Burlesque was originally used to describe comical literature, theatrical productions and musical pieces that mocked serious topics. Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream” is often described as burlesque for it’s mocking portrayal of romance.
But the term took on a newer, sexier meaning when it hit American shores. American burlesque shows originally started as an offshoot of English burlesque, with British burlesque troupe Lydia Thompson and the British Blondes achieving notoriety in New York in 1868. At that time, burlesque shows were more of a variety show that consisted of comic sketches, acrobats, magicians, and chorus bits, but eventually American burlesque began to focus more on female nudity. By the 1930s burlesque shows focused mostly on stripping with one or two comics performing between acts. Some notable celebrities got their start in burlesque including Mae West, Abbott and Costello, W.C. Fields, Al Jolson, Danny Kaye and Jackie Gleason.
Classic American burlesque began to fade in popularity with the onset of Prohibition and lingered on to waning popularity until the 70’s, when more sexually explicit strip clubs took over. But in the 90’s a revival began, and most towns in the U.S. now boast their own neo-burlesque troupe. Annual conventions like BurlyCon and Miss Exotic World Pageant draw thousands of attendees. Read the rest of this entry »