Corporate Entertainers Blog

History of Comedians and comedy acts

matt billon

– The roots of stand-up comedy date back to the mid 1800s. The man credited with inventing the minstrel shows is Thomas Dartmouth “Daddy” Rice who is known as the grandfather of stand-up comedy.

– The minstrel shows were built on negative racial stereotypes, and the ridiculing of a race of people. It started before the Civil War and continued to the 20th century. Comics performed in blackface, a hateful part of the history of comedy on the American stage.

– The early comics were the jugglers, comedic singers, and dancers. The early 20th century brought Vaudeville which became a musical comedy theater craze. Vaudeville redefined the style of comedy, with emcees speaking instead of singing their comedy. Verbal comedy became so popular that at the peak of WWI, comedienne May Irwin performed for President Woodrow Wilson. Irwin was given the unofficial title of ‘Secretary of Laughter.’

– Television, radio, and film, transformed comedy as these mediums brought comedy to the masses. In the 1970s, comics still looking for live audiences performed in clubs. With the birth of the comedy club, folks like Danny Thomas, Myron Cohen, and Bob Hope modernized stand-up. George Carlin entered the comedy scene and was also a big influence on our roster of stand-up comedians.

– With television becoming the main medium of choice for the masses, comedians began appearing on variety shows and talk shows, including Saturday Night Live, which premiered in 1975.

– In the 1980s, comedy clubs flourished across the US. Comics like Whoopi Goldberg, Eddie Murphy, Sam Kinison, Paul Reiser, Andrew “Dice” Clay, Roseanne Barr, Sandra Bernhard, and Denis Leary emerged as popular headliners.

– In the 1990s, stand-up began to significantly decline, but by the end of the decade it had rebounded and became popular again. Comedians like Jerry Seinfeld became stars.

– The 2000s saw the emergence of contemporary stand-up comedians such as: Sarah Silverman, Lewis Black, Dane Cook, Jeff Foxworthy, and Patton Oswalt. These comedians and others created legions of fans. Because of the 2000 comedy boom and shows like Saturday Night Live, MAD TV, and The Daily Show, stand-up comedy is back in the mainstream.

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