The Comedians

Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels and the History of American Comedy
Narrated by: Kliph Nesteroff
Length: 15 hrs and 6 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (367 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

In The Comedians, comedy historian Kliph Nesteroff brings to life a century of American comedy with real-life characters, forgotten stars, mainstream heroes, and counterculture iconoclasts. Based on over 200 original interviews and extensive archival research, Nesteroff's groundbreaking work is a narrative exploration of the way comedians have reflected, shaped, and changed American culture over the past 100 years.

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 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 of the 1980s, The Comedians culminates with a new era of media-driven celebrity in the 21st century.

©2015 Kliph Nesteroff. Some of the material herein is based on Kliph Nesteroff's work with WFMU's Beware of the Blog and Classic Television Showbiz. Recorded by arrangement with Grove Atlantic, Inc. (P)2017 Audible, Inc.

What listeners say about The Comedians

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Good stories, but...

...I can’t figure out why the author kept using his cheesy Jack Carter voice. It’s terrible!

3 people found this helpful

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Performance issues

This book was exhaustively researched, with many many pieces of information. It did read as a bit of a “list of things that happened” and less as narrative. My issue was with the performance. Audible, where was your editor? Some egregious mispronunciations, happened enough to be very distracting. “Poignant” with a hard g. “Shuts-PA” for chutzpah. Spiro Agnew’s first name as “Spyro” These are the highlights, there were more. I expect better from Audible productions.

1 person found this helpful

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Interesting, but the narration...meh!

OK, I've read the other reviews and I agree that the Jack Carter impersonation is indeed beyond cringe worthy. But, what about the attempt at impersonating Albert Brooks? It reminded me of Urkel. Add to that a few inexcusable pronunciations...Paulette Goddard (He said, "Paulette GO-dard"). C'mon, Kliph...she was from Hollywood's Golden Age, almost hired to play Scarlett O'Hara AND married to Chaplin, for goodness sake. And the horror of horrors he pronounced the word "chutzpah" wrong. Said it phoenetically as it's spelled! Even this Gentile reviewer knows how to say that word! And in a book about comedy yet. It's a shame a good editor didn't catch these errors because the book is interesting and fun. As a long time Audible listener, I am always skeptical when an author reads his/her own work. Unless it's a professional reading, it never fails to disappoint.

1 person found this helpful

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Funny Thing...

Brilliantly researched, highly detailed, absorbing, fascinating...except... After awhile, I began to dread Nesteroff's awful imitation of comedian's voices. Albert Brooks is bad. Mel Brooks is worse. But Jack Carter is a nightmare -- a verbal turd in a punchbowl! Keeping it straight would have been so much better. Otherwise, a great read!

1 person found this helpful

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Well written with a very painful delivery

Nesteroff did his homework and the book is well researched however stay clear of the Audible version. Just as you're getting into the narrative Nesteroff tears your ears open with poorly executed and loud imitations of old comedians like Jack Carter etc.. It's the same random and abrupt imitation over and over, a mix of Kermit the Frog meets Gilbert Gottfried that will make you pull your ear buds out or drive the volume down to zero. Again, the story is interesting, I hope the next addition is re-read. Just my opinion.

1 person found this helpful

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wonderful reading...

Mr. Nesteroff is a gifted writer and researcher...that happens to do horrible impersonations. Book content? wonderful. performance? well, he tried...

1 person found this helpful

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Great story. Bad choices in narration

This story is really incredible and the research is mostly top-notch. The worst part is the narrator's occasionally slipping into "impersonations" of the interviewees he is quoting. It's incredibly inconsistent which shows this is an author not a trained actor prepared for varied voices, but worse is the volume control which transforms the flow into some attack. You get to the point where you wish you could skip those impersonations quickly because the rest of the book is very interesting and thorough.

1 person found this helpful

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Comprehensive and Entertaining

This book is so fascinating in that it gives basically a full history beginning in the early 1900s of comedy in America. The material is comprehensive and interesting the entire way. The only gripe I have is the author does impressions of a select few comedians, and it is very over-the-top and distracting. Not enough to drop it down to 4-stars, but it takes a little away from the content at times.

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From Buster Keaton to Robin Williams and everything in between

Thoroughly entertaining and informative. The funniest line is about Red Button's wife. If you don't learn something new about Harry Einstein and his sons, you must be old and a Friar.

3 people found this helpful

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Good book, meh record

annoying voices and mispronunciations hurt the recording of an otherwise pretty good book. it's informative and interesting, but with odd gaps.

2 people found this helpful