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Palgrave Macmillan

The New Humor in the Progressive Era

Americanization and the Vaudeville Comedian

ISBN 9781137357427
Publication Date July 2014
Formats Hardcover Ebook (PDF) Ebook (EPUB) 
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan
Series Palgrave Studies in Theatre and Performance History

Between 1881 and 1928, comic vaudevillians used the new humor to push and redefine the boundaries of class, ethnicity, and gender in the defiance of Progressive era efforts at Americanization. Using satire, broad physical behavior, and mocking the propriety of the middle class, the new humor of vaudeville comedy was intentionally disruptive to Anglo-American values. By tracing the effects of unprecedented immigration, the advent of the new woman, and the little-known vaudeville careers of performers like the Elinore Sisters, Buster Keaton, the Marx Brothers, and Marie Dressler, DesRochers examines the relationship between comedic vaudeville acts and progressive reformers as they fought over the new definition of "Americanness."
Finalist for the 2014 George Freedley Memorial Award

  • Finalist TLA Book Award

Rick DesRochers is Associate Professor of Theatre History and Dramaturgy at Long Island University Post, USA.

1. Americanization: Progressive Era Reformers, Cultural Critics, and Popular Comic Entertainments
2. Putting It Over in American Vaudeville
3. The New Humor: Ethnic Acts and Family Acts
4. The Marx Brothers Go To School
5. The New Woman and the Female Comedian as Social Insurgent Epilogue


Finalist for the 2014 George Freedley Memorial Award
"First and foremost, The New Humor in the Progressive Era is marvelously entertaining and honors the riotous spirit of some of the greatest performers of the early twentieth century. At the same time, Rick DesRochers makes an important contribution to theatre and performance scholarship, American cultural studies, and histories of comedy and clowning. Thoroughly researched and compellingly written, this book is a seriously good read." - James F. Wilson, City University of New York, USA
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