Pell Center

The Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy at Salve Regina is a multidisciplinary research center focused at the intersection of politics, policies and ideas.

Kliph Nesteroff on Culture Wars, and Why the Problem Isn’t a New One

Air Dates: February 26-March 3, 2024 

It’s easy to listen to the news and conclude that we have never been more gripped by the so-called “Culture Wars.” But Kliph Nesteroff argues just the opposite: today’s conflict isn’t a fluke, it’s part of a long history of conflict, controversy and recrimination.  

Canadian comic Kliph Nesteroff is, according to the New York Times, the “premier popular historian of comedy.” He has authored two books since starting out as a stand-up comic, including “The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels, and the History of American Comedy” and “We Had a Little Real Estate Problem: The Unheralded Story of Native Americans and Comedy.” His work has been praised by comedy legends from Gilbert Gottfried to Mel Brooks to Norm Macdonald. His forthcoming third book is titled “Outrageous: A History of Showbiz and the Culture Wars.”  

On this episode of “Story in the Public Square,” Nesteroff discusses modern culture surrounding comedy, and the claim that “you can’t say anything anymore, you can’t joke about anything anymore, people are too sensitive these days.” He goes on to point out that “this really isn’t true compared to the totality of history.” Nesteroff also discusses why this perception may exist, citing social media’s popularity as a potential cause, as “there’s no editor. So, if somebody complains about a comedian or a TV show or a song lyric, you get all 500 of those letters published instantaneously on Twitter or other social media platforms. And I believe this creates the illusion that people are more sensitive today than in the past.” 

“Story in the Public Square” broadcasts each week on public television stations across the United States. A full listing of the national television distribution is available at this link. In Rhode Island and southeastern New England, the show is broadcast on Rhode Island PBS on Sundays at 11:00 a.m. and is rebroadcast Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. An audio version of the program airs multiple time each weekend on SiriusXM’s popular P.O.T.U.S. (Politics of the United States), channel 124.  Check the show’s SiriusXM page for broadcast times. “Story in the Public Square” is a project of the Pell Center at Salve Regina University. The initiative aims to study, celebrate and tell stories that matter.