Outrageous A History of Showbiz and the Culture Wars


A History of Showbiz and the Culture Wars

  • ISBN: 9781419760983
  • Publication Date: November 28, 2023


Price: $30.00

From the preeminent historian of modern comedy comes an expansive history of showbiz and the culture wars

There is a common belief that we live in unprecedented times, that people are too sensitive today, that nobody objected to the actions of actors, comedians, and filmmakers in the past. Modern pundits would have us believe that Americans of a previous generation had tougher skin and seldom complained. But does this argument hold up to scrutiny?

In Outrageous, celebrated cultural historian Kliph Nesteroff demonstrates that Americans have been objecting to entertainment for nearly two hundred years, sometimes rationally, often irrationally. Likewise, powerful political interests have sought to circumvent the arts using censorship, legal harassment, and outright propaganda. From Mae West through Johnny Carson, Amos ’n’ Andy through Beavis and Butt-Head, Outrageous chronicles the controversies of American show business and the ongoing attempts to change what we watch, read, and hear.


Outrageous is required reading. An essential book of the social history of the United States—with laughs.”
—Steve Martin

Outrageous is an enlightening and entertaining, detailed, and wide-ranging (and fun!) overview of the never-ending war between censorship and comic voices in showbiz going all the way back into the 1800s. Kliph Nesteroff is an expert unparalleled on the history of comedy, and this couldn’t be a more perfect book for our times. I loved it.”
—Bob Odenkirk

“Kliph Nesteroff is the Doris Kearns Goodwin of comedy. Outrageous is thought-provoking and often hilarious. I was only offended eight times.”
—Judd Apatow

"A history of American censorship of all kinds of popular culture ... Nesteroff describes American attempts to censor theatre and vaudeville and burlesque which date almost to the beginning of the Republic, along with all the misbegotten efforts to purge 'vulgarity' from popular entertainment, ... [and] provides a useful reminder that censorship and censoriousness are significantly different things."
—Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker

“This fascinating cultural history examines the relationship between entertainment and suppression by looking at the cycles of success and censorship that plagued Elvis Presley, Mae West, Carol Burnett and others.”
—Washington Post

"Fact packed... Outrageous, the product of herculean research, has a wider purview than just comedy. ... In no-frills prose, Nesteroff races through some two centuries of expression and backlash."

—The New York Times Book Review

“Nesteroff’s meticulously researched book chronicles the many battles that have been waged on that front in the culture wars since the birth of show business. It expertly provides the one thing lacking in too many discussions of popular culture: deep, substantive, meaningful context.”
—Glen Weldon, NPR

“If you’re worried about the future of funny free speech, Outrageous will both assuage and fuel your fears.” 

“Nesteroff, who proved he’s a premier historian of American comedy in The Comedians and We Had a Little Real Estate Problem hunts bigger game in this book—cataloguing the battle over entertainment content, from backlashes against racial and ethnic stereotyping from the 1830s to today’s weaponized, heavily bankrolled fights against ‘political correctness.’” 
—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

“A comprehensive, meticulously researched, generally left-of-center work about how industries intended to entertain were and remain cultural battlefields.”
—Library Journal

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