Book Review: Burlesque A Collection of Comedy Blackouts by Jane Briggeman
Great news for comedy fans! You can now go back in a time machine without getting into a time machine and experience the legendary comedy of the era of burlesque, when the shows featured scantily dressed women or strippers — and comedy sketches that went beyond the motion picture code. Some of these sketches were then considered X (R at most by today’s standards), or blue (generally meant to be suggestive bordering on what was then considered X).
Many great comedians worked in burlesque and some, like Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, would do burlesque but didn’t want to do blue. Indeed, in the early 1950s syndicated Abbott and Costello Show, a classic that inspired Jerry Seinfeld’s “Seinfeld,” Lou Costello sought to capture on film burlesque routines passed down orally from performer to performer and done by him and his partner so they could own them — and the films would generate income for generations of Abbotts and Costellos (as they have done).
Now you can sit and open a book and EXPERIENCE an extensive cross-section of real burlesque “comedy blackouts” (quick sketches) exactly as they were staged, word for word.
Burlesque: A Collection of Comedy Blackouts by Jane Briggman lets you experience that era and doesn’t get in the way of the fun.
It is not a narrative. It is not a history. It is a series of scripts. And, yes, many of them are “blue” humor with double entendres.
Briggeman writes in her introduction: “Lee Stuart, a straight man and house singer who performed on the burlesque stages from 1947 to 1957, was a big part of “The Golden Days of Burlesque Historical Society” for many years. These black outs are just some of the routines comic Ray Kolb passed on to Stuart, who was a close friend. Typically, blackouts were handed down from generation to generation; comics and straight men working the scenes learned the material from other performers usually by word of mouth. Of course the routines were frequently changed to best fit the local theater, the audience or the sitaution. However, Kolb preferred working from a basic script, writing many of them down; and changing them as needed. He later allowed Stuart to make copies — who then shared them with me.”
Some of these aren’t politically correct. Many are laugh out loud. Some are more basic and not great. At least one is a sketch that Abbott and Costello later adapted to do live on the Colgate Comedy Hour.
And above all, all of these are the complete scripts.
You read these blackouts and when you’re finished you’ll have some favorites and read them again and again. (I won’t quote the scripts because it’ll give away the fun).
Want to go back in a comedy time machine and experience some great laughs exactly as they were performed? All it costs is the price of this book — which should be required reading for comedy fans, aspiring comedians, people who love to laugh and anyone interested in entertainment history.
On a TMV scale of one to five stars, this gets five stars.