Outrageous A History of Showbiz and the Culture Wars


A History of Showbiz and the Culture Wars

  • ISBN: 9781419760990
  • Publication Date: November 19, 2024


Price: $18.00

From the preeminent historian of comedy, an expansive history of show business and the battles over culture that have echoed through the decades and changed the United States

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

There is a common belief that we live in unprecedented times, that nobody got offended in the past, that people are simply too sensitive today, that racism and sexism were once widely accepted without objection. The truth is precisely the opposite.

With every step of our cultural history, minorities have pushed back against racist portrayals, women have fought for respect, and people have sought to change the world of entertainment and beyond through a combination of censorship, advocacy, or protest. Likewise, opposing forces have sought to sway public opinion and shape culture through violence and political and economic pressure.

Kliph Nesteroff, author of The Comedians and We Had a Little Real Estate Problem, presents a deep dive into the history of show business and illustrates both how our world has changed and how the fierce battlegrounds of today are reflected in our past.

Outrageous is a crucial and timeless book filled with surprising details, remarkable anecdotes, and unforgettable characters, including figures we think we know, such as Mae West, Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, and Stan Laurel (who tried to bury his wife alive but still wasn’t “cancelled”), and others readers may never have heard of.


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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