Deep Dish Radio with Tim Powers
Episode 11

Kliph Nesteroff and "The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels and the History of American Comedy"

Tim Powers published on

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 two hundred 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 one hundred 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 Comediansculminates with a new era of media-driven celebrity in the twenty-first century.

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  • Dan Lack

    I am 67 years old, and recall seeding many of the names mentioned in this podcast....I find it amazing that Kliph Nesteroff at age 35 is so incredibly knowledgeable about these comediens and all the things associated with comedy, which occurred decades before he was even born...I tip my hat to a young man who has such an interest in a time long gone bye

  • Tim Powers

    Dan, thank you so much for the very kind feedback.
    Is it OK if I read this on the next episode?

  • Dan Lack

    Leave a Comment..Tim...please feel free to use the comment anyway you wish.....and thanks again for spending time with Kliph allowing him to publicize his wonderful new book..I've read many of Kliphs blog posts/interviews with a slew of comedians (many on the order of the group seated in the Carnegie Deli in NY, as they appeared in the classic Woody Allen movie "Broadway Danny Rose"...I hope with this book Kliph is able to finally "cash in" on his amazing knowledge of the world of comedy, after giving it away basically for "free" these years...this was the first time I've actually heard Kliph, and he conveys his points succinctly and with enormous accuracy..and finally thank you for allowing Kliph to describe the Jerry Lewis 1963 talk show fiasco...I've always thought of Jerry as a total egomaniacal bully and he really got his comeuppance with this disaster...It's plainly obvious why Dean Martin pulled the plug after the 10 yr partnership....he simply couldn't stand the man anymore!.

  • Dan Lack

    Kliph and Tim spent several minutes talking about the famous incident involving Joe E. Lewis, where in the late '20s Joe E Lewis had his throat slit by Al Capone's goons at he tried to switch nightclubs (from one owned by Capone) to another one where he could earn more money....Kliph went on to mention that both a book and movie were subsequently written about the career of Joe E Lewis...the movie starred Frank Sinatra, portraying Joe E...and Kliph mentioned it was difficult to find a copy of the film or book....THE MOVIE IS NOW AVAILABLE FOR FREE ON YOUTUBE!!!...simply typy into You tube search box...The Joker is Wild....

  • Tim Powers

    Dan, You can be sure I'll be watching on YouTube tonight.
    Welcome to the family.