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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
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (18 ratings)

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The Comedians

Written by: Kliph Nesteroff
Narrated by: Kliph Nesteroff
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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
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Great Book

I heard Marc Maron mention this book when Kliph was on his show last week so I thought I'd give it a listen.

Kliph does an amazing job of taking the past 100+ years of modern comedy and finding ways to fit it all into very compressed and chronological stories. Each chapter is it's own story in itself. Obviously he doesn't cover every single aspect of comedy but he does a solid job of covering the main points within each chapter. Kind of reminds me of the big SNL book that covers 40+ years of history.

The impressions add to the storytelling. I don't think Kliph specializes in impressions but I give him credit for reading quotes of Rodney Dangerfield and Albert Brooks and I think Rita Rudner at one point, lol.

A must read/listen for any comedy nerd or anyone interested in the history of American entertainment.

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

Excellent research, annoying impressions

I enjoyed reading the paperback version of this book so much I decided to get the audiobook. Unfortunately, the author chooses to read most direct quotes in his normal voice, but destroys others with his bad impersonations (his Albert Brooks and Mel Brooks are particularly heavy-handed and distracting.) If you can endure (or fast forward) those bit, the book itself is an excellent and informative history.

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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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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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

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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  • 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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7 people found this 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!

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5 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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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!

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5 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Patrick D. McDowell
  • 2018-03-10

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.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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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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3 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • John Smith
  • 2019-03-23

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.
  • 2019-03-05

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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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Wayne
  • 2019-01-08

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.

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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.

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  • Brian VanHooker
  • 2018-08-10

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.

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