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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 members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • 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!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    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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    5 out of 5 stars
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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

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

Entertaining and enlightening

Fascinating history of the evolution of American comedy from vaudeville to modern day podcasts. The author doesn't just rattle off the names of the famous and infamous, he tied together how certain comedians or styles of comedy influenced the next group, and so on so the listener could see how comedy grew and changed.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • John
  • Boulder City
  • 08-20-18

Great comedy history lesson

Story of so many great names in comedy from early 20th century to comedy we experience today.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

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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    5 out of 5 stars
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Best Book on History of Comedy

A must read for comedy enthusiasts. Clear and entertaining following a time line with interesting incidents.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • blair
  • West Hollywood, CA, United States
  • 05-23-18

Lots of past... but compresses the almost present

I learned so much from this telling of comedy. My dad had lots of recordings of these old comedians and I would hunt down and listen to old radio shows or visit these old vaudevillian theaters. So the stories brought so much to life for me. Test as the writer got closer to the present day it was more like a quick snippet of random stories. Perhaps the book was getting too long? Living in Hollywood I have heard plenty of stories that were significant and never mentioned. But as I didn’t write the book, it’s an editors choice. Great reader. Highly encourage reading if this book.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Great history, terrible narration

The information in this book is terrific. The author, however, was perhaps not the best choice for narrator. He frequently mispronounces words (jew-lery and theeter for two examples) and his 3 or 4 impressions (most frequent among them Mel Brooks, Albert Brooks, and Jack Carter) are uniformly horrendous.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful