Writing for Vaudeville eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 543 pages of information about Writing for Vaudeville.


Having seen in what respects other single talking acts—­the soliloquy, the “talking single” that has no unity of material, the disconnected string of stories, and the connected series of stories interspersed with songs—­differ from the pure monologue, it will now be a much simpler task to make plain the elements that compose the real vaudeville monologue.

The real monologue possesses the following eight characteristics: 

1.  It is performed by one person. 2.  It is humorous. 3.  It possesses unity of character. 4.  It is not combined with songs, tricks or any
   other entertainment form.
5.  It takes from ten to fifteen minutes to deliver. 6.  It is marked by compression. 7.  It is distinguished by vividness. 8.  It follows a definite form of construction.

Each of these eight characteristics has either been mentioned already or will be taken up in detail later, so now we can combine them into a single paragraphic definition: 

The pure vaudeville monologue is a humorous talk spoken by one person, possesses unity of character, is not combined with any other entertainment form, is marked by compression, follows a definite form of construction and usually requires from ten to fifteen minutes for delivery.

It must be emphasized that because some single talking acts do not meet every one of the requirements is no reason for condemning them [1].  They may be as fine for entertainment purposes as the pure monologue, but we must have some standard by which to work and the only true standard of anything is its purest form.  Therefore, let us now take up the several parts that make up the pure monologue as a whole, and later we shall consider the other monologue variations that are permissible and often desirable.

[1] Frank Fogarty, “The Dublin Minstrel,” one of the most successful monologists in vaudeville, often opens with a song and usually ends his offering with a serious heart-throb recitation.  By making use of the song and serious recitation Mr. Fogarty places his act in the “entertainer” class, but his talking material is, perhaps, the best example of the “gag"-anecdotal-monologue to be found in vaudeville.

Mr. Fogarty won The New York Morning Telegraph contest to determine the most popular performer in vaudeville in 1912, and was elected President of “The White Rats”—­the vaudeville actors’ protective Union—­in 1914. [end footnote]

If you have not yet turned to the appendix and read Aaron Hoffman’s “The German Senator” do so now. (See Appendix.) It will be referred to frequently to illustrate structural points.


1.  Humor

All monologues, whether of the pure type or not, possess one element in common—­humor.  I have yet to hear of a monologist who did not at least try to be funny.  But there are different types of monologic humor.

Project Gutenberg
Writing for Vaudeville from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
Follow Us on Facebook