The Comedians

The Comedians

Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels, and the History of American Comedy

eBook - 2015
Average Rating:
Rate this:
"Funny [and] fascinating . . . If you're a comedy nerd you'll love this book" ( Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ).

Named a Best Book of the Year by Kirkus Reviews , National Post , and Splitsider
Based on over two hundred original interviews and extensive archival research, this groundbreaking work is a narrative exploration of the way comedians have reflected, shaped, and changed American culture over the past one hundred years.

Starting with the vaudeville circuit at the turn of the last century, the book 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 twenty-first century.

"Entertaining and carefully documented . . . jaw-dropping anecdotes . . . This book is a real treat." --Merrill Markoe, The Wall Street Journal
Publisher: New York : Grove Press, [2015]
Edition: First edition.
Copyright Date: ß2015
ISBN: 9780802190864
Branch Call Number: eBook OverDrive
Characteristics: 1 online resource (xvii, 425 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates) : illustrations, portraits.
Additional Contributors: OverDrive, Inc

Related Resources


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

Oct 15, 2016

I really enjoyed this book. It covered a wide range of comedians and comedy styles that have come and gone over the decades. He at least mentions every comedian I remember growing up and he tells some great details. I found it an easy read and very informative even in a topic I already knew in some detail.

May 02, 2016

I enjoyed the early chapters of this most, the vaudeville performers and postwar club acts because much was new to me.

With a survey of a big subject like this it's hard not to have a few "but what about" gripes so I'll indulge:

Bob & Ray rate one sentence although he does discuss radio comedy in the tv era. This is a serious lapse.

Likewise for SCTV,a one sentence name drop, although 80's tv is covered in depth. I wondered if he disapproved of their parodies of Vegas lounge type comedians.

30's talkies comedy seems to be something he chose to treat lightly but this leaves the silliness of a book about comedy where Vaughan Meader gets more ink than Laurel and Hardy.

He does have a wonderful appreciation of how good Jonathan Winters was.

May 02, 2016

This is better as history than comedy: you'll only find a few good jokes here. But it's wonderfully comprehensive, covering nearly a century and including quotes from a wide variety of sources. My only criticisms are: a) it has too many lists of little-known people, suggesting a need for hyperlinks that a physical book can't provide; and b) it doesn't really have an ending.

May 01, 2016

I expected this to be an amusing book, depicting the history of comedy, but it is written more as a very informative textbook, which was not what I was interested in. Therefore I did not give it a star rating as it would have been unfair to rate it based on my prior assumptions, rather than what the author's intent was. If you are truly looking for a book with historical facts about the comedy movement, this may well be the book for you; however, if you are looking for a book to fill your evening with laughter, you'd be better served by continuing your pursuit.


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further


Subject Headings


Find it at SMPL

To Top