They Started in Vaudeville

By | Jul 7, 2007

1) Abbott and Costello – Technically they came from the burlesque tour, coming together in 1936 after performing separately. Their act was built by refining and reworking many of the familiar vaudeville and burlesque sketches.

2) Bob Hope – From the age of 12 Hope worked doing dance and comdey, including winning a prize for an impersonation of Charlie Chaplin. In 1925 he began working steady with the Hurley Jolly Follies, working on the vaudeville circuit for 5 years before working on Broadway and finally in Hollywood.

3) Burns and Allen – They met in 1922 and first performed together at the Hill Street Theatre in Newark, New Jersey. They continued in small town vaudeville theaters and moved up a notch when they signed with the Keith circuit in 1927. Burns who wrote most of the material played the straight man with Allen playing a silly, addleheaded woman. They were one of the first performers in radio continuing their show on TV in the 1950’s.

4) Buster Keaton – Keaton is best known as a silent film comic actor with his trademark being a stoic, deadpan expression on his face, but he was born into the world of vaudeville with his father owning a traveling show that included Harry Houdini. Even though he was unsure of the medium of motion pictures, he became star.

5) Charlie Chaplin – In 1907 he became a clown in Fred Karno’s ‘Fun Factory’ slapstick comedy company in England, where Chaplin became the star of the troupe. From 1910 to 1912 they toured the United States. In late 1913 Chaplin was seen by film producer Mack Sennett who hired him for the Keystone Film Company, where he developed his famous “Tramp” character.

6) Will Rogers – Rogers began as a performer in ‘Wild West’ shows as a trick roper. Soon he moved the act to the vaudeville circuit where his wry comments after missing a trick found favor with the audience. He worked more jokes into his act, yet continued to work on his roping abilities. In subsequent years, Rogers gave numerous after-dinner speeches becoming a popular convention speaker.


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