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Encyclopedia > Burlesque

Burlesque refers to theatrical entertainment of broad and parodic humor, which usually consists of comic skits (and sometimes a striptease). While some authors assert that burlesque is a direct descendant of the Commedia dell'arte, the term 'burlesque' for a parody or comedy of manners appears about the same time as the first appearance of commedia dell'arte. Commedia redirects here. ...

With its origins in nineteenth century music hall entertainments and vaudeville, in the early twentieth century burlesque emerged as a populist blend of satire, performance art, and adult entertainment, that featured strip tease and broad comedy acts that derived their name from the low comedy aspects of the literary genre known as burlesque. Music Hall is a form of British theatrical entertainment which reached its peak of popularity between 1850 and 1960. ... This article is about the musical variety theatre. ... 1867 edition of Punch, a ground-breaking British magazine of popular humour, including a good deal of satire of the contemporary social and political scene. ... This article is about Performance art. ... Adult entertainment is entertainment restricted from people under a specified age in by a community, religious group, or government. ... For other uses, see Striptease (disambiguation). ... In literary criticism, the term burlesque is employed as a term in genre criticism, to describe any imitative work that derives humor from an incongruous contrast between style and subject. ...

In burlesque, performers, usually female, often create elaborate sets with lush, colorful costumes, mood-appropriate music, and dramatic lighting, and may even include novelty acts, such as fire-breathing or demonstrations of unusual flexibility, to enhance the impact of their performance. A man demonstrates his skill at fire breathing 65 fire breathers perform simultaneously at Burning Man 2005 A simple fire breathing torch Fire breathing is the act of creating a large flame by spraying, with ones breath, a flammable liquid upon an open flame. ...

Put simply, burlesque means "in an upside down style". Like its cousin, commedia dell'arte, burlesque turns social norms head over heels. Burlesque is a style of live entertainment that encompasses pastiche, parody, and wit. The genre traditionally encompasses a variety of acts such as dancing girls, chanson singers, comedians, mime artists, and strip tease artistes, all satirical and with a saucy edge. The strip tease element of burlesque became subject to extensive local legislation, leading to a theatrical form that titillated without falling foul of censors. The word pastiche describes a literary or other artistic genre. ...



Photo of burlesque star Gypsy Rose Lee
Photo of burlesque star Gypsy Rose Lee

Originally, burlesque featured shows that included comic sketches, often lampooning the social attitudes of the upper classes, alternating with dance routines. It developed alongside vaudeville and ran on competing circuits. In its heyday, burlesque bore little resemblance to earlier literary burlesques which parodied widely known works of literature, theater, or music. Image File history File links GypsyRoseLeeStageDoorCanteen. ... Image File history File links GypsyRoseLeeStageDoorCanteen. ... Upper class is a concept in sociology that refers to the group of people at the top of a social hierarchy. ...

Possibly due to historical social tensions between the upper classes and lower classes of society, much of the humor and entertainment of burlesque focused on lowbrow and ribald subjects—e.g., in the early years, ducks were revered amongst these folk as gags[citation needed]. // Description Lowbrow is one of several names given to an underground visual art movement that arose in the Los Angeles area in the late 1970s. ... Subfamilies Dendrocygninae Oxyurinae Anatinae Aythyinae Merginae Duck is the common name for a number of species in the Anatidae family of birds. ... For other meanings of the word gag, see gag (disambiguation). ...

The genre originated in the 1840s, early in the Victorian Era, a time of culture clashes between the social rules of established aristocracy and a working-class society. The Victorian era of the United Kingdom marked the height of the British Industrial Revolution and the apex of the British Empire. ... Aristocrat redirects here. ...

The popular burlesque show of the 1870s through the 1920s referred to a raucous, somewhat bawdy style of variety theater. It was inspired by Lydia Thompson and her troupe, the British Blondes, who first appeared in the United States in the 1860s, and also by early "leg" shows such as The Black Crook (1866). Its form, humor, and aesthetic traditions were largely derived from the minstrel show. One of the first burlesque troupes was the Rentz-Santley Novelty and Burlesque Company, created in 1870 by M.B. Leavitt, who had earlier feminized the minstrel show with her group Madame Rentz's Female Minstrels. The Black Crook (1866) was the first prototype of the modern American musical. ... Detail from cover of The Celebrated Negro Melodies, as Sung by the Virginia Minstrels, 1843 The minstrel show, or minstrelsy, was an American entertainment consisting of comic skits, variety acts, dancing, and music, performed by white people in blackface or, especially after the American Civil War, African Americans in blackface. ...

Burlesque rapidly adapted the minstrel show's tripartite structure: part one was composed of songs and dances rendered by a female company, interspersed with low comedy from male comedians. Part two was an "olio" of short specialties in which the women did not appear. The show's finish was a grand finale.

The genre often mocked established entertainment forms such as opera, Shakespearean drama, musicals, and ballet. The costuming (or lack thereof) increasingly focused on forms of dress considered inappropriate for polite society. By the 1880s, the genre had created some rules for defining itself:

  • Minimal costuming, often focusing on the female form.
  • Sexually suggestive dialogue, dance, plotlines and staging.
  • Quick-witted humor laced with puns, but lacking complexity.
  • Short routines or sketches with minimal plot cohesion across a show.

Charlie Chaplin in his autobiography gives an interesting account of burlesque in Chicago in 1910: Yarkand ladies summer fashions. ... Charles Chaplin redirects here. ... For other uses, see Chicago (disambiguation). ...

Chicago...had a fierce pioneer gaiety that enlivened the senses, yet underlying it throbbed masculine loneliness. Counteracting this somatic ailment was a national distraction known as the burlesque show, consisting of a coterie of rough-and-tumble comedians supported by twenty or more chorus girls. Some were pretty, others shopworn. Some of the comedians were funny, most of the shows were smutty harem comedies—coarse and cynical affairs (Charles Chaplin, My Autobiography: 125–6).

The popular burlesque show of this period eventually evolved into the strip tease which became the dominant ingredient of burlesque by the 1930s. In the 1930s, a social crackdown on burlesque shows led to their gradual downfall. The shows had slowly changed from ensemble ribald variety performances, to simple performances focusing mostly on the strip tease. The end of burlesque and the birth of striptease was later dramatised in the entertaining film The Night They Raided Minsky's. For the book or movie Striptease see Striptease (book) and Striptease (movie) A striptease is a performance, usually a dance, in which the performer gradually removes their clothing for the purposes of sexually arousing the audience, usually performed in nightclubs. ... The Night They Raided Minskys is a 1968 film that purports to show the story of how striptease was invented at Minskys Burlesque circa 1927. ...

Famous Burlesque Stars

Abbott and Costello is the name of a legendary American comedy duo made up of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. ... Jonathan George Jack Albertson (June 16, 1907 – November 25, 1981) was an Academy Award, Emmy Award and Tony Award-winning American actor (dating back to Vaudeville), comedian, dancer, singer, and musician, and he performed on stage, radio, movies, and television. ... Robert Alda (February 26, 1914 – May 3, 1986) born Alfonso Giuseppe Giovanni Roberto DAbruzzo, was an American actor. ... Early Ziegfeld Follies portrait of Fanny Brice Fanny Brice (October 29, 1891 – May 29, 1951) was a popular and influential American comedian, singer, theatre and film actress and entertainer, remembered best for her many stage, radio and film appearances and her recordings. ... Ann Corio in YANK magazine, 1943 Ann Corio (November 29, 1914 - March 1, 1999) was a prominent American burlesque dancer and actress. ... Born Kelly Fletcher in Britain in 1978, Immodesty Blaize is a burlesque dancer. ... Marie Dressler (born November 9, 1868; died July 28, 1934) was an Academy Award-winning Canadian actress. ... Leonce Errol Simms (July 3, 1881 - October 12, 1951) was a comedian and actor popular in the 1940s. ... W. C. Fields (January 29, 1880 - December 25, 1946) was an American comedian and actor. ... Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion. ... Gypsy Rose Lee (also known as Rose Louise Hovick and Louise Hovick) (February 9, 1911 or 1914 – April 26, 1970) was an American actress and burlesque entertainer, whose 1957 memoir, which included a scathing portrait of her domineering mother, was made into the stage musical and film Gypsy. ... Jennie Lee (November 3, 1904 - 1988) was born Janet Lee in Lochgelly, in Fife, Scotland. ... Pinky Lee (May 2, 1907 – April 3, 1993, born Pincus Leff), was a male American Burlesque comic and host of a childrens television show, The Pinky Lee Show in the early 1950s. ... Molly Picon Molly Picon was born Margaret Pyekoon in New York City on June 1, 1898. ... Phillips as Helena in the music video for the rock band My Chemical Romance. ... The World Famous Pontani Sisters are a burlesque review in New York City, beginning in the 1990s swing era and leading the burlesque movement on the East Coast and throughout the United States. ... John Lee Morgan Beauregard Ragland (known as Rags Ragland) (born August 23, 1905 in Louisville, Kentucky - died August 20, 1946 in Los Angeles, California) was an American character actor. ... Sally Rand (January 2, 1904 – August 31, 1979) was born Harriet Helen Gould Beck in Hickory County, Missouri. ... Phil Silvers (May 11, 1911 – November 1, 1985) was an American entertainer and comedy actor. ... Richard Bernard Red Skelton (July 18, 1913 – September 17, 1997) was an American comedian whose greatest impact — in a career which began as a teen circus clown and graduated to vaudeville, Broadway, MGM films, and radio — began when he reached television stardom with The Red Skelton Show (NBC, 1951–1952... Lili St. ... Tura Satana, as Varla, The Boss Pussycat herself. ... Blaze Starr (born 1932) was an American stripper and burlesque star. ... Tempest Storm, publicity photo Tempest Storm (born February 29, 1928) was born Annie Blanche Banks in Eastman, Georgia. ... Dita Von Teese (born Heather Renée Sweet on September 28, 1972) is a popular American burlesque artist, model and actress. ... MAE-West is a major Internet peering point located in San Jose, California. ...

The burlesque show on film

The first motion-picture adaptation of an actual burlesque show was Hollywood Revels (1946), a theatrical feature film starring exotic dancer Allene. Much of the action was filmed in medium or long shots, because the production was staged in an actual theater and the camera photographed the stage from a distance.

In 1947, enterprising film producer W. Merle Connell reinvented the filmed burlesque show by restaging the action especially for movies, in a studio. The camerawork and lighting were better, the sound was better, and the new setup allowed for close-ups and a variety of photographic and editorial techniques. His 1951 production French Follies is a faithful depiction of a burlesque presentation, with stage curtains, singing emcee, dances by showgirls and strippers, frequent sketches with straightmen and comedians, and a finale featuring the star performer. The highlight is the famous burlesque routine "Crazy House," popularized earlier by Abbott and Costello. Another familiar chestnut, "Slowly I Turned" (famous today as a Three Stooges routine), was filmed for Connell's 1953 feature A Night in Hollywood. This article or section does not adequately cite its references or sources. ... The Three Stooges were an American vaudeville and comedy act of the mid 20th century best known for their numerous short subject films. ...

Other producers entered the field, using color photography and even location work. Naughty New Orleans (1954) is an excellent example of burlesque entertainment on film, equally showcasing girls and gags, although it shifts the venue from a burlesque-house stage to a popular nightclub. Photographer Irving Klaw filmed a very profitable series of burlesque features, usually featuring star cheesecake model Bettie Page and various lowbrow comedians (including future TV star Joe E. Ross). Page's most famous features are Striporama (1953), Varietease (1954), and Teaserama (1955). Teaserama film poster Photographer Irving Klaw ran a mail-order business selling photographs and film of attractive women in bondage from the 1940s to the 1960s. ... Bettie Mae Page (though listed Betty on her birth certificate) born April 22, 1923 in Nashville, Tennessee, is a former American model who became famous in the 1950s for her fetish modeling and pin-up photos. ... Joe E. Ross Joe E. Ross (1914–1982) was born in Manhattan in 1914. ...

These movies, as their titles imply, were only teasing the viewer: the girls wore revealing costumes but there was never any nudity. In the late 1950s, however, other producers made more provocative films, sometimes using a "nudist colony" format, and the relatively tame burlesque-show movie died out. As early as 1954 burlesque was already considered a bygone form of entertainment; burlesque veteran Phil Silvers laments the passing of burlesque in the movie musical Top Banana. Phil Silvers (May 11, 1911 – November 1, 1985) was an American entertainer and comedy actor. ...

New Burlesque

See also: Neo-Burlesque
A burlesque dancer
A burlesque dancer

A new generation nostalgic for the spectacle and perceived glamour of the old times determined to bring burlesque back. This revival was pioneered independently in the mid 1990s by Billie Madley's "Cinema" and Ami Goodheart’s “Dutch Weismanns’ Follies” revues in New York and Michelle Carr’s “The Velvet Hammer Burlesque” troupe in Los Angeles. In addition, and throughout the country, many individual performers were incorporating aspects of burlesque in their acts. These productions, inspired by the likes of Sally Rand, Tempest Storm, Gypsy Rose Lee and Lili St. Cyr have themselves gone on to inspire a new generation of performers. It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with New Burlesque. ... Image File history File links KittyKittyBangBang. ... Image File history File links KittyKittyBangBang. ... Sally Rand (January 2, 1904 – August 31, 1979) was born Harriet Helen Gould Beck in Hickory County, Missouri. ... Tempest Storm, publicity photo Tempest Storm (born February 29, 1928) was born Annie Blanche Banks in Eastman, Georgia. ... Gypsy Rose Lee (also known as Rose Louise Hovick and Louise Hovick) (February 9, 1911 or 1914 – April 26, 1970) was an American actress and burlesque entertainer, whose 1957 memoir, which included a scathing portrait of her domineering mother, was made into the stage musical and film Gypsy. ... Lili St. ...

Today New Burlesque has taken many forms, but all have the common trait of honoring one or more of burlesque’s previous incarnations, with acts including striptease, expensive costumes, bawdy humor, cabaret and more. There are modern burlesque performers and shows all over the world, and annual conventions such as the Vancouver International Burlesque Festival and the Miss Exotic World Pageant are held. Cabaret is a form of entertainment featuring comedy, song, dance, and theatre, distinguished mainly by the performance venue — a restaurant or nightclub with a stage for performances and the audience sitting around the tables (often dining or drinking) watching the performance. ... The Vancouver International Burlesque Festival is an annual event taking place over three days and featuring dancers, comedians and musicians. ... The Miss Exotic World Pageant (officially, the Miss Exotic World Pageant and Striptease Reunion) is an annual burlesque pageant and convention, and is the annual showcase event (and fundraiser for) the Exotic World Burlesque Museum. ...

See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
Burlesque performers

Image File history File links Commons-logo. ... The Burlesque Hall of Fame is the name of the burlesque museum based in Las Vegas, Nevada. ... Guerilla Burlesque has become a part of San Francisco burlesque culture in the past two years. ... Minskys Burlesque refers to the infamous brand of burlesque presented by the four Minsky brothers between the years 1912 and 1937 primarily in New York. ... Burlesque was originally a form of art that mocked by imitation, referring to everything from comic sketches to dance routines and usually lampooning the social attitudes of upper classes. ...


  • Baldwin, Michelle. Burlesque and the New Bump-n-Grind
  • Malach, James. What Is Burlesque
  • Allen, Robert C. Horrible Prettiness: Burlesque and American Culture
  • Weldon, Jo. Archive of articles about and original photos of neo-burlesque.
  • DiNardo, Kelly. "Gilded Lili: Lili St. Cyr and the Striptease Mystique"; Archive of articles, video, pictures and interviews about neo-burlesque.
  • Warrack, John and West, Ewan (1992), The Oxford Dictionary of Opera, Oxford ISBN 0-19-869164-5

  Results from FactBites:
Burlesque - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (709 words)
Burlesque was originally a form of art that mocked by imitation, referring to everything from comic sketches to dance routines and usually lampooning the social attitudes of the upper classes.
High burlesque refers to a burlesque imitation where a serious style is applied to commonplace or comically inappropriate subject matter — as, for example, in the literary parody and the mock-heroic.
Low burlesque applies an irreverent, mocking style to a serious subject; an example is Samuel Butler's Hudibras, which describes the misadventures of a Puritan knight in satiric doggerel verse, using a colloquial idiom.
Empire Burlesque - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (3158 words)
Empire Burlesque is a 1985 album by Bob Dylan whose dated production techniques are a sticking point for contemporary critics.
In 1991, one significant outtake from the Empire Burlesque sessions was released on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3 (Rare and Unreleased) 1961-1991.
Empire Burlesque received its share of positive reviews, most notably a full-page review in Time Magazine, but overall the critical reception was mixed.
  More results at FactBites »



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