hits counter The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels, and the History of American Comedy - Ebook PDF Online
Hot Best Seller

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

Availability: Ready to download

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 change 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.


Compare

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 change 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.

30 review for The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels, and the History of American Comedy

  1. 4 out of 5

    Robert Lopresti

    This book probably annoyed my wife more than any book I have read in years. I seldom went two pages without interrupting her with: "Did you know Jack Benny refused to perform for segregated audiences, starting in 1940?" or "When Redd Foxx was a dope dealer his partner was Malcolm X!" or "Rodney Dangerfield was a crooked telemarketer!" or "You will never believe where the phrase "stand-up comedian' originated." This book takes us through the history of American comedy, all the way from Frankie Fay This book probably annoyed my wife more than any book I have read in years. I seldom went two pages without interrupting her with: "Did you know Jack Benny refused to perform for segregated audiences, starting in 1940?" or "When Redd Foxx was a dope dealer his partner was Malcolm X!" or "Rodney Dangerfield was a crooked telemarketer!" or "You will never believe where the phrase "stand-up comedian' originated." This book takes us through the history of American comedy, all the way from Frankie Fay (the first burlesque M.C., and the subject of the best dirty riddle I have ever read), right through Stephen Colbert. No matter how well you think you know your favorite comics you will learn a ton more.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Swartz

    I am a sucker for this kind of book. I like a good History book, especially when it covers a subject I am interested in. At 57, there isn't an era of comedy covered here that I don't have a connection to. To clarify, I wasn't around for vaudeville, but I certainly remember seeing Groucho Marx and Jimmy Durante on my television screen at an early age. This book touches on just about everyone, but never goes too deep. If like me, you grew up reading Rolling Stone profiles of Steve Martin, Sam Kiniso I am a sucker for this kind of book. I like a good History book, especially when it covers a subject I am interested in. At 57, there isn't an era of comedy covered here that I don't have a connection to. To clarify, I wasn't around for vaudeville, but I certainly remember seeing Groucho Marx and Jimmy Durante on my television screen at an early age. This book touches on just about everyone, but never goes too deep. If like me, you grew up reading Rolling Stone profiles of Steve Martin, Sam Kinison and every SNL member who made it big, you will not get much new information here. Likewise with the histories of The Tonight Show, SNL or the Daily Show. If you didn't read these articles growing up (or did but are only 24 years old), you will find a ton of good information here! The book does a nice job of showing you how the comedy torch was passed, albeit begrudgingly, from generation to generation. It is also fun to see the stories of people like Lorne Michaels and Steve Martin come together and pull apart like strands of DNA. An interesting footnote, Because I was reading an advanced copy, there were no photos as there will be in the finished book. 10 years ago this would have been a real loss, but now, hello google and hello you tube, not a problem. In fact, a real enhancement that the author doesn't have to shell out time or money on. PS-while a few of their members were mentioned separately, a few paragraphs about Kids in The Hall would have been nice. I know, I know, they are Canadian, but so influential to their time here in the states.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Stewart Tame

    As the subtitle says, this is a history of American comedy from vaudeville to the death of Robin Williams. Odds are, your personal favorite comedian is given short shrift in this book--if they're even mentioned at all--but that's because Nesteroff gives EVERYONE short shrift. The subject is huge in scope. It's not much exaggeration to say that entire books can be (and have been) written on the subject of each paragraph in this tome. What Nesteroff has given us is an invaluable overview of comedy As the subtitle says, this is a history of American comedy from vaudeville to the death of Robin Williams. Odds are, your personal favorite comedian is given short shrift in this book--if they're even mentioned at all--but that's because Nesteroff gives EVERYONE short shrift. The subject is huge in scope. It's not much exaggeration to say that entire books can be (and have been) written on the subject of each paragraph in this tome. What Nesteroff has given us is an invaluable overview of comedy history and the outside forces (if any) that helped shape it. His prose flows well, and the text is bristling with incident and anecdote. If the book has a fault, it is that it is too superficial. People and events fly by and are gone before you're ready to move on. It's not entirely Nesteroff's fault; there's simply too much history to be contained in a book this size. He gives an overview and a bibliography. Further digging is left up to the reader.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    This book is a prime example of why trade non-fiction books need something like the process of academic peer-review. Nesteroff, who is on television and described as "a human encyclopedia of comedy" is unarguably knowledgeable and clearly did a huge amount of work to produce this book, including hundreds of interviews with comedians. His website with its recordings of old comics is a valuable resource: http://classicshowbiz.blogspot.com/. This book, unfortunately, is really uneven. As others hav This book is a prime example of why trade non-fiction books need something like the process of academic peer-review. Nesteroff, who is on television and described as "a human encyclopedia of comedy" is unarguably knowledgeable and clearly did a huge amount of work to produce this book, including hundreds of interviews with comedians. His website with its recordings of old comics is a valuable resource: http://classicshowbiz.blogspot.com/. This book, unfortunately, is really uneven. As others have said, it is much stronger in the early chapters than it is toward the end, though it picks up when Nesteroff is writing about his own period and context - the "alt" comedy scene of the 1990s-early 2000s. Anyone who knows as much as Nesteroff does about his subject is not going to be able to coherently contain *everything* in one book. He tries to cover everything from variety shows, to stand-up, to sketch comedy, as well as live venues, television, and radio, explaining how comedians worked both as performers and writers for others in a huge variety of contexts in "showbiz". While occasionally pulling this off, the book suffers greatly from seemingly random choices of what to emphasize, which leads to glaring omissions. The weakest chapters cover the the 1970s and 1980s. A peer-reviewer would surely have pointed it out to him that he doesn't provide a narrative about the genesis, development and influence of Saturday Night Live despite having done this for Laugh In, the Tonight Show, David Letterman and the Daily Show. Instead, SNL appears here and there as it plays a role in the lives of individual comics from the 1980s-on. Since he includes quotations about the show's decline from George Carlin towards the book's conclusion, he clearly sees it as central to comedy history, making the omission seem like an accident rather than a choice. Similarly, while he discusses Steve Martin's early career, he never discusses the impact of Martin's SNL appearances or his comedy records. John Belushi gets one sentence - about his drug use and death. Another major influence from this era who he never discusses is Al Franken. Perhaps even worse, given the book's discussion of TV variety shows is the total failure to discuss the Carol Burnett Show, which ran for 11 years and won 25 Emmys. And yet, he does spend a paragraph on the failed Tim Conway spin-off attempt. The omission of Carol Burnett is part of a larger problem in the book that seems less random. Nesteroff has very little to say about women in comedy, whether as writers or performers. He does briefly discuss both Joan Rivers and Lily Tomlin. He occasionally mentions Phyllis Diller as an 'old timer" without ever saying what was funny about her. But that's about it. Think of all the women he doesn't discuss (or even mention): Lucille Ball, Roseanne Barr, Gilda Radner, Louise Lasser, Bette Midler, Carol Burnett, Betty White, Bea Arthur, Lizz Winstead (who c0-created the Daily Show and Air America - both of which he does mention), Whoopi Goldberg, Carol Leifer (who wrote for shows that he does discuss, including Seinfeld), Margaret Cho, Wanda Sykes, and Sarah Silverman. I'm sure there are many more. I imagine that this omission replicates the interests of people he interviewed, which may also have something to do with his own taste in comedy. This might explain why he chose to spend a page+ on Andrew Dice Clay while never mentioning Ellen DeGeneres, who appears on the book's cover, but not in the index.

  5. 5 out of 5

    victor harris

    The earlier sections of the book when it covers the comedians who came out of vaudeville was interesting. The Marx Brothers, Milton Berle and many others paid their dues in the declining backwater of the vaudeville circuit before they made the transition to radio and TV. As the book develops it becomes dry reading and even a chore to plow through as it reads more like a list of comics and venues. Probably closer to a 2.5 rating as it does give a good snapshot of comedians like Woody Allen, Sein The earlier sections of the book when it covers the comedians who came out of vaudeville was interesting. The Marx Brothers, Milton Berle and many others paid their dues in the declining backwater of the vaudeville circuit before they made the transition to radio and TV. As the book develops it becomes dry reading and even a chore to plow through as it reads more like a list of comics and venues. Probably closer to a 2.5 rating as it does give a good snapshot of comedians like Woody Allen, Seinfeld, et al. Also has good coverage of how the Mob dominated the stand-up comic world and how Hugh Hefner proved very progressive by offering outlets for black comedians who were largely invisible in more high profile settings. Unfortunately there is no unifying story line that holds the narrative together and it could have used editing to slash some of the clutter.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ollie

    Books like this one are what it’s all about, people. I am a comedy nerd and the current comedy boom is the sweet stuff that dreams are made of. My dreams, anyway. Yes, with any boom comes an excess of participants. Most will fade away when said boom goes bust, forever forgotten. Unless of course some avid fan (read: nerd) writes a book about them. Enter the Comedians by Kliph Nesteroff. Documenting the life and history of comedy for the past 100 years seems like a daunting task but it’s pretty cle Books like this one are what it’s all about, people. I am a comedy nerd and the current comedy boom is the sweet stuff that dreams are made of. My dreams, anyway. Yes, with any boom comes an excess of participants. Most will fade away when said boom goes bust, forever forgotten. Unless of course some avid fan (read: nerd) writes a book about them. Enter the Comedians by Kliph Nesteroff. Documenting the life and history of comedy for the past 100 years seems like a daunting task but it’s pretty clear early on that Nesteroff is the right man for the job: his writing is clear and engaging, and very thorough. The man knows his stuff. Another great aspect of the Comedians is its flow. Instead of devoting tiresome chapters or going on and on about certain topics grinding the narrative to a halt, the Comedians instead briefly flashes a spotlight on a trend, or comedian, or club and smoothly moves the story right along. Everything serves to propel the narrative forward. From the old vaudevillian days to the latest comedy boom, we learn about the birth of standup, the feuds, the clubs, the trends, the mob, the locations, the shows and characters that helped the genre evolve through all the years. The results are engaging and damn-right exciting. The only flaw in this book is that unfortunately Nesteroff cuts his story a bit short, ending his chronicle in the late 2000s and leaving us craving more. But then again, that’s a pretty great problem to have. The Comedians is an informative and imperative read for anyone interested in show business and entertainment. And for comedy fans it’s absolutely essential.

  7. 5 out of 5

    John G.

    Absolutely one of the very best books you will ever read about the history of stand-up comedy! This is a scholarly, exhaustive, but yet entertaining study of this unique creative art form. It's gritty too, plenty of tooth and fang and comic dish. The author is a real student of the craft and this book isn't fluff piece or PR released. He commented on and corrected a lot of misperceptions I had that I had seen multiple times across the board. The research and writing are impressive, I believe the Absolutely one of the very best books you will ever read about the history of stand-up comedy! This is a scholarly, exhaustive, but yet entertaining study of this unique creative art form. It's gritty too, plenty of tooth and fang and comic dish. The author is a real student of the craft and this book isn't fluff piece or PR released. He commented on and corrected a lot of misperceptions I had that I had seen multiple times across the board. The research and writing are impressive, I believe the author did some features on WFMU about comedy history. His experience as a stand-up himself helped him fashion some amazing and insightful interviews. Hands down, this book is a must have for fans of comedy, stand-up and entertainment in general. Bravo!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Yaaresse

    Damn. Who knew the World of comedy was that incestuous or that cutthroat? I half expected this to be a compendium of profiles, but it is actually a history of comedy in the united states starting with vaudeville and black face and going through to the current names in satire and TV such as Colbert, Robin Williams (May he RIP), and CK Louis. I would like to of seen more current female comedians covered, such as Ellen DeGeneres, Jessica Williams, or Tina Fey, none of whom were mentioned. Still, the Damn. Who knew the World of comedy was that incestuous or that cutthroat? I half expected this to be a compendium of profiles, but it is actually a history of comedy in the united states starting with vaudeville and black face and going through to the current names in satire and TV such as Colbert, Robin Williams (May he RIP), and CK Louis. I would like to of seen more current female comedians covered, such as Ellen DeGeneres, Jessica Williams, or Tina Fey, none of whom were mentioned. Still, there was a lot of ground to cover, and the author must’ve interviewed half the industry and their kids to get the background info that he did. What you learn is that the world of comedy is often more dangerous and cut throat — sometimes literally — than funny.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Still

    Astonishingly funny & enlightening read. Nesteroff knows the turf & strides upon it like a giant among comedy fans. Really rich in detail -you can almost feel the flop sweat trickling down your collar. Enthusiastically recommended. If you love to laugh this book pays off. If you're looking for tragedy - it's got that. Gossip? Down low & gritty? Look no further. Astonishingly funny & enlightening read. Nesteroff knows the turf & strides upon it like a giant among comedy fans. Really rich in detail -you can almost feel the flop sweat trickling down your collar. Enthusiastically recommended. If you love to laugh this book pays off. If you're looking for tragedy - it's got that. Gossip? Down low & gritty? Look no further.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Alan

    Interesting stuff and the book left me wanting to know more about the subject and the personalities mentioned. But when I finished reading I had the feeling that this could have been a much better book or, at the very least, more entertaining. I gave it only 2 stars because I feel I remain mostly ignorant of the subject matter even after finishing the book. It read at times like a series of lists of often obscure names for the benefit of industry insiders. To make it more difficult for the uninfo Interesting stuff and the book left me wanting to know more about the subject and the personalities mentioned. But when I finished reading I had the feeling that this could have been a much better book or, at the very least, more entertaining. I gave it only 2 stars because I feel I remain mostly ignorant of the subject matter even after finishing the book. It read at times like a series of lists of often obscure names for the benefit of industry insiders. To make it more difficult for the uninformed, the timeline seemed to jump around as comedians entered and exited the vaudeville and standup circuits, radio and TV gigs and writing contracts. Although, I guess, the book could be worthy of a better grade for historical accuracy or simply the feat of collecting all of the information offered in one place, it wasn’t very entertaining. Maybe a reader with more knowledge of the history and the various aspects of American show business over the years, and particularly, a comic’s life throughout the last hundred years, would say “OK - that’s insightful, but I couldn’t decide that from the material presented. The book had no spark and very few funny or warm hearted anecdotes. The sheer numbers of names of people I’d never heard of and, mainly, very brief references to their role in standup comedy left me with no context with which to judge the author’s expertise or the validity of his remarks. Overall, the writing itself was a bit sophomoric and thesis-like. Oh well - I’m not unhappy that I read this book but I wish it had been better. I’ll warrant the subject is simply too broad and overwhelming in its complexity to be well referenced in the available space and almost assuredly beyond the scope of any single book.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Austin Gilbert

    It's a monumental task to cover 100 years of comedy and still keep it at a readable length, but this one does it. Fantastic book. Wildly entertaining, fantastically informative. Can't recommend it enough. It's a monumental task to cover 100 years of comedy and still keep it at a readable length, but this one does it. Fantastic book. Wildly entertaining, fantastically informative. Can't recommend it enough.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Fred

    This book is a great overview of the history of comedy from Vaudeville to podcasts and everything in between. It is well organized moving from vaudeville and traveling shows to radio, television, night clubs, comedy albums, late night, comedy clubs and the internet. It is humorous but not written for laughs. It is historically grounded but meant to be enjoyed for the anecdotes and personalities. If there is a fault to the book it is that it could have been two or three times the length. Many man This book is a great overview of the history of comedy from Vaudeville to podcasts and everything in between. It is well organized moving from vaudeville and traveling shows to radio, television, night clubs, comedy albums, late night, comedy clubs and the internet. It is humorous but not written for laughs. It is historically grounded but meant to be enjoyed for the anecdotes and personalities. If there is a fault to the book it is that it could have been two or three times the length. Many many people get only a cursory mention. But Nesteroff is giving an overview and wants to paint the big picture which is why I loved the book. I lengthy biography of Richard Pryor or Bob Hope, as valuable as they may be, will not show how comedy has changed over the years. This is the value of Nesteroff's book. Occasionally it gets bogged down describing the social setting of a time, like when he discusses the communist witch hunts of the 50s or the Vietnam war protests of the 60s. But this is a minor critique. If you love comedy or are interested in the entertainment culture over the last 100 years this book is highly recommended.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Blaine DeSantis

    Wow, a tour de force of the world of comedy. A wonderful history book that covers most all aspects of Comedy from its earliest roots in Vaudeville up to the current time. Very well laid out the book introduces us to each era of Comedy and those comedians who helped make comedy such a wildly successful art form. I must admit that one or two chapters were a tad boring because comedy was boring at those times. But it is so great to discover or rediscover these comics and then go over to YouTube and Wow, a tour de force of the world of comedy. A wonderful history book that covers most all aspects of Comedy from its earliest roots in Vaudeville up to the current time. Very well laid out the book introduces us to each era of Comedy and those comedians who helped make comedy such a wildly successful art form. I must admit that one or two chapters were a tad boring because comedy was boring at those times. But it is so great to discover or rediscover these comics and then go over to YouTube and catch some clips of their work. One of my favorites is Timmie Rogers a black comic whose "Oh Yeah" routine is both hilarious and timeless. Great book, not a lot of actual comedy material or jokes, but a great, great book to learn about the history of Comedy.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Angelo Santacroce

    Lots of historical facts and stories. Style is very basic, but still enjoyable

  15. 4 out of 5

    Noel L Byrd

    This is a must read for anymore who has any interest in comedy. What a great history lesson.

  16. 5 out of 5

    David Longo

    I liked "The Comedians" by Kliph Nesteroff but I felt it was uneven overall. I also thought it ended abruptly. Nesteroff is incredibly informative. He taught me a lot about comedy as an entertainment medium. I was especially impressed by his early 20th century chronology. Nesteroff also segues seemlessly from one topic to the next, much like a stand-up comedian. This was clever, just like the book's cover, a play on The Beatles' famous Sgt. Peppers' album cover. My criticism of "The Comedians" ma I liked "The Comedians" by Kliph Nesteroff but I felt it was uneven overall. I also thought it ended abruptly. Nesteroff is incredibly informative. He taught me a lot about comedy as an entertainment medium. I was especially impressed by his early 20th century chronology. Nesteroff also segues seemlessly from one topic to the next, much like a stand-up comedian. This was clever, just like the book's cover, a play on The Beatles' famous Sgt. Peppers' album cover. My criticism of "The Comedians" mainly stems from what I felt was an uneven synopsis of particular performers and/or programs, most notably Bill Cosby, Steve Martin, Eddie Murphy, Jerry Seinfeld and "Saturday Night Live." While I understand that Nesteroff had an enormous task, I found it hard to accept that four of the biggest comics of all time received almost no play, nor did the 40-plus-years and running program that triggered more comedic careers than anything else. SNL received little fanfare, less than "In Living Color," one could argue. I also thought there was surprisingly little written about female comedians, at least outside of Joan Rivers. Nice effort, Mr. Nesteroff. You could have gone further, however.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Dave

    On the one hand, it's hard to argue with as a history, since it is simply packed full of little details about the history of American comics, from Vaudeville until the present. Nice surveys of black comedians on record, the rise of the Comedy Club, and television's changing impact. On the other hand, pick pick pick. What makes it readable is sometimes what drags it down, since it very much concentrates on scandal and anecdote to make for a quick and interesting read. Comedy is certainly full of d On the one hand, it's hard to argue with as a history, since it is simply packed full of little details about the history of American comics, from Vaudeville until the present. Nice surveys of black comedians on record, the rise of the Comedy Club, and television's changing impact. On the other hand, pick pick pick. What makes it readable is sometimes what drags it down, since it very much concentrates on scandal and anecdote to make for a quick and interesting read. Comedy is certainly full of drunks, junkies, sex maniacs, nasty pieces of work, and the like. But sometimes it just gets a bit like Comedy Store Babylon. Good stories are plentiful, but so are pages about penis size and who fellated who right at the comedy club table. Not to pick on Nesteroff (Kliph?), but if you only do ten pages about Richard Pryor or Lenny Bruce, why must nine of them detail their drug use,arrests, unreliability,etc. What made them interesting besides that? For some lesser comics (e.g.,Sam Kinison),you get no sense of why they might be special at all, except that they were mad, bad, and dangerous to know. Of course, anything that sends one searching for more is a good thing. So this is a good thing.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kaitlyn

    I feel bad writing a review and rating a book i couldn’t finish but I’ve tried twice! I don’t remember when I first tried but I know I probably didn’t make it much further than I did this time. The big difference is now I know exactly what is wrong with it and how to verbalize my complaints. There is no argument to be made here. Clearly the sheer amount of research done led to this book’s publishing. The writing is mediocre, or maybe it isn’t, as he relies far too much on others’ words for me to I feel bad writing a review and rating a book i couldn’t finish but I’ve tried twice! I don’t remember when I first tried but I know I probably didn’t make it much further than I did this time. The big difference is now I know exactly what is wrong with it and how to verbalize my complaints. There is no argument to be made here. Clearly the sheer amount of research done led to this book’s publishing. The writing is mediocre, or maybe it isn’t, as he relies far too much on others’ words for me to tell. A history book should answer a question and make an argument. What is the argument here? Comedians face much the same struggles today as they did 100 years ago? Okay... and? Why? What does this say? I would only continue reading if it was assigned for a seminar class and we could spend 3 hours ripping it to shreds. Sometimes I do miss graduate school, but I’m not in it! I got my degree! I don’t have to read this “history”

  19. 5 out of 5

    Andy Mascola

    A history of US comedy from vaudeville to podcasts. I laughed & cried. Best book I've read in '16. A history of US comedy from vaudeville to podcasts. I laughed & cried. Best book I've read in '16.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Yourfiendmrjones

    Essential. Required. A perfect showbiz overview.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Keith Steinbaum

    For me, this was a Covid-inspired selection. In search of something to provide some laughs during this very unfunny period of time we're living in, I scrolled through the comedy section on my Kindle and stumbled upon this book. The front cover shows a number of dead comedians that I grew up listening to and some that are still around so that caught my attention along with the title which inferred that some personal tidbits on the lifestyles of these people would be exposed. And on that assumptio For me, this was a Covid-inspired selection. In search of something to provide some laughs during this very unfunny period of time we're living in, I scrolled through the comedy section on my Kindle and stumbled upon this book. The front cover shows a number of dead comedians that I grew up listening to and some that are still around so that caught my attention along with the title which inferred that some personal tidbits on the lifestyles of these people would be exposed. And on that assumption, the book did not disappoint. Starting with the vaudeville era of the 20's and continuing through the remainder of the twentieth century, the author, Kliph Nesteroff, lets us know about the jerks, the good guys, the philanderers, the alcoholics, the heavy weed smokers, the big time cocaine users, and those who took the heroin path. Breaking into comedy takes as much guts and resiliency as it does talent and material, and for those comedians who worked in Las Vegas in the 50's and 60's it also took a lot of working with the Mafia figures who dominated everything. And if you didn't go along, well, that's also described in the book. It also exposes how many comics, some of whom are the most well known in American entertainment history, shamelessly stole their material from other acts and got away with it. All of these elements offered an interesting education for me and some truly eye-opening surprises. I won't mention any of them in this review to make sure that any surprises I had will also offer potential readers the same revelations. If the 5-star rating system were solely based on research, I'd give this author the full 5 stars, but as an analogy, the book was like a director falling in love with his film so much that he/she loses perspective on the need to edit. The result is something that goes on too long and passages become boring. I found myself skipping through parts of the book that could have and should have been shorter and able to be concisely described rather than the over-dependence on seemingly every garnered fact that was learned. And by the way, Mr. Nesteroff, it's not your right as the author to describe someone as a slob or other inflammatory insult unless you're making your own personal observation. It appears that during your interviews with certain comedians it was their opinion, not yours, so that is another problem I encountered. Overall, I did learn many interesting things that I'll remember both good and bad about certain performers. If nothing else, a number of these comedians have many YouTube clips available for their standup routines and that's been something I've started watching to give me those laughs I was searching for when I first discovered the book, so thank you Kliph Nesteroff for these great comic reminders. What would this review be without one funny passage to end with? America's first standup comic was a man named Frank Faye, and he was disliked by many fellow comedians as well as people in the Hollywood community for his notable arrogance and vocal anti-Semitic views. After marrying a young Barbara Stanwyck, the joke going around was, 'Who has the biggest prick in Hollywood?' Answer, 'Barbara Stanwyck.'

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kdawg91

    I love this type of book, jumping deep into the histories of things I love. I always had a deep love of all things comedy and Mr. Nesteroff does an excellent job covering the history of the artform from its beginnings to current day. I rounded up to 4 from 3.5 however, here's why. Comedy, although being a broad subject, Mr. Nesteroff glossed over alot of stuff. He gives short shift to several artists, which I don't know if I can blame him due to the length of directions the topic can go in, BUT. I love this type of book, jumping deep into the histories of things I love. I always had a deep love of all things comedy and Mr. Nesteroff does an excellent job covering the history of the artform from its beginnings to current day. I rounded up to 4 from 3.5 however, here's why. Comedy, although being a broad subject, Mr. Nesteroff glossed over alot of stuff. He gives short shift to several artists, which I don't know if I can blame him due to the length of directions the topic can go in, BUT..I didn't like that. Then, there was a LOT of focus on the negative aspects, the sex, the violence, the substance abuse..again, I am sure it makes for a more entertaining story, but really? is it that necessary? That being said, wonderful history of the funny men and women in comedy, I recommend it.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Alan Stewart

    The Comedians provides an interesting and enjoyable history of comedy. Notwithstanding the fact that comedy originated and for years continued as a largely male-dominated form of entertainment, Mr. Nesteroff does not avail himself of the opportunity to provide a sufficiently in-depth account of the contributions and impact of women in Comedy over the years. In addition, though relatively minor when viewed in the context of of the history of Comedy, it is assumed by this reader that the adverse im The Comedians provides an interesting and enjoyable history of comedy. Notwithstanding the fact that comedy originated and for years continued as a largely male-dominated form of entertainment, Mr. Nesteroff does not avail himself of the opportunity to provide a sufficiently in-depth account of the contributions and impact of women in Comedy over the years. In addition, though relatively minor when viewed in the context of of the history of Comedy, it is assumed by this reader that the adverse impact of Lewey Body Dementia on Robin Williams was not known to Mr. Nesteroff when The Comedians was published a little more than 1 year after Mr. Williams' passing, as the book makes no mention of this disease (which would later take the life of baseball legend Tom Seaver). Overall, I found this book to be a worthwhile read.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    Tirelessly researched and filled with fun tidbits to annoy your friends and family with (the father and son on Sanford and Son didn't like each other, Betty White encouraged David Letterman to move to Los Angeles, Jackie Gleason straight up stole a catchphrase!), Comedians is a lot of fun to read through. It probably could have gone on for a couple hundreds pages more, as there are plenty of funny people who were barely touched on. If I had any big complaint is that the book wraps up too quickly Tirelessly researched and filled with fun tidbits to annoy your friends and family with (the father and son on Sanford and Son didn't like each other, Betty White encouraged David Letterman to move to Los Angeles, Jackie Gleason straight up stole a catchphrase!), Comedians is a lot of fun to read through. It probably could have gone on for a couple hundreds pages more, as there are plenty of funny people who were barely touched on. If I had any big complaint is that the book wraps up too quickly, there's no overarching point or summary the author is trying to make. Well, also he really puts over Marc Maron (much like Shawn Michaels put over Steve Austin at WrestleMania 14.), and who has a big, fat, glowing endorsement on the back cover? Marc Maron. SNEAKY.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Anne Libera

    Really 3.5 stars. I have mixed emotions about this book. As a professor of comedy history, I appreciated Nesterhoff's wide ranging knowledge and insight. He has some great quotes and interviews. He clearly knows his stuff. I admit that the through line of this book is standup in a way that I bristle at a bit as someone with a background in sketch and improv. But mostly I wanted less of the bar brawls, mob bosses, and joke stealers and just a bit more of what made these comedians and their work us Really 3.5 stars. I have mixed emotions about this book. As a professor of comedy history, I appreciated Nesterhoff's wide ranging knowledge and insight. He has some great quotes and interviews. He clearly knows his stuff. I admit that the through line of this book is standup in a way that I bristle at a bit as someone with a background in sketch and improv. But mostly I wanted less of the bar brawls, mob bosses, and joke stealers and just a bit more of what made these comedians and their work useful to those of us who appreciate comedy now. So....I have opinions but I'm glad I read it.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Dan Wilbur

    An exceptional read for anyone interested in comedy. I found myself putting it down to look up clips, and download albums I'd never heard. Made me feel good and bad about what this art form is, was, and could be! My only issue is that the last two decades (1995-2015 when the book was pub'd) fly by in a single thin chapter, but I also believe this guy could wait 10 years and have a better grasp on what the 2000s were really like. If you're looking for more about contemporary comedy and comedy wri An exceptional read for anyone interested in comedy. I found myself putting it down to look up clips, and download albums I'd never heard. Made me feel good and bad about what this art form is, was, and could be! My only issue is that the last two decades (1995-2015 when the book was pub'd) fly by in a single thin chapter, but I also believe this guy could wait 10 years and have a better grasp on what the 2000s were really like. If you're looking for more about contemporary comedy and comedy writing, check out both of Mike Sacks' books!

  27. 4 out of 5

    chris fortson

    Required reading For anyone who is a comedy nerd in any capacity, this is a must read. A comprehensive history lesson that paved a path from vaudeville to radio to television to stand up and back again. And tracing the family tree of inspiration and mentorship from comedian to comedian.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Pat Carroll

    From minstrel shows to Marc Maron's WTF podcast, this is a clear guide to the people and politics of standup and sketch comedy. Steve Allen's survey books and Judd Apatow's interviews have insight into performers, but not much about the biz. This book does, and it made me happy I never tried it. From minstrel shows to Marc Maron's WTF podcast, this is a clear guide to the people and politics of standup and sketch comedy. Steve Allen's survey books and Judd Apatow's interviews have insight into performers, but not much about the biz. This book does, and it made me happy I never tried it.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Bill

    An off-the-cuff kind of popular history of what might be America's strongest art form in popular culture. Starting at the beginning of the 20th century with vaudeville, The Comedians is a quick ride through the evolution of comedy - primarily live, stand up comedy. I was surprised at the involvement of the Mob during the middle of the last century. Don Rickles' agent was a Mob boss. The book ends shortly after 9-11 and I was left wishing the author carried his account through the last decade. Lot An off-the-cuff kind of popular history of what might be America's strongest art form in popular culture. Starting at the beginning of the 20th century with vaudeville, The Comedians is a quick ride through the evolution of comedy - primarily live, stand up comedy. I was surprised at the involvement of the Mob during the middle of the last century. Don Rickles' agent was a Mob boss. The book ends shortly after 9-11 and I was left wishing the author carried his account through the last decade. Lots of short snippets and gossipy anecdotes by well known comedians.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Art

    A fun history of people who make us laugh and their influences. This book tells about comics and stand-ups and how they became headline performers. While this book traces the history and transitions of comedy, it naturally includes the evolution of entertainment venues, from eighteen-eighties vaudeville, to radio, nightclubs, television and comedy clubs. Appearing on a bill with singers, jugglers and acrobats, the vaudeville comics needed about thirteen minutes of material for their act, often in A fun history of people who make us laugh and their influences. This book tells about comics and stand-ups and how they became headline performers. While this book traces the history and transitions of comedy, it naturally includes the evolution of entertainment venues, from eighteen-eighties vaudeville, to radio, nightclubs, television and comedy clubs. Appearing on a bill with singers, jugglers and acrobats, the vaudeville comics needed about thirteen minutes of material for their act, often in big theaters. But eventually, radio and motion pictures took their toll on vaudeville, replacing it with a medium that would reach millions of people who could not get to a theater. Prohibition's end in 1933 brought the end of speakeasies and the beginning of nightclubs. Now the comedians needed three times as much comedy, forty-five minutes of material in smaller and more intimate spaces. In 1948, nineteen television stations served twelve cities, including New York, Chicago and Milwaukee. In June, Texaco Star Theater debuted, using a vaudeville-style bill, with acts paced by the emcee, Milton Berle, who came out of vaudeville. Ten years later, Jack Paar on The Tonight Show introduced a new coffeehouse style of comedy, including the Smothers Brothers and Nichols & May. Among the smarter coffeehouse comedians, Mort Sahl led to Woody Allen and George Carlin, who became the hippie's comedian. That's one branch on the family tree of comedy. This book explores the lineages of other styles. For half a century, stand-up comedy talked about other people: "Did you hear about the guy walking down the street …?" But in the mid-fifties, observational humor became first-person: "I was walking down the street …" A review from the book pages: http://www.jsonline.com/entertainment... I did well in high school improv and comedy, so I looked forward to this fascinating book. But the subtitle seems unnecessarily rough. History, high- and low-brow culture and comedy all in one book. Fun.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.