In 20th century America, burlesque became associated with many variety shows where striptease
became the chief attracting element. American burlesque encompasses parody, wit, and pastiche with a
variety of acts such as chanson singers, mime artists, dancing girls, comedians, and striptease artists.
Vaudeville is our country’s only purely indigenous theatrical form, according to the book No Applause –
Just Throw Money by Trav S.D. Vaudeville was a showcase for the best and worst America had to offer –
a platform for diversity, tolerance, and democracy, darkly tempered by the “cash-is-king” ethos of
market capitalism. Resilience was also among its finer traits, and, far from receding into history,
vaudeville has experienced a reemergence. There is a vibrant subculture that persists across the United
States today – a vast grassroots network of fire-eaters, human blockheads, burlesque performers, and
bad comics intent on taking vaudeville into its second century. Vaudeville was the next logical extension
of the music hall, a popular form of urban entertainment in the mid-19th Century, which provided for a
variety of acts to perform in front of an all-male audience, while it enjoyed a beer or two.
Music hall (or variety, as it was also called) was basically a theater with a saloon attached. Burlesque was
a little different than Vaudeville. Burlesque had a lot of comedy, charm, and girls taking off their clothes.
When it began, it was about witty and charming women and clever comedy. Although, performers in
Vaudeville often looked down on Burlesque, many great comedy acts polished their performances
there. Burlesque offered stable work during tougher times, and so many bigger acts performed in burlesque shows under aliases. According to Musicals101.com, sexual innuendo was always present, but
the focus was on making fun of sex and what people were willing to do in the pursuit of it. As male
managers took over the burlesque circuits, feminine wit and charm were removed and the focus was
placed more on revealing the feminine form as much as legally possible.
This helped to further diminish the level of respect associated with it. A variety show, also known as
variety arts or variety entertainment, is an entertainment made up of a variety of acts (hence the name),
especially musical performances and sketch comedy, and normally introduced by a compère (master of
ceremonies) or host. Other types of acts include magic, animal and circus acts, acrobatics, juggling and
ventriloquism. The variety format made its way from Victorian era stage to radio to television. Variety
shows were a staple of anglophone television from its early days (late 1940’s) into the 1970s, and lasted
into the 1980s. (And even further, when considering Saturday Night Live, for example, which is still
currently active. (1975- )) In several parts of the world, variety TV remains popular and widespread.