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Past Event

Jewish Cultural Studies

Jerry Zolten: We Were What We Laughed At! An American Cultural History through the Art of Stand-Up Comedy

Jerry Zolten, educator, author, musician, roots music historian and producer, also counts among his credits a stint as a stand-up comic. He will give a presentation on the history of stand up comedy that is richly illustrated with rare video performance clips. The talk will explore comedy as it relates to issues including ethnic stereotyping, freedom of speech, social injustice, and race and gender disparity.

Motivated by his love of comedy and the power of the best comedians to shake up thinking on a range of significant social issues, Zolten dug into the history of American stand-up and over the years interviewed and published profiles of luminaries including Carl Reiner, Steve Allen, Dick Gregory, George Carlin, and Woody Allen, to name a few.

His collaborations on roots music projects with noted satirists Robert Crumb and Harvey Pekar have led to guest appearances on public radio’s American Routes and as a featured speaker at Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame.

He is the author of Great God A’Mighty! The Dixie Hummingbirds: Celebrating the Rise of Soul Gospel Music (Oxford University Press), co-editor of Bruce Springsteen, Cultural Studies, and the Runaway American Dream (Ashgate), and contributor to The Cambridge Companion to the Beatles (Cambridge University Press).

Zolten contributed to two 2015 Grammy-Winning projects, The Rise and Fall of Paramount Records, Volumes 1 & 2 (Revenant/Third Man) and The Fairfield Four’s Still Rockin’ My Soul!.

His most recent work includes an article on the centennial of the iconic Martin Dreadnought Guitar for the C.F. Martin Guitar Company’s Martin Journal of the Acoustic Guitar along with a featured on-screen appearance in the documentary film “The Ballad of the Dreadnought” produced by C.F. Martin & Co.