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The Comedians

Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels and the History of American Comedy
Written by: Kliph Nesteroff
Narrated by: Kliph Nesteroff
Length: 15 hrs and 6 mins
4 out of 5 stars (4 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 members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Ron
  • 2019-04-17

History of comedians

Really enjoyed it after hearing about the book on Gilbert Gottfried's podcast. If you like true hollywood stories then listen to this book.

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Tough Go

I gave this a go based on a recommendation from a podcast (Bill Burr). The narrator does impressions for some people he is referring to, but not everyone. I found this to be annoying. The book was really just a long list of events.

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  • Susan
  • 2018-04-16

Good stories, but...

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

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Constant Reader
  • 2019-04-12

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 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Dan Booth Cohen
  • 2017-08-10

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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  • Robin Bergeron
  • 2018-03-12

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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  • sarah a phetteplace
  • 2018-01-23

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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  • Anonymous User
  • 2019-10-10

Kliph is not great at voices. Great book though.

A review requires fifteen words....so here's fifteen words for my review to be posted. Banana.

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  • E. A. Smith
  • 2019-09-02

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.

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  • Gary Mannheimer
  • 2019-08-18

Enjoyable

I became interested in this book after hearing the author on Gilbert Gottfried's podcast. Informative and entertaining. Great stories occasionally marred by mispronouciations by the narrator.

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  • Sfbelle
  • 2019-08-15

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.

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  • Matt McAleney
  • 2019-07-29

Better than an arrow through the head.

for a student of comedy it is excellent listening. Nothing earth shattering but great way to pass the time