11th Adv. Am. Lit/1st Period
20 November 2009
“Nobody seems to know how television is going to affect radio, movies, love, housekeeping, or the church, but it has definitely revived vaudeville” (thinkexist.com). Edgar Bergen’s statement concisely describes how vaudeville has returned in the modern era. It is ironic that television, which was partly responsible for the disappearance of vaudeville in its original form, has now played a role in the return of vaudeville. However, many television viewers do not realize this because vaudeville was popular nearly a century ago. Modern viewers may not even be aware that such a thing as vaudeville ever existed. Nevertheless, vaudeville was one of the most popular forms of entertainment in the United States after the Civil War and into the early twentieth century. Despite meeting its downfall as a result of the rise of cinema and radio, vaudeville has returned to modern viewers in the form of sketch-comedy television. The origin of the term “vaudeville” is unknown. Some believe that it is a variation of the term “vaux-de-vire,” a French term for “satirical songs in couplets, sung to popular airs in the 15th century in the Val-de-Vire, Normandy, France” (“vaudeville”). Another theory is that the term is derived from “vaux de ville,” another French term, meaning “worth of the city, or worthy of the city’s patronage” (Vaudeville, A History). However, as Albert McLean suggests, the term vaudeville was probably chosen “for its vagueness, its faint, but harmless exoticism, and perhaps its connotation of gentility” (qtd by Vaudeville, A History). Although the term vaudeville did not come into common usage in the United States until around 1870, Americans had certainly enjoyed variety type entertainment prior to this date. In the years prior to the Civil War, as early as the first decade of the nineteenth century, theater audience members could enjoy performances of...