The History of Comedy

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We may never know who came up with the world’s very first joke, but historians have traced the oral tradition of joke-telling all the way back to the Old Babylonian period. The Greene County Library has the following books available for you to check out if you’re interested in learning more about how comedy has evolved over the years:

Planet Funny by Ken Jennings – Presents a history of humor, from fart jokes on clay Sumerian tablets all the way up to the latest Twitter memes, that tells the story of how comedy came to rule the modern world.

Away With Words by Joe Berkowitz – Investigates the bizarre and hilarious world of pun competitions, from the Punderdome 3000 in Brooklyn to the world competition in Austin.

The Comedians by Kliph Nesteroff – Explores the history of stand-up comedy in the United States, from vaudeville through radio and late-night television, discussing how comedians have both reflected and shaped American culture over the past century.

Comedy at the Edge by Richard Zoglin – 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.

Live From New York by Tom Shales & James Andrew Miller – Draws on backstage anecdotes and uncensored reminiscences to create an oral history of the long-running television series Saturday Night Live.

Sick in the Head by Judd Apatow – Presents a collection of conversations with some of today’s most popular comedians, drawing on the author’s teenage radio hosting days to include pieces from the early years, and including interviews with such names as Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno, and Sandra Bernhard.

We Killed by Yael Kohen – 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.

About Abby Harris

Abby is the Public Communications Specialist for JMRL.

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