Speaking of Audiobooks: The Funny Ones

Anyone But YouRecently I found myself laughing out loud again and again as I listened to Susan Ericksen narrating Jennifer Crusie’s delightful Anyone But You. It’s a lightweight tale of a fortyish woman finding love with a thirtyish man and it was just so much fun.  Wanting to find more of the same, I began scanning my audio library for other truly funny audiobooks, thinking all along that funny romance audiobooks would make a great topic for the next Speaking of Audiobooks column.   I was greatly surprised to find fewer than a dozen in my rather respectfully large audio library and five of those were books by Susan Elizabeth Phillips.  Knowing I needed more funny book recommendations for such a column, I turned to a few of our regular posters and asked them to share their favorite funnies and what follows is a collective effort.  Interestingly, I discovered that a number of us share the opinion that there aren’t many truly funny romance audiobooks out there.  Let’s hope that opinion is erroneous indeed.

As I am unfamiliar with Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books, I was enthused to hear a strong recommendation from Katyco for not only one book but an entire series. “Anyone who hasn’t listened to the Stephanie Plum series is really missing a treat – especially the earlier ones.  C.J. Critt and Lorelei King both do a great job narrating although I slightly prefer C.J. Critt.”

Head Over Heels by Susan Andersen, according to GamaTST, is “Girl talk done right!” with priceless moments between best friends, Veronica and Marsilla as well as tough ex-marine Coop and a six-year-old girl.  Narrated by Anna Fields, GamaTST states “It is pure pleasure and laughter, way better than reading it yourself.

GamaTST also finds humor and at least one LOL moment in every J.D. Robb book.  “Generally, it’s a go round between Sommerset and Eve.  I had tears of mirth running down my face as I listened to Born in Death with Roarke and Eve at child birth classes; Eve throwing a baby shower; and then again with Eve and Roarke at the birth of Mavis’s baby. Some really funny stuff! Her humor nicely balances the heavier, grittier themes for me.”

Both GamaTST and I think Karen Marie Moning’s Kiss of the Highlander rates high in the humor category.  I’ve raved before about Phil Gigante’s narration of this sexy Highlander tale and I agree with GamaTST that it’s not safe to drive while listening to Drustan’s thoughts on those “torturous trews” (blue jeans) as he wonders about the size of modern men’s “carrots”.  Although Kiss of the Highlander is Book 4 in a series, it performs well as a stand-alone.

Can You Keep a SecretMarissaB doesn’t see funny as a mere twitching of the lips in amusement but rather as pausing to listen while taking the time to enjoy a good laugh.  Fitting her criteria for funny is Sophie Kinsella’s Can You Keep a Secret? with narrator Kate Reading.  “I saw myself and my daughters in Emma.  The episode on the plane, when she totally loses control of her mouth (and brain) due to her overwhelming fear of flying had me doubled over…There were many other such excruciating moments in the book, but they didn’t smother the romance, which was believable.  Kate Reading was excellent in this one.”

To Die For by Linda Howard is one of my favorites and quite hilarious as well.  Listening wasn’t as funny as reading the printed word since I had to wrap my mind around narrator Franette Liebow’s very southern accent.  Its sequel, Drop Dead Gorgeous, is entertaining fun as well and easier on the ears with narrator Joyce Bean.  Since both books, featuring the fearless Blair Mallory and extreme hunk Wyatt Bloodsworth, are perpetually reread worthy, I’ve learned to tolerate Liebow’s extreme accent and now enjoy both books in audio format.

Another of my favorites, Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Crusie serves up a great deal of laughter, regardless of its format.  When I choose to revisit this favorite yet again, it is usually in print rather than audio.  When I read Welcome to Temptation, I see it as one of the very funniest romances – period.  When I listen to the audio version (twice) narrated by Aasne Vigesaa, I see it as only fairly humorous.  I just don’t hear quite the same zing or attitude in Sophie and Phin’s verbal interaction as I do when reading the printed word.  Still, many love this audiobook and, I must admit, I know I’ll listen to it again one of these days.

Susan Elizabeth Phillips – A Category of Her Own

If there is a reigning queen in humorous romance audiobooks, that title clearly belongs to Susan Elizabeth Phillips (SEP).  Out of the eight readers who compiled this list of recommendations today, seven mentioned a SEP book as a favorite funny.  It should come as no surprise that the dynamic Anna Fields narrates all of SEP’s books mentioned today.  As Peggy P related, “First, I love all things read by Anna Fields – I swear she could’ve made the phone book funny just by reading it!”

Both katyco and GamaTST have high praise for Lady Be Good.  Katyco tells us “Anna Fields does a flawless job going back and forth between Emma’s British accent and Kenny’s drawl…” while GamaTST comments “…for true “laugh out loud” I think SEP takes the top prize. I often wonder what people who see me alone in my car laughing like a loon must think. Lady Be Good can do that to me every time as can Heaven, Texas.” And Diana agrees on Heaven, Texas as her funniest romance audiobook.

Peggy P recommends SEP’s Natural Born Charmer, “My absolute favorite funniest romance…In the first few chapters Dean pretends to be gay and Blue pretends to believe he’s gay and not know his identity when, in fact, she knows Dean’s a famous football star and hetero – some of those exchanges are just too good!  This is just a great listen.  It’s got funny, it’s got sad and it’s got serious…but I remember the funny the most.”

Lady Be GoodAlthough there are a number of SEP’s audiobooks that I consider to be laugh-out-loud quality, two of my favorites are It Had to Be You and Nobody’s Baby But Mine.  Phoebe and Dan from It Had to Be You are one of my favorite romance couples and rarely have I enjoyed wittier repartee between two protagonists – in print or audio.  In Nobody’s Baby But Mine, Cal and Jane engage in such a delightful battle of the wills, that at times, I was howling with laughter.

If we have one winner this go round based on the number of “best ever” funny romance audiobooks votes, it’s SEP’s Match Me if You Can.  Not only is this my top favorite funny but it is as well for fellow AAR staff members, Rachel Potter and LinnieGayl Kimmel.  My mini review in an earlier Speaking of Audiobooks column best sums up my thoughts: “Ms. Fields solidly delivers the first of many laugh-out-loud moments with her first words.  Her self-deprecating portrayal of Annabelle combined with her convincing depiction of Heath’s attitude fit perfectly in my mind…Overall this is one smashing audiobook success.”

LinnieGayl adds, Match Me If You Can is the best “funny” romance I’ve listened to.”

And finally, Rachel sums it up best for the three of us, “Pinnacle funny, though?  Match Me If You Can.

A Little Non-Romance

MarissaB and AAR’s Rachel Potter also offered a few recommendations for non-romance funnies.  MarissaB praises the 2nd – 6th books of the Amelia Peabody Series by Elizabeth Peters.  Set primarily in Egypt with Egyptologists for protagonists, she calls the series highly entertaining, especially considering the antics of their only child, Ramses.  “Barbara Rosenblat’s performance is outstanding and her voice for Ramses is just too perfect and precious.  Emerson’s gruff affection for and Ameila’s exasperation with their son comes through loud and clear.  A must listen.”

Rachel offers the following suggestions, I laughed a LOT listening to Lisa Lutz’s The Spellman Files (funny in both audio and print), The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (hilarious 11-year-old prodigy protagonist) by Alan Bradley, and most recently Superfreakonomics (Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner).  I kind of have a little girlcrush on Stephen J. Dubner who narrates his own writing here.”

Time for Your Thoughts

What are your funniest romance audiobooks?

Is there one particular author or narrator you rely on to deliver humorous audiobooks?

What is an audiobook that was funny when you read it in print but not so funny when heard in audio format?  Or have you listened to a romance audiobook you just knew was meant to be funny that didn’t deliver?

What are your latest romance audio successes or failures?

Ending Notes

Thanks goes to those regular Speaking of Audiobooks posters who contributed to today’s column – MarissaB, katyco, Peggy P, GamaTST, Diana, Rachel Potter and LinnieGayl Kimmel.  I enjoyed working with you.

If you are open to sharing your thoughts with me for future inclusion in one of our Speaking of Audiobooks columns, please email me through my AAR Meet Reviewer Lea Hensley page and provide an email address for easy contact.  I usually ask for input 1-2 weeks before publication of a column.

For those new to our Speaking of Audiobooks column, please check out our archives for many more recommendations of romance audiobooks.

I’ll see you again in a few weeks when we talk about January, 2010 new releases.  In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the holiday season.

- Lea Hensley

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14 Responses to “Speaking of Audiobooks: The Funny Ones”

  1. Sharon says:

    You have two of my very favorites listed here: Janet Evanovich and Jennifer Crusie. They are both wonderful with lots of LOL moments.

    I think that Thanks For the Memories by Cecelia Ahern would fit nicely into this company. It contained some very funny parts. I listened to and re listened to the scene where the main characters father had to go through security at the airport and was less than cooperative.

  2. Leslie says:

    I totally agree on the SEP books – Anna Fields does a great job capturing the nuances of the stories and the characters within.
    Although they are not traditional romances, Laurie King’s Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series are wonderful books and Jenny Sterlin – who does all of the audio – is one of the best audio artists out there; the combination is amazing and I have listened to all of the Russell/Holmes series several times (and they never get old). Although there is little overt romance in the books, Sterlin captures the emotional undercurrents early in the relationship and the deep passion that develops later. Love. Love. Love these audiobooks.
    Also, the Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane audiobooks (not the dramatizations) capture the dynamics of the relationship perfectly. I have listened to Gaudy Night and Busman’s Honeymoon multiple times.
    As to non-romance, the audio versions of PG Wodehouse’s works are wonderful pieces of brain candy that keep me going across I-80 in Iowa and Nebraska, even at the end of a long driving day.

  3. carrie says:

    I love listening to Georgette Heyer books on audio. They are almost all humorous, but one that always has me laughing out loud is The Talisman Ring. Eustacie’s desire for her lover to ride “ventre a terre” to her deathbed is a hoot. This book is filled with great characters and great lines. I’ve only found this on cassette at our library, but it’s worth hunting down.

  4. Nikki H says:

    Janet Evanovich, Jennifer Crusie, and Susan Elizabeth Phillips are all favorites, and Match Me If You Can has got to be the best. I also really like Linda Howard’s Blair Mallory books and Open Season and Mr. Perfect have some hilarious scenes in them, although I wouldn’t classify them as funny books.

  5. Ellie says:

    I totally agree with the Evanovich and SEP for listening pleasusre. But the best in any category is the Gabaldon Outlander series read by Davina Porter. Nothing can top that.

  6. Ellen AAR says:

    I have a stack of P.G. Wodehouse’s novels on CD and listen to them over and over again. I can’t listen to them as I walk, since people would look askance at a woman who bursts out laughing in a public space. They are the funniest books ever.

  7. carrie says:

    Oh Gosh, Ellen! I’d forgotten about Wodehouse! My dh and five kids used to listen to Wodehouse books on car trips. The books are guaranteed to get laugh-out-loud reactions from all ages.

  8. Sarah says:

    Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series is one of my absolute favorites!

  9. AshleyK says:

    I have to say that I especially enjoyed Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Crusie. Wonderful story!

  10. Katie Mack says:

    Head Over Heels is one of my favorite Susan Andersen books. When I read above that it’s not only available in audio format but narrated by The Anna Fields, I just about fell out of my chair with excitement. Only to discover that Audible doesn’t carry it. I am *so* writing a letter to customer service.

  11. Kaye says:

    Gosh – this is a timely topic! I am currently listening to Welcome to Temptation, and just ordered SEP’s Breathing Room from Audible. Not necessarily her funniest, but love the storyline. My only problem with the SEP audio books is that while I was listening to Ren ‘speak’ I was caught off guard thinking I was listening to Heath Campion. Sounded very similar.

    Another goodie I have downloaded lately from my library is ‘Savannah Blues’ by Mary Kay Andrews.

  12. Susan says:

    When I started reading romances again after maaaaaaaany years away from the genre, Crusie’s “Anyone But You” was one of the first books I picked up, and I adored it so much I went to half.com and ordered a copy. I think that an early introduction to this type of book is why I’m usually so dissatisfied with historicals and mostly stick with contemporary stories.

  13. GamaTST says:

    I second the Amelia Peabody series. And I agree, Ramses is priceless as done by Barbara Rosenblat! She brings the entire series to life in a way just reading the books can’t.

    I also enjoy the Stephanie Plum series and have found several of Janet Evanovich’s early works LOL too. The Rocky Road to Romance – Naughty Neighbor and Love Overboard come to mind.

    A recent success for me, and one that I laughed several times listening to is The Bride by Julie Garwood. I know the story inside and out and Rosalyn Landor did a perfect Jamie! Alec sounded too old (for me) but Jamie and the rest of narration were great.

    Off to look up some of the names mentioned by others that are new to me.

  14. Heather says:

    I find funny moments in the In Death series as well. Susan Ericksen does such a spectacular Eve…

    A VERY funny set of audiobooks (caveat–absolutely NOTHING to do with romance) is Norman Dietz reading Patrick F. McManus, an outdoor humorist. My husband and I were crying with laughter at the third-grade show and tell…