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AD LIB STUFF: Speeches or business improvised in the course of an act.
AGENT: Business representative of acts who sells to booking agent.
ALL WET: An artist without unction or “selling” power.
AND CO: The other person or persons in an act with a headliner.
ANNIE OAKLEYS: Any kind of a pass.
APPLE SAUCE: Hokum that fails soggy like a wet towel.
ARRANGEMENT: A classical masterpiece of music syncopated and jazzed and played with incidental effects.
ARTIST: General term which has supplanted performer.
ARTISTS’ REPRESENTATIVE: Just an agent.
BIG SMELLS: Trained seals.
BIG TIME: Major vaudeville, two performances a day, nine-act bills.
BILLTOPPER: Same as Topliner.
BLACK OUT: Turning out the lights to force an act to leave the stage.
BOOKING MAN: Expert who buys acts for vaudeville theaters.
BOTTOMLINER: Second feature on the bill.
BOUQUET: A critic’s praise of an act.
BOW MUSIC: Special music for the happy moments when artists take bows. A little goes a long way.
BREAKING IN: Playing an acceptable act off the main stem for a few weeks to give it needed “work,” in preparation for the big time.
BULL: Performing elephant, also applied to praise from one artist to another back stage.
BUST: Just a flog [sic - flop?], followed by closing.
CATCHING AN ACT: Watching a vaudeville performance for professional reasons.
CATS: Trained lions, leopards, panthers and the like.
CLOSING INTERMISSION: The spot on the bill just before intermission.
CLOSING THE SHOW: Going on last.
CONTINUOUS: Vaudeville presented seriatim all afternoon and all evening, the bill being repeated over and over again.
CRABBING THE TURN: Gumming the act with malicious intent.
CRASHING THE GATE: Getting by the doorman without pass or ticket.
CROSSFIRE: Fast gag lines between comedians.
CRUMB: A very bad act or actor.
DUCATS: Passes secured by artists.
DUMB ACT: An act using pantomime and action entirely without speech.
EXCLUSIVE MATERIAL: Acts or songs written to order for artists for their sole use and “protected.”
EXIT GRAND: The $1,000 life insurance in the N, V, A.
EXTRA BLACK: Brunt cork used by a colored artist to accentuate his complexion.
FAKE: A pass secured by false representation.
FAKING A DANCE: Dancing to a counterfeit orchestration whose phony music permits cheating on the difficult steps.
FAMILY HOUSE: Vaudeville theater catering especially to community homes.
FATHER OF VAUDEVILLE: The late B.F. Keith.
FLUFFING: Being just too sweet and unctuous to live in the two-a-day.
FLYING THE WIPE: Acrobats tossing handkerchiefs from one to another.
FOUR: That section of the stage six or more feet back of Three.
FULL WEEK: The policy of playing the same bill all the week long.
GAGGINGL Putting jokes not in the routine.
GAUZE FLUFFER: A spring song dancer.
GETTING THE BIRD: Having dislike made audible in various forms by the audience.
GETTING THE PINK SLIP: Being canceled, which notice comes on pink paper.
GRAVY: Comedy with a suggestion of the improper.
GUMMING THE ACT: Going up in lines or forgetting business.
HEADLINER: Most important artist on a bill, featured in advertising and given star dressing room.
HEALTHY BEND: Taking a bow to big applause.
HIGH HATTING: One artist patronizing another.
HOKUM: Rough and ready comedy, stereotyped sentiment, time-trial appeals to laughter or tears – the old basic stuff of the theater.
HOOFER: A dancer.
HOLDING DOWN THE SPOT: Making good in your position on the bill.
JASBO: Out and out vulgarity.
JITNEY JUMPS: Playing one Keith house after another in New York on a nickel carfare – very welcome after paying heavy railway transportation charges.
JOCKEYING: Trying to force applause.
JUICEMAN: Electrician in a vaudeville theater.
JUMP: The necessary travel to reach the next town booked.
LAYIN’ THE SKIDS: Either gumming or crabbing.
MAKES GOOD IN ANY SPOT: Vaudeville’s highest praise.
MIDDLELINER: Third feature on the bill.
MOVED UP: Being given an earlier spot, which is no compliment.
MOVED DOWN: Getting a better spot and marking at least one act happy.
NEXT TO CLOSING: No. 8 spot on a nine-act bill – the act preceding the last.
NUT COMIC: Comedian who says and does ridiculous things often impromptu – Bert Fitzgibbon is the perfect type – a daffy guy.
N, V, A.: National Vaudeville Artists.
OIL CAN: A bad act or actor.
OILING UP: Refining an act and cutting out rough stuff.
OLIO: Drop curtain across the stage working flat against the tormentors – the background for artists “in One.”
ONE: The front section of the stage between the tormentors and the proscenium arch – it is backed by the olio drop when acts work “in One.”
OPENING INTERMISSION: Having the spot right after intermission.
PENCILED IN: A tentative booking.
PERFORMER: Once a general term, but now applied only to great artistic technicalities with true showmanship.
POP-HOUSE: Theater charging popular prices.
RAPID-FIRE COMICS: Fast chattering teams of comics asking and answering gag questions.
RASPBERRY: Criticism by the outspoken in an even more than outspoken manner.
RIOT: A complete success.
RISLEY ACT: Acrobats who lie on their backs and balance and cast with feet and hands – named after its great exponent.
ROUTE: The line-up of vaudeville players for which an artist holds contracts.
ROUTINE: The playing order of an act, especially one with song and dance.
SAP: An unfriendly critic.
SAX: A saxophone.
SCOUT: Expert who spend his time looking for new acts, new personalities and possibilities for vaudeville.
SERIO-COMIC: Singer who can “sell” both dramatic and comedy numbers.
SIDEWALK COMEDIANS: Comics working in the eternal street set.
SONG PLUGGER: A retiring representative of a song publisher planted in the audience to call for songs, whistle refrains and applaud.
SIKE: A cyclorama drop dear to interpretive dancers.
SINGLE: An artist working alone as an act.
SITTING ON THE HANDS: Report made by flops to the act following them.
SKULL: A pass secured by persuasive talk.
SLAPSTICK COMEDY: Getting laughs by physical methods.
SLOUGHED: Having a bad press on Tuesday.
SMALL TIME: Minor vaudeville, fewer and cheaper acts on bill, two or more a day.
SONG BOOSTER: A song plugger not a bit nicer under another name.
SPLASH TUB: Tanks used for aquatic acts.
SPLIT-WEEK: The policy of changing vaudeville bills every Monday and Thursday, thus giving two programs a week.
SPLITTING THE HEADLINE: Two headliners dividing topline honors – rare.
SPOT: An act’s position on a bill.
STOPPING THE SHOW: Making the audience encore an act to the exclusion and delay of the next on the bill.
SURE-FIRE: An act, a gag or bit of business that appeals to all audiences.
TABLOID: A musical show or play condensed into one act for vaudeville.
TEAM: Two artists working together.
SISTER TEAM: Two women in a team.
THREE: That section of the stage six feet or more back of Two.
TIME: The playing dates offered by circuits and theaters.
TOPLINER: Same as headliner.
TOPMOUNTER: The lightweight acrobat at the apex of a human pyramid.
TOPPING LAUGH: Making laughs follow one another so closely that they overlap – an infrequent phenomenon.
TO TEAM UP: To work as a duo.
TRAMPOLINE ACT: Bouncing and doing acrobatic stunts, mostly comedy, on a suspended wire mattress.
TRYOUT: An experimental hearing of a new act, usually far away from Broadway.
TWO-A-DAY: Vaudeville presented one at the matinee and one at the night performance.
UNDERSTANDER: The husky guy at the base of a human pyramid or similar acrobatic structure.
UNDERSTAKERS OUT FRONT: A cold audience.
VAMP TILL READY: Play introduction music until act starts routine.
VARIETY: What vaudeville used to be called.
WINGING A PART: Forgetting one’s lines.
WISE GUY: A friendly critic.
WORDS AND MUSIC: Team composed of composer and song writer.
WOW: A sensational hit or a gag that wins uproarious laughter.
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