On their podcast Celebrity Book Club — the only podcast I’ve cackled out loud to while listening — comedians Steven Phillips-Horst and Lily Marotta discuss the ever-growing body of absurd works of literature by A- through D-list celebrities, from Steve Aioki’s Blue: The Color of Noise to the memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant to Ellen DeGeneres’ coffee table book Home, about her many, many houses. The premise is simple, but what the podcast gets at is the ridiculousness of fan culture, celebrity culture, and the sometimes absurd, other times monotonous lives of the rich and famous. While Janice Dickinson’s No Lifeguard on Duty chronicles how she stole her boyfriend’s Ferrari and had sex with someone in a church dressed as a priest, Phillips-Horst’s and Marotta’s favorite memoir, Teri Hatcher’s Burnt Toast, finds Hatcher spending a lot of time eating California Pizza Kitchen with her daughter. Marotta and Phillips-Horst have a finish-each-other’s-sentences dynamic that’s mesmerizing as they navigate both ends of the spectrum, from high octane antics to the mundane minutiae of everyday life with the same voracious appetite for gossip and appreciation for the absurdity of it all.
Phillips-Horst and Marotta have been friends most of their lives and grew up going to Barnes & Noble book signings, where they got as much joy out of meeting D-list celebs as they did observing the people in line for the signings. (Marotta and I both attended an autograph signing for What Not to Wear star Clinton Kelly’s memoir Freakin’ Fabulous in 2008.) As much as Celebrity Book Club is about the ridiculousness of pop culture and the art form that is the celebrity memoir, it’s also a testament to their lifelong friendship.
NYLON asked Phillips-Horst and Marotta to give their recommendations for what celebrity memoirs to give as a gift, for everyone from your friend who won’t shut up about the house they bought this year to the parent who doesn’t understand why their child has a mullet and pants three sizes too big.
For your Gen Z cousin who can’t believe you fully remember 9/11
Lily Marotta: As a history lesson, give her Courtney Love’s kind of, like, diary coffee table book and she’ll have a whole new style in like an hour.
Steven Phillips-Horst: Oh, the Gen Z cousin will have a whole new style? Yeah, you can inspire her to revamp her wardrobe.
LM: Yeah, she’ll, like, discover slips.
SPH: That’s true, and then she’ll just be, like, raiding her mom’s closet for slips from the ’80s.
LM: She’ll be like, “Have you guys heard of this ancient person Courtney Love?”
SPH: And that’s a good idea, too, because that book is mostly photos and we know Gen Z doesn’t like to read and doesn’t have an attention span.
NYLON: You know they want to Instagram the book.
SPH: Exactly, it’s very Instagrammable.
LM: And it’s very Khloe Kardashian, like, “I love filling my house with books” and it’s, like, all coffee table books.
SPH: It’s more coffee-table-esque than most books, I would say. It’s definitely a larger-format book.
For your friend who owns a house and won't shut up about it
SPH: Just, like, real estate vibes?
NYLON: They just bought their first house in the pandemic and they’re always, like, doing little projects.
LM: I have some of those friends and it’s boring as hell, I’ll tell you that, when they show you their little projects.
SPH: Um little projects… I mean what’s bringing to mind is the Property Brothers’ memoir, although that book is maybe not necessarily for everyone. You really have to kind of love the genre, I think, and it’s not really about home innovations, it’s more about being weird Canadian twins that do magic and are insanely D-list and nerdy.
LM: Another coffee table book, I was going to say, is Ellen’s.
SPH: Oh, right, get them the Ellen book.
LM: Ellen’s “Book of Design.”
SPH: It’s called, like Design by Ellen DeGeneres, [Ellen’s book is actually called Home] and they are obviously building new tables — they need books to put on the tables; this book is mostly photos of tables. It’s very easy to go through and to Ellen’s credit, there are some good tips in there about how to activate a space and maybe this could be a subtle hint, too, because if someone gets a house they don’t know exactly how to decorate it. They decorate it too much. They need to mood board a little bit more.
LM: It has one of SPH and my favorite tips about how to activate a space, which is “bowl of lemons.”
NYLON: I was hoping you would say that one. I really liked that particular episode.
SPH: Sounds like these questions are a little bit leading!
For the person who wants to be a TikTok star
SPH: I feel like you secretly know the answer.
NYLON: I don’t know this one.
SPH: Being a TikTok star is about trying on different outfits, it’s about… you know what? If you’re trying to be TikTok star, then maybe you should read Kelly Cutrone’s book If You Have to Cry, Go Outside because it sounds like you need to be f*cking, just, slapped in the face and you need a harsh dose of reality because TikTok stardom is not going to get you anywhere.
LM: You can be making $10,000 an hour one day. The next day, you’re in some motel in the Valley…
SPH: Having sex with a homeless guy because Kelly Cutrone has reinvented herself a lot of times. She’s pulled herself up from the bootstraps over and over and over again: launching her own PR company, getting more press for a random vintage store in L.A. than anyone’s ever gotten. There’s a lot of inspiring stories in that book that remind you to be a g*dd*mn grown up.
LM: Be a TikTok star, but have other things going on.
SPH: Exactly, because you never know when that faucet is going to run dry, and that’s one of the lessons of that book and again that book is small and easy to read.
For the person who has that Obama HOPE poster from 2008 in their room to this day
SPH: Oh, well, I’m sure they would get a kick out of Chasten Buttigeg’s memoir, I Have Something to Tell You. I wouldn’t say there’s a lot of policy in there, but it sounds like this person isn’t that interested in policy either, they just want to feel good, and you know what? The Chasten book will make you feel good because it’s about a gay guy who doesn’t have sex.
LM: But does get married.
SPH: But does get married, and what’s more comforting than that?
For the person who saw House of Gucci at midnight
LM: I think Janice Dickinson’s No Lifeguard on Duty. Balls to the wall, you’re getting that ’80s Ferrari-coke-espresso-f*cking a guy in a church.
SPH: It’s high camp, which is what I heard about the film.
LM: You’re going to get something better than the midnight House of Gucci. I haven’t seen House of Gucci at midnight but… day after opening day.
SPH: It’s about fabulous women and drugs and sex and drama.
LM: And costumes.
SPH: And fashion and violence.
For the parent who doesn’t understand why their child has a mullet and pants three sizes too big
SPH: OK, the parents are like, “Why are you so Bushwick?”
LM: I feel like this is very, like, my aunt loves our pod and learning through our podcast.
SPH: To teach a boomer about indie culture… hmm… these books have to do a lot of work. They’re all like really educational tools now. Maybe… I don’t think it’s about trying to force the boomers in your life to wrap their heads around millennials and younger culture. It’s like, just let them be boomers. I like to give them the Andre Agassi book because that’s the episode parents always love because they’ve heard of Andre Agassi.
LM: And he does have a mullet.
SPH: He literally does have a mullet.
LM: And he, like, dresses so ’80s.
SPH: And he talks about how this style was informed by his personality and his personal choices and his rebellion against the world. OK, now that I think about it, the book is incredibly good about teaching middle-aged people about style choices, but it also is very in their wheelhouse, and it’s about tennis.
LM: Grownups are horny for the Andre Agassi book. They’re buying it at Hudson News and just being like, “Wow, wow, amazing athlete, I mean in 1996, no one was playing tennis like Andre Agassi.”
For your tin foil hat friend
SPH: My conspiracy theory friend…
NYLON: Your friend who loves Demi Lovato.
LM: Well, we just got in the mail…
LM & SPH: Demi Lovato’s mom’s book.
SPH: It’s called Falling With Wings: A Mother’s Story.
LM: Yeah, give that to them because literally why the f*ck not. You’re like, “I don’t know, I found this for $4 off thriftbooks.com.”
SPH: You could only get this off a weird random reseller for $4. The fact that this book is so long and it’s literally just someone’s mom.
LM: Demi Lovato’s mom? It’s like, why?
NYLON: Is this a new release?
LM: It’s a few years old because Demi Lovato is now on the cover it looks like its pre-nonbinary Demi Lovato.
SPH: The fact that it says “Dianna De La Garza: the mother of Demi Lovato.”
LM: Because it’s like no one knows who Dianna is.
NYLON: I feel like they should also explain who Demi Lovato is.
SPH: I know, it’s like, is Demi that famous? Especially now that they’re just like a crazy ghost hunter?
What about for the person who is always talking about the virtues of hiking, camping, and nature?
LM: Hmmm, straight guy. Camper. Or straight girl camper. Either.
SPH: Well they could read Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance if they’re so straight. That’s a straight person book.
LM: I was thinking [Anthony] Kiedis’ [Scar Tissue] ’cause it’s so like, “I went to the North Pole and kayaked.”
SPH: Does he go to the North Pole?
LM: He goes to the Arctic or something, like with the band.
SPH: I guess I wouldn’t really say that book is like an outdoorsy book. It’s about him doing heroin and f*cking 18,000 people.
LM: A good thing to read while you’re camping.
SPH: Again, the Property Brothers, they are from Canada which is a naturally beautiful landscape and they’ve spent a lot of time in the stunning stunning vistas of Vancouver and — oh, wait —
SPH & LM: Shania Twain!
LM: Shania because she was a straight-up logger.
SPH: She literally was a logger.
LM: She was on a team of 40 loggers and was always like, “I’m covered in sod and we woke up at 4, and then we went to the bar and this guy slapped my ass and I was like, ‘You get back to logging sir!’” There’s, like, a pack of German shepherds with her.
SPH: That book is also 800 pages long and it will keep you company those cold nights in the tent.
For the person who moonlights as a K-pop Twitter stan
LM: Literally my girlfriend’s grandmother is obsessed with BTS.
SPH: Do they like to read?
LM: Honestly, I can only think of a movie right now and it’s not a book.
SPH: What’s the movie?
LM: It's this totally random movie called The Fan about Robert De Niro being like a psycho fan of Wesley Snipes and he stalks him.
SPH: That’s so crazy. Wait, is Wesley Snipes playing himself in the movie?
LM: He’s playing another celebrity.
SPH: And Robert De Niro is stalking him?
LM: Yeah, he’s always wearing this leather jacket and has binoculars.
SPH: Wait, that movie sounds insane! Wait, I want to watch that so badly. OK, get them that Amazon Prime movie, just send it to them in an email.
LM: Ellen Barkin and John Leguizamo also star in it: “An all-star baseball player becomes the unhealthy focus of a down on his luck salesman.” OK, so rent a VHS player.
SPH: VHS is kind of a book, so that’s cool.
For your friend who was formerly part of rose-emoji Twitter
SPH: Former DSA OK and now they’re over it?
NYLON: They took the rose out of the bio.
SPH: They’re disillusioned. They were disillusioned with the Bernie movement… weren’t we all. Um…
LM: I’ve never read one of Sarah Palin’s books, but I’d like to.
SPH: You’ve never read Going Rogue?
LM: I’ve read like parts of it, but it’s, like, 900 pages.
SPH: Yeah, but the font’s big. Going Rogue is fun. It’s just, like, her listing random people in Alaska. It’s a throwback to another era when politics were “simpler” and she’s just like being so Christian and describing how Todd kills mooses. I mean I guess the Meghan McCain book could also be a real thrill ride, there’s that. Again, I wouldn’t say that book is really that political, it’s mostly just her saying “my father” over and over again.
LM: It’s inside baseball. She’s like, “This is totally inside baseball stuff” about being in the room.
SPH: I think if this person is disillusioned, maybe they don’t want anything political at all Maybe what they really want is a nice apolitical romp.
SPH: Like the Anthony Bourdain book about food. Food — we can all come together over food no matter our political affiliations; we can all agree that there’s nothing more delicious than a steak dinner. Also if they’re disillusioned with the socialist movement, they’re probably no longer a vegetarian.
LM: And they’re just like, “You know what? F*ck it, yeah, I’m going to get some prosciutto. Nonlocal.”
SPH: That’s my final answer.
Who would you give Teri Hatcher’s Burnt Toast to?
SPH: Oh my god.
LM: Oh my god. Everybody in the goddamn world.
SPH: Literally every man, woman, and child.
LM: Like anyone who’s trying to be friends with me or trying to talk to me, it’s like, just read this first and now we can start talking at the same level.
SPH: I would give Burnt Toast to my enemies, you know what I mean? And bring them closer.
LM: I want to give it to the person at the Secret Santa who’s like, “Memoirs are stupid.”
SPH: Oh, antimemoir people.
LM: Yes, the antimemoir folk.
SPH: I feel like that’s not going to convince them. Give Burnt Toast to your crush!
LM: And be so random about it, be like, “Oops, just sent you it from like goodreadsthriftbooks.org.”
SPH: I don’t know, there’s something about sending your crush like a brand new $24.95 Amazon book that feels really special.
LM: And just like it’s not a holiday present, it’s a no reason present. Give it to someone in April.
SPH: Or give it to your sister who just had a health scare and, like, she’s going through a difficult time. She obviously lives in Chicago and you send it to her and are like, “Hey, thinking of you, let’s read this together.” You both read it at the same time and, like, talk about it on the phone once a week.
LM: Honestly, any aunt, ’cause it’s like, the most aunt book.