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Stage entertainment composed of slapstick sketches, bawdy humour, chorus numbers, and solo dances. Introduced in the U.S. in 1868 by a company of English chorus girls, it developed as a version of the minstrel show, divided into three parts: (1) a series of coarse humorous songs, slapstick sketches, and comic monologues; (2) the olio, or mixture of variety acts (e.g., acrobats, magicians, singers); and (3) chorus numbers and occasionally a takeoff, or burlesque, on politics or a current play. The show ended with an exotic dancer or a boxing match. In the early 20th century, many performers, including Fanny Brice, Al Jolson, and W.C. Fields, began their careers in burlesque. The addition of the striptease in the 1920s made a star of Gypsy Rose Lee, but censorship and competition from motion pictures soon led to burlesque's decline.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on burlesque show, visit Britannica.com.
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