Kliph Nesteroff on the History of Americans Objecting to Comedy
In Conversation with Andrew Keen on Keen On
Hosted by Andrew Keen, Keen On features conversations with some of the world’s leading thinkers and writers about the economic, political, and technological issues being discussed in the news, right now.
Andrew talks to Kliph Nesteroff, author of Outrageous, about the history of American showbiz and its perennial culture wars.
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Kliph Nesteroff was born and raised in a pacifist community in rural British Columbia. After being permanently expelled from high school for the content of a speech he delivered during a campaign for school president, he moved to Toronto and started performing stand-up comedy. Influenced by the Beat Generation, punk rock music, and his anti-war upbringing, Nesteroff primarily performed in underground bars, punk rock clubs, and alternative comedy venues. He quickly developed a cult following for the combative, insult-comic character Shecky Grey, which landed him on the cover of several Canadian free weeklies. After eight years of stand-up, Nesteroff became an advocate for the homeless, the mentally ill, and the drug addicted, accepting a position in an experimental clinic that nursed addicts with life threatening infections back to health. While working night shifts at the clinic, Nesteroff spent much of his time writing about stand-up comics from the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, focusing on the mafia-run nightclubs that used to employ comedians. The articles were frequently published by the web-magazine of free form radio station WFMU. In 2011, Marc Maron began talking about Nesteroff’s articles on several episodes of his WTF podcast, eventually extending an invitation to Nesteroff to appear on his program. After a 2012 appearance on WTF with Marc Maron, Nesteroff got a book deal with Grove Press to write the definitive history of 20th Century American stand-up. Released in 2015, The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels, and the History of American Comedy became a best-selling book and led to a television career. Nesteroff is a frequent talking head on countless programs and documentary films about comedy.