Frank Pierce
In reference to theatrical burlesque (or burlesk), what were the performances burlesquing? The word burlesque has a long-standing history of meaning to stretch a situation or a personality to an absurd extreme, even more so than a parody.

But Minsky established a glamour-oriented show which he called "burlesk". I wonder how he came up with this term. Where was his satire?

What I gather from Webster's third definition,

theatrical entertainment of a broadly humorous often earthy character consisting of short turns, comic skits, and sometimes striptease acts

is that a great deal was parodied and the striptease was included as an afterthought (but since they're working blue anyway, it's an appropriate addition). Then, I reckon, the striptease more-or-less inherited the name.
Lewis Joplin II
I tried researching online and all I could come up with were sites on the history of stripping, etc. That doesn't really answer your question about what the acts were supposed to be burlesquing, if that's a word.

Grist for the mill, here's a definition of the term:
"BURLESQUE, as in a literary term, refers to any of many forms of literary or dramatic work that makes a subject appear ridiculous by presenting it with mock dignity or treating it in vulgar terms. As a theatrical art form (if that's the right term for it) it had its origins in the commedia dell'arte, which originated in sixteenth-century Italy and, like its eventual successor, burlesque, relied heavily on broad comedy improvised around stock characters and situations." From "Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins" by William and Mary Morris (HarperCollins, New York, 1977, 1988).

It just occurred to me that perhaps I'm just not (and so maybe, generally, people these days, or something, just aren't) getting the joke. Maybe there wasn't the same readiness to accept the act as an erotic form of entertainment in the sensibilities of those who originally associated it with the name "burlesque" as in those of modern times. Merely being so vulgar as to be revealing might have been seen as lampooning a fairly standard set of social morés in an outlandish way as gross humor or that which plays on certain taboos still does. Demur ladies allowing their underthings to be exposed might have seemed slapstick, having a similar shock-value as, for example, the liver-donor sketch or Mr. Creosote sketch from Monty Python's The Meaning of Life.
Return to the archive