As a child, I loved the Three Stooges. I laughed at their slapstick humor. Because I was such a big fan, I read a book about them. While reading the book, I learned that they first began on Vaudeville. For those who don’t know what Vaudeville is as I did not know when I first read it, here is the definition according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vaudeville
a theatrical genre of variety entertainment popular in the United States and Canada from the early 1880s until the early 1930s. Each performance was made up of a series of separate, unrelated acts grouped together on a common bill. Types of acts included popular and classical musicians, dancers, comedians, trained animals, magicians, female and male impersonators, acrobats, illustrated songs, jugglers, one-act plays or scenes from plays, athletes, lecturing celebrities, minstrels, and movies.
I recently wrote about my commute to work (http://larrydbernstein.com/breakfast-on-the-go/) which includes a ride on a New York City Subway Train. At the early hour of 6:45, the ride to work is generally sleepy save for a few odd characters. The ride home on the other hand is much more lively and crowded.
I typically board the A train in the East New York section of Brooklyn at around 2:45. I find a seat and start off with something to read. Typically my reading time is cut short as my eyes get heavy, and out I go. I am traveling through neighborhoods where it would be wise to keep my eyes open and be alert. Thankfully, nothing has ever happened to me during my naps. By the way, some of the naps have been so sound that I when I wake up, I forget if I am going or coming to work.
When I am awake, I am often treated to a show whose only ticket required is a seat on the train. Now, the performances are very uneven, but I suppose, as they say, you get what you pay for.
I have heard many different musical performances from rap to gospel to R&B to reggae. Some of those performances inspire the line from Billy Joe’s Piano Man – “Man, what are you doin’ here?” and others leave me looking for the gong (remember the Gong Show) to end the performance.
Is comedy your thing? There is one homeless comedian who I have heard on and off during my commute for many years. He has some funny lines, but many of them have not changed since the first time I heard him. He always ends by asking passengers to clean up as one would expect him to clean up if he visited their house.
Then, you have the fights. Some are verbal and some are physical. While some are into boxing, it is not my style. I worry the fight will turn deadly violent. The vocabulary used during the verbal fights would make a jailor blush.
Then, there is dancing. There are some dancers who could dominate Dancing With the Stars while others look like they are stumbling off a bar post rather than dancing. Every performance ends with a handout and a request for generosity.
Of course like any show, there needs to be snacks. Don’t fear there are candy men regularly walking through the train selling Famous Amos Cookies, Fruit Snacks, and Nature Valley Granola Bars (you know how I feel about those). These guys always have some sort of rap that includes them saying they are selling the candy to make an honest dollar.
Now, there are more types that appear on the train – beggars, fortune tellers, preachers, jugglers, and more.
In truth there are plenty of days when the ride home is pretty quiet save the music from the mp3players, loud and excited school kids, and business men in suits. However, you never know when a show will break out. Vaudeville lives.