The Comedians by Kliph Nesteroff

I am not sure exactly why I am drawn to comedians and comedy in general. I think my need for escapism a likely factor, however I love comedy that skewers modern issues and challenges the status quo. I think I have always found myself outside of popular culture looking in. Does anyone else see what I see?

I love reading about the history and evolution of comedy and comedians because it amazes me how much things can change yet things can feel so familiar. It is interesting how some jokes today would have gotten arrested years ago, but there are definitely jokes you can’t tell today that were completely acceptable back in the day.

The Comedians is a big book but it quickly skims over the history of comedy, which as we know it is barely a century old. Vaudeville led to radio which led to nightclubs and television which led to the comedy boom and bust.

The first half of this book was very detailed and I learned a lot about the origins of modern comedy including the importance of the Catskills and the influence of organized crime. As the book progresses to closer to today’s comedians, it felt like it started to unravel. As comedy became less centralized, it becomes trickier to communicate its influence. How do you cover the influence of Steve Martin and Robin Williams in just a couple of pages? It’s impossible.

The first half deserves five stars. The last half of the book barely gets three stars. I would still recommend this book to any comedy lover.