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Variety Shows

  • By: Gillian M. Rodger
  • In: Encyclopedia of Humor Studies
  • Edited by: Salvatore Attardo
  • Subject:General Media, Communication & Cultural Studies, Sociology of Culture

Variety shows were composed of a series of performances, unconnected by a narrative structure or unifying theme. Variety was part of theater in the United States from at least the 18th century and emerged as an independent theatrical form in the mid-19th century. The second half of the 19th century saw the development of a support infrastructure for variety, and the division of the genre into respectable and disreputable strands, which developed respectively into vaudeville and burlesque in the early 20th century. Vaudeville was severely affected by the Great Depression in the 1930s and further undermined by competition from radio, film, and television. By the mid-20th century, vaudeville was in severe decline, but many of the performers who had once worked in that genre moved ...

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