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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 (281 ratings)

Regular price: $29.95

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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.

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  • Susan
  • California
  • 04-16-18

Good stories, but...

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

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

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 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Good!!!

What a great book!! it was informative and had great stories on what really happened

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

best book ever!

I learned so much! it was like a class about comedy, vaudeville to present day.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

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!

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Informative! Compelling! Hilarious! Sad. WONDERFUL

I thought I knew a little about the people, places and history of American comedy. Apparently, I knew VERY little. This book is an impressive and comprehensive account of comedic and American history. It is VERY well laid out and constructed, and equally well researched and informed. I enjoyed every minute of it, and when it was through, I knew and understood more about not only my favorite people past and present, but the evolution and universe that spawned, shaped, evolved and sometimes consumed them. I simply cannot recommend this book highly enough. Mr. Nesteroff did a masterful job in it's research and construction and a fine job in it's reading. This is THE best book I have in my Audible library.

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    3 out of 5 stars

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.

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  • Ian K.
  • Phoenix, AZ United States
  • 03-05-19

wonderful reading...

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

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Amazing, should become a TV series

Amazing book. Informative, entertaining, funny.
The only thing I could do without are the impersonations of comedians voices by the narrator, most of which are terrible.

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  • Wayne
  • Yukon, OK, United States
  • 01-08-19

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.