Dear Constant Reader,
Today’s review is about one of the other aspects of burlesque.
The Best Burlesque Sketches by Ralph G. Allen (1995).
Lest you think burlesque is all about the stripteasers, this book will introduce you to one of the other major talents in a burlesque show — the comic. It’s a collection of routines that were compiled for the Broadway show Sugar Babies. Many of the sketches are classics, like “The Gazeeka Box” or “Crazy House”. Some are just corny and some are racier than you might expect — the ending to “Meet Me Round the Corner” had to be toned down for the show!
Before my burlesque days, I spent quite some time performing commedia dell’arte in its earliest form. For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s 16th century Italian improvisational comedic theatre. Scratch, who is a recognized authority, teaches a fantastic class on the subject, but I digress. I can clearly see the roots of commedia in these sketches — the stock characters, the vulgarity, the room for improvisation, the physical gags.
Most of the sketches require several men, a challenge if you are part of a troupe that’s mostly women. And much of the humor is dated. Some jokes can be modernized, but some would just have to be presented as a period piece and hope for the best. Even if you don’t plan on doing comedy, it’s worth reading to appreciate the entirety of a burlesque show and the atmosphere in which the dancers were performing.