If you liked Waiting for the Punch, you should read The Comedians by Canadian author Kliph Nesteroff
Comedian Marc Maron's podcast WTF reaches 1.5 million listeners a week. He is known as someone who gets his famous guests to really open up. Waiting for the Punch: Words to Live by from the WTF Podcast is a collection of his best interviews.
Columnist Vish Khanna has read it and believes fans of Maron will enjoy reading The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels, and the History of American Comedy by Kliph Nesteroff. This interview originally aired on Jan. 1, 2018.
Building an audience with truth
"Marc Maron is an expert at carving people out of their personas and getting to the truth. That can be something as simple as asking about their sandwich preference or their struggle with depression — just talking to them about something real. Marc was a long-time stand-up comedian regarded in the industry as angry — his brash demeanour wasn't for everyone. But he started WTF and reached out to people and eventually had Robin Williams on. Slowly but surely he would have bigger and bigger guests."
"Because it's organized by thematic chapters, there is a flow to Waiting for the Punch. Everyone is connected by their fear of success or failure in their career — they might have different things to say about it, but the book makes it rather cohesive. In a sense, it's weirdly more cohesive than the sprawling, 1,000-episode podcast."
A crash course in comedy
"Comedian Kliph Nesteroff began to explore comedy from an American perspective, and he came upon a treasure trove of historical articles. He started writing articles for the radio station WFMU's blog and they drew a lot of attention because people didn't know the history of comedy. Among the people who discovered these blogs was Marc Maron, who invited Kliph onto his podcast and that led to a book deal. Kliph left his stand-up career behind to become a comedy historian. In The Comedians, he has traced the trajectory of comedy. You learn about the key figures that started comedy, the ones that continue to make comedy and the ones who have adapted to various platforms."
Comedy throughout the ages
"How this book relates to now is that during the Depression radio becomes this emerging platform. Comedians begin to appear on it as actors, commentators and sketch artists. Eventually that leads to television and film and more public appearances. I saw a connection between the chapter on comedians finding a new voice in radio with what Maron did with podcasting. A lot of comedians who you would think were on the wane suddenly develop a whole new livelihood through podcasting and YouTube channels. There is all sorts of motivated independence that goes on within the comedy world. I find Kliph's book deeply fascinating!"
Vish Khanna's comments have been edited and condensed.