The Comedians

The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels and the History of American Comedy by Kliph Nesteroff

PS 430 .N46 2015

“Jokes change from one generation to another, but the experience of the stand-up comedian transcends the ages: the striving and struggles, the tragedy and triumph. From the Marx Brothers to Milton Berle, George Carlin to Eddie Murphy, Conan O’Brien to Louis C.K. – comedy historian Kliph Nesteroff presents a century of fascinating rebels, forgotten stars, and characters on the precipice of fame in this essential history of American comedy.

Starting with the vaudeville circuit at the turn of the last century, Nesteroff introduces the first stand-up comedian – an emcee who abandoned physical shtick for straight jokes. After the repeal of Prohibition, Mafia-run supper clubs replaced speakeasies, and mobsters replaced vaudeville impresarios as the comedian’s primary employer. In the 1950s, the late night television talk show brought stand-up to a wide public, while Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl, and Jonathan Winters attacked conformity and staged a comedy rebellion in coffeehouses.

From comedy’s part in the Civil Rights movement and the social upheaval of the late 1960s, to the first comedy clubs of the 1970s and the cocaine-fueled comedy boom on the 1980s, The Comedians culminates with a new era of media-driven celebrity in the twenty-first century. Based on two hundred original interviews and extensive archival research, The Comedians is a sharply written and highly entertaining look at one hundred years of comedy, and a valuable exploration of the way comedians have reflected, shaped, and changed American culture along the way.”
– publisher description

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