike.

Jack Benny came from Chicago, and towards the end of his life started an autobiography, completed by his daughter, Joan: Sunday Nights at Seven. Comprised mostly of anecdotes from the golden ages of radio and television, it shows off Benny's bighearted view of the world.

Finally, let us remember the ladies: Chicago native Kathy Griffin has made a living out of being on the outside. Her first book, Official Book Club Selection, explains, among other things, how family dinnertime can be training for stand-up (though it won't keep you from bombing when you first try to do it professionally) her obsession with Oprah, and why speaking your mind can come back to haunt you.  Kathy Griffin's Celebrity Run-ins recently came out, and it's pretty much what it says it is: an A-Z compendium of anyone remotely famous that Griffin has encountered. Of course, this being Griffin, the anecdotes are hilarious.

Know other comedians from Chicagoland? Don't be shy: tell us about them in the comments section below.

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