Funny peculiar: Lucille Ball and the vaudeville heritage of early American television comedy

White, Rosie (2016) Funny peculiar: Lucille Ball and the vaudeville heritage of early American television comedy. Social Semiotics, 26 (3). pp. 298-310. ISSN 1035-0330

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In this essay I examine the traces of vaudeville performance in the first season of the early American television comedy series I Love Lucy (CBS, 1951–1957), proposing that while sitcom may be regarded as a narratively conservative format, it may also harbour eccentric figures; the funny peculiar. American vaudeville offered a space in which normative heterofemininity was both upheld and subverted. As one of the direct inheritors of that theatrical tradition, early sitcom could embody complex negotiations of gender and identity. The first season of I Love Lucy is inflected by the performance traditions of American vaudeville, while its development was enabled by a theatrical tour to promote and establish the show. Funding for the pilot came from a vaudeville agency and key actors, producers and writers for the series had a background in this comedic tradition. Vaudeville comedy allowed some female performers licence to explore and explode the feminine ideal and early television comedy offered a similar potential. Lucille Ball's performance as Lucy Ricardo is exemplary in this regard.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Special Issue: Gender and humour: Examining discourses of hegemony and resistance. Guest editors: Simon Weaver, Raúl A. Mora and Karen Morgan
Uncontrolled Keywords: femininity, vaudeville, the body, comedy
Subjects: P300 Media studies
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Humanities
Depositing User: Rosie White
Date Deposited: 02 Feb 2016 16:44
Last Modified: 01 Aug 2021 06:32

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