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On Stage

On Stage: Modern Stand-Up Comedy


Modern stand-up comedy is rooted in the comedy acts that appeared on vaudeville stages during the turn of the 20th century.

Vaudeville shows included a variety of acts, and the more you could do, the better your chances were for getting stage time—and unless you actually appeared on stage, you didn't get paid, even if you were signed to appear. For the first time, comedians worked out forms and structures that are still recognizable and used by comedians today. It was the age of fast-paced banter and slapstick, and it produced such performers as Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Jimmy Durante, The Marx Brothers, and Burns and Allen.

In the 1920s and '30s, narrative was introduced, so that instead of humorous lectures or witticisms, jokes became more elaborate, more story-driven, with a particular destination in sight—the set-up, followed by the punchline. Performers began to actually write and craft their routines, and the result of these refinements created a comedy boom in the 1930s and '40s in what was called the “Borscht Belt,” which comprised a series of summer resort towns in the Catskill Mountains in New York. The Borscht Belt was so called due to the large Jewish populations that vacationed there, with borscht the reference to the beet soup that was closely associated with eastern European immigrants.

The Loony Bin has been a venue for stand-up comedy in Wichita for a number of years. Its current location is Venue 215; check their calendar for a schedule of the comics appearing there.