Burlesque Theater

burlesque

burlesque (bûrlĕsk´) [Ital.,=mockery], form of entertainment differing from comedy or farce in that it achieves its effects through caricature, ridicule, and distortion. It differs from satire in that it is devoid of any ethical element. The word first came into use in the 16th cent. in an opera of the Italian Francesco Berni, who called his works burleschi. Early English burlesque often ridiculed celebrated literary works, especially sentimental drama. Beaumont and Fletcher's Knight of the Burning Pestle (1613), Buckingham's The Rehearsal (1671), Gay's Beggar's Opera (1728), Fielding's Tom Thumb (1730), and Sheridan's Critic (1779) may be classed as dramatic burlesque. In the 19th cent. English burlesque depended less on parody of literary styles and models. H. J. Bryon was a major writer of the new, pun-filled burlesque. The extravaganza and burletta were forms of amusement similar to burlesque, the latter being primarily a musical production. They were performed in small theaters in an effort to evade the strict licensing laws that forbade major dramatic productions to these theaters. American stage burlesque (from 1865), often referred to as "burleycue" or "leg show," began as a variety show, characterized by vulgar dialogue and broad comedy, and uninhibited behavior by performers and audience. Such stars as Al Jolson, W. C. Fields, Mae West, Fannie Brice, Sophie Tucker, Bert Lahr, and Joe Weber and Lew Fields began their careers in burlesque. About 1920 the term began to refer to the "strip-tease" show, which created its own stars, such as Gypsy Rose Lee; in c.1937 burlesque performances in New York City were banned. With the increase in popularity of nightclubs and movies, the burlesque entertainment died.

See studies by C. V. Clinton-Baddeley (1952, repr. 1974); R. P. Bond (1932, repr. 1964), and J. D. Jump (1972).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Horrible Prettiness: Burlesque and American Culture
Robert C. Allen.
University of North Carolina Press, 1991
The Burlesque Tradition in the English Theatre after 1660
V. C. Clinton-Baddeley.
Methuen, 1952
A Survey of Burlesque and Parody in English
George Kitchin.
Oliver and Boyd, 1931
Humor and Ethnic Stereotypes in Vaudeville and Burlesque
Mintz, Lawrence E.
MELUS, Vol. 21, No. 4, Winter 1996
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Parody
Simon Dentith.
Routledge, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "The Beauties of Burlesque"
Art, Glitter, and Glitz: Mainstream Playwrights and Popular Theatre in 1920s America
Arthur Gewirtz; James J. Kolb.
Praeger, 2003
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 19 "Gags, Girls, and Guffaws: Burlesque in Downtown New York in the Twenties"
Performance and Evolution in the Age of Darwin: Out of the Natural Order
Jane R. Goodall.
Routledge, 2002
Librarian’s tip: "The Burlesque Madness" begins on p. 142
The Word Irony and Its Context, 1500-1755
Norman Knox.
Duke University Press, 1961
Librarian’s tip: "Burlesque" begins on p. 125
The Theatre Handbook and Digest of Plays
Bernard Sobel.
Crown Publishers, 1940
Librarian’s tip: "Burlesque" begins on p. 117
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