Vaudeville was big entertainment in the U.S. during the late 19th and early 20th century. For one price you could buy a ticket and see a combination of singers, dancers, comedians, acrobats, etc. Many of the entertainers went on to do movies, radio and TV such as The Marx Brothers, Charlie Chaplin, Sammy Davis, Jr., James Cagney, and Bing Crosby. However, so many of the lesser known acts have been lost forever.
With Continuous Vaudeville, author Will M. Cressy gives the reader jokes and humorous stories. But they are jokes and stories about the performers, the acts, the staff of the theaters, and the audience. It is just a little peek into the world of vaudeville.
James J. Corbett was indulging in one of his semi-annual attacks of acting, and it came along to a place where the villain was to say—
“Then die, you dog,” and shoot Jim, who fell, wounded, to the floor.
Upon this occasion the villain spoke the line, pulled the trigger, and Jim fell. But the gun did not go off. Instantly Jim raised himself on his elbow and said in agonized tones—
“My God; shot with an air gun.”
He also gives tidbits from newspapers and things he has seen, and people he has met during his travels. At one point he has a list of actual signs that include:
Chicago. “I. D. Kay. Fresh Vegetables”
Oakland, Cal. “Dr. Muchmore, Dentist”
Paris, Ky. “Ice Cream & Washing Done Here.”
Spokane, Wash. “Bed Bath & Booze 15c. All Nations welcome but Carrie.”
Cressy certainly knew his subject. He was one part of the popular sketch comedy act, Cressy and Dayne. (Blanche Dayne was Cressy’s wife).
The illustrations were done by Hal Merritt. They are humorous in their own right and certainly fit the stories well. Such as the illustration and story below:
The train had stopped at Reno for a few minutes; it was just at dusk and as the night was warm we got out and were walking up and down the platform. There was a billboard at the end of the station and the bill poster was pasting up some paper advertising the coming of “The Widow’s Mite” Company. An old chap came along, stopped and looked at it, but, owing to the poor light could not quite make out what it was; so he said to the bill poster,
“What show is it, Bill?”
“The Widow’s Mite.”
The old fellow pondered on it for a moment, then as he turned away he said, half to himself,
“Might? They do.”
We are lucky to have this opportunity to read the funny stories and learn about vaudeville at the same time. At one point, Cressy says:
I see there is an act playing in Vaudeville this year by the name of Doolittle & Steel. Make your own jokes.
Thanks to Continuous Vaudeville, we don’t have to come up with jokes. We can just enjoy.