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How 1940s mob culture gave us the phrase ‘stand-up comedian’ – CBC.ca

Wednesday March 15, 2017

We have mobs to thank for the phrase “stand-up comedian.” 

Back in the 40’s, according to comedy historian Kliph Nesteroff, “nine out of 10 venues that stand-up comedians would play were controlled or owned by the mob.” Mobs also controlled boxing rackets where reliable fighters were deemed “stand-up fighters.” Those titles were also used for other people, including comedians. Thus, the birth of a “stand-up comedian.” 

Kliph Nesteroff

Kliph Nesteroff is an author and consultant for CNN’s new series, The History of Comedy. (Jim Herrington)

Today on the show, Nesteroff gives us the full origin story of stand-up comedy, from the aforementioned fact to some of history’s first stand-up comics including Frank Fay and Jackie “Moms” Mabley. 

— Produced by Ty Callender

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