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


Harvey Kurtzman: The Man Who Created MAD and Revolutionized Humor in America

Harvey Kurtzman

Harvey Kurtzman: The Man Who Created MAD and Revolutionized Humor in America by Bill Schelly

PN 6727 .K87 Z87 2015

“Harvey Kurtzman was the original editor, artist and sole writer of Mad – and Mad revolutionized humor in America. But how did Kurtzman invent Mad, and why did he leave it shortly after it burst onto the American scene, becoming one of the greatest publishing successes of the twentieth century?

Historian Bill Schelly answers these questions and more in this biography of one of the world’s most influential and iconoclastic humorists. Schelly traces Kurtzman’s life from his Brooklyn beginnings to his post-Mad years, when his ceaseless creativity produced more innovations, including a 1950s graphic novel and Little Annie Fanny in Playboy. For this book, Schelly conducted new interviews with Kurtzman’s colleagues, friends and family – including Hugh Hefner and Robert Crumb. Schelly also examined Kurtzman’s personal archives, records of his FBI file, and his legal battles with Mad publisher Bill Gaines, revealing new secrets about the man who forever changed the way that millions of Americans look and laugh at the world.”
– publisher description

Angry Optimist: The Life and Times of Jon Stewart

Angry Optimist

Angry Optimist: The Life and Times of Jon Stewart by Lisa Rogak

PN 2287 .S683 R66 2014

“Since his arrival at The Daily Show in 1999, Jon Stewart has become one of the major players in comedy as well as one of the most significant liberal voices in the media. In Angry Optimist, biographer Lisa Rogak charts his unlikely rise to stardom. She follows him from his early days growing up in New Jersey, through his years as a struggling stand-up comic in New York, and on to the short-lived but acclaimed The Jon Stewart Show. And she charts his humbling string of near-misses – passed over as a replacement for shows hosted by Conan O’Brien, Tom Snyder, and even the fictional Larry Sanders – before landing on a half-hour comedy show that at the time was still finding its footing amidst roiling internal drama.

Once there, Stewart transformed The Daily Show into one of the most influential news programs on television today. Drawing on interviews with his current and former colleagues, Rogak reveals how things work – and sometimes don’t work – behind the scenes at The Daily Show, led by Jon Stewart, a comedian who has come to wield incredible power in American politics.”
– publisher description

Politics Is a Joke!

Politics Is a Joke

Politics Is a Joke!: How TV Comedians are Remaking Political Life
by S. Robert Lichter, Jody C. Baumgartner, and Jonathan S. Morris

HE 8700.76 .U6 L52 2014

“Does late night political humor matter? Are late night comedians merely entertaining, or do they have the power to influence the way we think about politics and politicians? Using exclusive data from the Center for Media and Public Affairs and a wide range of examples – from jokes about politicians’ physical appearance and sex scandals, to jokes about Congress and the news media – Politics Is a Joke! looks at the impact of political humor on political institutions, politicians, their policies and performance, and the behavior of the voting public. Politics Is a Joke! is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the crucial role late night comedy plays in our political universe – and for anyone who enjoys a good laugh.”
– publisher description



Pretty/Funny by Linda Mizejewski

PN 1590 .W64 M59 2014

“Women in comedy have traditionally been pegged as either “pretty” or “funny.” Attractive actresses with good comic timing such as Katherine Hepburn, Lucille Ball, and Julia Roberts have always gotten plum roles as the heroines of romantic comedies and television sitcoms. But fewer women who write and perform their own comedy have become stars, and, most often, they’ve been successful because they were willing to be funny-looking, from Fanny Brice and Phyllis Diller to Lily Tomlin and Carol Burnett. In this pretty-versus-funny history, women writer-comedians – no matter what they look like – have ended up on the other side of “pretty,” enabling them to make it the topic and butt of the joke, the ideal that is exposed as funny.

Pretty/Funny focuses on Kathy Griffin, Tina Fey, Sarah Silverman, Margaret Cho, Wanda Sykes, and Ellen DeGeneres, the groundbreaking women comics who flout the pretty-versus-funny dynamic by targeting glamour, postfeminist girliness, the Hollywood A-list, and feminine whiteness with their wit and biting satire. Linda Mizejewski demonstrates that while these comics don’t all identify as feminists or take politically correct positions, their work on gender, sexuality, and race has a political impact. The first major study of women and humor in twenty years, Pretty/Funny makes a convincing case that women’s comedy has become a prime site for feminism to speak, talk back, and be contested in the twenty-first century.” – publisher description