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The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels, and the History of American Comedy Hardcover – November 3, 2015
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Named a Best Book of the Year by Kirkus Reviews, National Post, and Splitsider
Entertaining and carefully documented . . . I thought I knew a lot about the history of American comedy. But this book located gaps in my knowledge I never knew were there and filled them with jaw-dropping anecdotes that made my eyes spin in different directions . . . This book is a real treat.”Merrill Markoe, Wall Street Journal
In the past decade, there have been several superb history books about comedy . . . but none will entertain comedy nerds as much as Kliph Nesteroff’s The Comedians . . . sprawling and savvy . . . comedy’s answer to Luc Sante’s Low Life.”New York Times Book Review
An antic history of U.S. comedy . . . Nesteroff writes with insider perception . . . With his encyclopedic knowledge, a talent for vivid anecdotes and tireless gusto . . . [The Comedians is] an insightful overview of the most independent and subversive entertainment genre of the last century.”Washington Post
[An] excellent book.”New York Times
Both breezy and exhaustive . . . peppered with tidbits to store away for future cocktail parties . . . [The Comedians] is a book fascinated by personalities, warmly disposed to even the most irascible of them, and motivated by all the ways American culture and American comedy create each other.”L.A. Weekly (Best Books of 2015 By L.A. Authors)
An informative and engaging account . . . Nesteroff provides a clear through-line from vaudeville to the New Millennium. Yet it’s the anecdotes about personality and style that elevate the book beyond mere history.”USA Today
The Comedians is everything it should be, including very funny. This historically rich history of comedians in America is fascinating . . . If you’re a comedy nerd you’ll love this book.”Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
If you think you know a lot about stand-up comedy, this book will expose you as the fraud you secretly reckoned you were. Remember Frank Fay? Exactly.”Norm MacDonald
Kliph Nesteroff and this book are devoted to what I truly lovethe art of comedy.”Mel Brooks
Kliph Nesteroff is a comedy nerd’ in the deepest sense of the word . . . He is the preeminent historian of modern comedy.”Marc Maron
This is one of the best books I’ve ever read about show business . . . [Nesteroff] has amassed a dishy, informal, and knowledgeable history of comedy . . . This is straight talk about largely undocumented areas of show business and it is utterly fascinating. I feasted on this book and look forward to a possible sequel.”Leonard Maltin, Indiewire (Holiday Book Roundup)
Comedy tends to disappear, either into the boozy corners of a night club, or onto countless lost videotapes of TV variety shows that may never even make it to Netflix. That's what makes The Comedians so essential. No one charts the connections between the Jewy-old-masters of the TV age of comedy to the gay woman telling jokes into your ear right now on a podcast quite like [Kliph Nesteroff].”John Hodgman, contributor to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
Beginning in the always smoky, often dilapidated vaudeville theaters of the early 20th century and spanning over a hundred years, Nesteroff meticulously details the lives and careers of forgotten and famous comics . . . Nesteroff’s exhaustive research is evident and historians will appreciate his thoroughness.”Associated Press
A definitive volume. A lively, raucous, and immensely entertaining love letter to funny business.”Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Both pop culture enthusiasts and entertainment scholars will relish this important history of American comedy.”Library Journal (starred review)
Indispensable.”Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
So flipping entertaining.”Cleveland Plain Dealer
A great book.”Splitsider
The Comedians is as good as they come. Nesteroff hits all the highlights and lowlights of this constantly evolving art form.”Portland Mercury
Comedy buffs will find a treasure chest of trivia . . . But Nesteroff’s aims are far more ambitious. He weaves comedians into the larger American story, from racism . . . and blacklisting to the counterculture and the anti-war movement . . . An interesting, satisfying read.”Dallas News
Extraordinary . . . wildly, crazily revealing, and readable.”Buffalo News
The definitive history of the comedy business . . . downright majestic.”Forward
One of the most comprehensive and accessible accounts of the art form to date.”Flavorwire
Immensely entertaining, a fast read that’s also a deep dive.”Ken Tucker, Yahoo TV
A valuable book . . . a compulsively readable history of American comedy . . . The book provides terrific insights into how the comedy greats of cinema created their personae and their acts . . . The book is also, no surprise, funny . . . My only complaint about the book? It’s too short.”Glenn Kenny, RogerEbert.com
A rollicking history.”Macleans (Canada)
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The omissions is why I give it only three stars. The book is well written and entertaining, but once you notice some names are missing, the omissions tend to leap out at you. It's only a small sliver of the world of comedy, and if you approach it that way it works well. But it's not an exhaustive account.
The book starts describing the earliest comedy performances through internet influences and podcasts. Just a fascinating read.
However, this is not a funny book. If you expect this to be a book full of jokes and the best lines from the best comedians, you will be disappointed. While there are some humorous lines cited in the book, it more often delves into the pain and struggles of comedians, club owners, managers, etc.
I highly recommend this book as an essential, exhaustive history of the medium.
The rare moments where I really laughed at a line or two by a great comedian like Groucho Marx or Jerry Seinfeld, made me realize how much better this valuable history could have been.