How 1940s mob culture gave us the phrase 'stand-up comedian'

Comedy historian Kliph Nesteroff gives us the origin story of the phrase 'stand-up comedian' and history's first stand-up comics.
Frank Fay and Lenny Bruce, two of history's earliest stand-up comics. (Wikipedia, Getty Images)

Originally published on 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 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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