Because the world needs more laughs, I’m continuing on with my Satire Series today and start up again on Monday. Who knew Satire was such a vast human expression? I’ve been breaking it down by nuance and showing examples.
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The word satire owes its roots to the Latin for well-fed as in saturated and sated. Makes sense to me. Being well-fed feels good and so does having a good laugh. There’s a lot to Satire. For one, it’s ancient, possibly the oldest, most trenchant way to observe society because the things people find funny offer an inside peek at the person within.
People naturally want to poke fun. The Ancient Greeks and Romans took their friendly ribbing and formalized the delivery to make satire an art form. Today I’m examining burlesque. When I began this exposé I had no idea burlesque was a form of satire.
Burlesque has been around a while and it’s more than just a striptease. In the 16oo-1700s it was divided into two classes: High Burlesque where inappropriate subject matter was dolled up and treated like it was literary gold. Sort of like Morgan Freeman and other actors reading 50 Shades of Gray aloud as though it were Shakespeare. (Yes, you can find that on youtube. I won’t put it here.) Then we have Low Burlesque where a serious subject is treated to an irreverent, mocking style. Think Monte Python and the Holy Grail.
The Victorians here and abroad played with this type of satire in everything from carnival and circus shows to Can-Can. I suppose that’s how burlesque eventually became synonymous with striptease. In the last century coming out of Vaudeville, most strip shows were anchored by comedians such as Mae West, Abbott and Costello, W. C. Fields, Jackie Gleason, Danny Thomas, Al Jolson, Sid Caesar, Danny Kaye, and Red Skelton. These are just a few well-known names in comedy who started their careers in Burlesque. We also had famous dancers come out of those acts such as Gypsy Rose Lee, Blaze Starr, and Sally Rand.
When my dad was a young man of 20, he went to the 1933 Century of Progress World’s Fair in Chicago. There he saw the incomparable burlesque show of Sally Rand the fan dancer. The lady had some moves.
Burlesque as satire. Who knew? It’s funny how things begin one way and turn into something else entirely.
Tomorrow~ one more!
The Romance Review’s Year End Splash
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