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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 Comedians culminates with a new era of media-driven celebrity in the twenty-first century.
"Jokes change from generation to generation, but the experience of the stand-up comedian transcends the ages: the striving and struggles, the tragedy and triumph. From the Marx Brothers to Milton Berle, George Carlin to Eddie Murphy, Conan O'Brien to Louis C. K.--comedy historian Kliph Nesteroff presents a century of fascinating rebels, forgotten stars, and characters on the precipice of fame in this ... history of American comedy"--Dust jacket flap.
Traces the careers and achievements of comediennes and challenges opinions about why women cannot be effective comedic entertainers, with coverage of celebrities, including Joan Rivers, Lily Tomlin, and Tina Fey.
Surveys the stand-up comedy of the 1970s, citing the contributions of celebrity comics, from George Carlin and Richard Pryor to Robin Williams and Andy Kaufman, in an account that also evaluates the roles played by such clubs as Catch a Rising Star, the Improv, and the Comedy Store.
The comedians of the 1950s and 1960s were a totally different breed of relevant, revolutionary performer from any that came before or after, comics whose humor did much more than pry guffaws out of audiences. Gerald Nachman presents the stories of the groundbreaking comedy stars of those years, each one a cultural harbinger: • Mort Sahl, of a new political cynicism • Lenny Bruce, of the sexual, drug, and language revolution • Dick Gregory, of racial unrest • Bill Cosby and Godfrey Cambridge, of racial harmony • Phyllis Diller, of housewifely complaint • Mike Nichols & Elaine May and Woody Allen, of self-analytical angst and a rearrangement of male-female relations • Stan Freberg and Bob Newhart, of encroaching, pervasive pop media manipulation and, in the case of Bob Elliott & Ray Goulding, of the banalities of broadcasting • Mel Brooks, of the Yiddishization of American comedy • Sid Caesar, of a new awareness of the satirical possibilities of television • Joan Rivers, of the obsessive craving for celebrity gossip and of a latent bitchy sensibility • Tom Lehrer, of the inane, hypocritical, mawkishly sentimental nature of hallowed American folkways and, in the case of the Smothers Brothers, of overly revered folk songs and folklore • Steve Allen, of the late-night talk show as a force in American comedy • David Frye and Vaughn Meader, of the merger of showbiz and politics and, along with Will Jordan, of stretching the boundaries of mimicry • Shelley Berman, of a generation of obsessively self-confessional humor • Jonathan Winters and Jean Shepherd, of the daring new free-form improvisational comedy and of a sardonically updated view of Midwestern archetypes • Ernie Kovacs, of surreal visual effects and the unbounded vistas of video Taken together, they made up the faculty of a new school of vigorous, socially aware satire, a vibrant group of voices that reigned from approximately 1953 to 1965. Nachman shines a flashlight into the corners of these comedians’ chaotic and often troubled lives, illuminating their genius as well as their demons, damaged souls, and desperate drive. His exhaustive research and intimate interviews reveal characters that are intriguing and all too human, full of rich stories, confessions, regrets, and traumas. Seriously Funny is at once a dazzling cultural history and a joyous celebration of an extraordinary era in American comedy. From the Hardcover edition.
In the mid-1970s, Jay Leno, David Letterman, Andy Kaufman, Richard Lewis, Robin Williams, Elayne Boosler, Tom Dreesen, and several hundred other shameless showoffs and incorrigible cutups from all across the country migrated en masse to Los Angeles, the new home of Johnny Carson's Tonight Show. There, in a late-night world of sex, drugs, dreams and laughter, they created an artistic community unlike any before or since. It was Comedy Camelot—but it couldn't last. William Knoedelseder, then a cub reporter covering the scene for the Los Angeles Times, was there when the comedians—who were not paid for performing—tried to change the system and incidentally tore apart their own close-knit community. In I'm Dying Up Here he tells the whole story of that golden age, of the strike that ended it, and of how those days still resonate in the lives of those who were there.
Discover the fascinating behind-the-scenes stories and lasting impact of the trailblazing sketch comedy show that upended television, launched the careers of some of our biggest stars, and changed the way we talk, think, and laugh about race: In Living Color. Few television shows revolutionized comedy as profoundly or have had such an enormous and continued impact on our culture as In Living Color. Inspired by Richard Pryor, Carol Burnett, and Eddie Murphy, Keenen Ivory Wayans created a television series unlike any that had come before it. Along the way, he introduced the world to Jamie Foxx, Jim Carrey, David Alan Grier, Rosie Perez, and Jennifer Lopez, not to mention his own brothers Damon, Marlon, and Shawn Wayans. In Living Color shaped American culture in ways both seen and unseen, and was part of a sea change that moved black comedy and hip-hop culture from the shadows into the spotlight. Now, Homey Don’t Play That reveals the complete, captivating story of how In Living Color overcame enormous odds to become a major, zeitgeist-seizing hit. Through exclusive interviews with the cast, writers, producers, and network executives, this insightful and entertaining chronicle follows the show’s ups and downs, friendships and feuds, tragedies and triumphs, sketches and scandals, the famous and the infamous, unveiling a vital piece of history in the evolution of comedy, television, and black culture.

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