What Does the Term Vaudeville Mean and Where Did the Word For a Theatrical Genre Come From?

Tony Pastor introduced vaudeville in New York in 1861.

The word vaudeville is an Americanization of Vau de Vire, the valley of the Vau River in Normandy, which became famous in the fifteenth century for the comedic songs of Olivier Basselin.

An 1883 vaudeville bill from Boston’s Gaiety Museum featured a midget named Baby Alice, a stuffed mermaid, two comedians, and a chicken with a human face.

From these humble beginnings would emerge the great American theater.

The theatrical Genre evolved from many sources, including the freak shows, dime museums, concert saloon, and literary burlesque.

Vaudeville was one of the most popular types of entertainment in North America for several decades, and was often called the the heart of American show business.