Vaudeville Vaudeville And Popular Entertainment Between 1870-1920. Term Paper

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¶ … Vaudeville [...] vaudeville and popular entertainment between 1870-1920. Vaudeville relied on obvious humor and often stereotypical behavior to help entertain the audience. Often, this humor was ethnically based, or at the expense of someone else. This blatant and obvious humor was funny to an audience less sophisticated than many theatergoers, which may be one reason vaudeville lost favor and eventually disappeared from the American theater scene. The films at the American Memories Web site show many different sides of vaudeville. However, they all show simple forms of magic, bicycle riding, or even circus acts. None of the acts is especially sophisticated, and many of them use humor as a base form of entertainment. For example, the "Bowery Waltz" number shows the ill effects of drinking in the bars of the bowery, but it also caricatures the type of people that frequent bowery bars, and shows them all as pathetic drunkards. The trapeze clip shows women simply as sex objects who take off a few articles of clothing to get the "rubes" from the country excited. These films are humorous, but at the expense of someone else,...


The vaudeville humor is gross, and often, it was based on ethnicity, such as Jew or Irish immigrants, too. As one expert notes, "The core of the [vaudevillian] humor is the construction of caricatures based on familiar ethnic stereotypes and linguistic humor -- puns, malapropisms, double entendres, and accent-play, including broad exaggeration and misunderstandings which result from faulty pronunciation" (Mintz 19). This broad type of humor kept vaudeville audiences laughing, but it exploited minorities and women for laughs, and it seems silly and inappropriate in today's world. As the dates on the film clips show, the earliest vaudeville entertainment was very basic, such as the man doing quite uncomplicated tricks on his bicycle. However, as the medium developed, more complications were added, such as the lengthy act of the woman disrobing on the trapeze. Acts had to become more sophisticated and intricate as vaudeville grew more popular, but humor was still a key ingredient of many acts, and played an important role in vaudeville as a whole.
Sexuality was…

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