Groucho Marx’s Thoughts on Vaudeville


Friend Noah Diamond just returned from a Marx Brothers fact finding mission at the Smithsonian, and brought back this 1925 quote from Groucho neither of us knows what to do with, but is too good to waste, so we stick it here, all on its own like a sore thumbkin. Noah’s got more to report. Look for that here or somewhere in a few days. Now Groucho:

“There is only one school for entertainers in the world, and that is vaudeville. The legitimate actor and the musical comedy actor never learn the secret of entertaining an audience like the vaudeville actor does. The reason is that the reaction of an audience in vaudeville is instant. They tell you as soon as you speak a line in vaudeville just how good you are or how bad you are, and if you are really good that is the only way you will ever come to know it, too, for the agent and the booking office will keep it a dark secret from you in all their conversation. They not only tell you instantly, but they keep on telling you all through your act, in a kind of free and unrestrained way that teaches you something about the reactions of an audience. That is what the legitimate actor misses. Sometimes he misses it so badly that he even thinks he is good when he is rotten and he never really knows how he stands. There is a lot of hokum about audiences in Carnegie Hall, the Metropolitan Opera House and in legitimate theatres, but in vaudeville everything is on the dead level and you cannot get away with fake stuff a minute. I suppose that is the reason why all the comedians in musical shows these days, and most of the other principals, come from vaudeville.”

Which is why we need it back — badly!

For over 100 more posts on the Marx Brothers go here. 

And for much more on vaudevilleincluding the Marx Brothers consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.


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