Vaudeville Humor: The Collected Jokes, Routines, and Skits of Ed Lowry contains vaudeville jokes, skits, and routines from the first three decades of the twentieth century originally compiled by comedian Ed Lowry (1896– 1983). Although occasionally found in bits and pieces in anthologies and in some period dramatic comedies, vaudeville humor has never before been available in one collection— performers rarely if ever kept a record of their jokes and routines. Fortunately, Ed Lowry was an inveterate collector. He kept copious notebooks of jokes and routines that he not only commissioned but also stole from other comics, clipped from newspapers, and copied from now defunct popular magazines of the day.
Editor Paul M. Levitt has reorganized the material into categories that preserve some of the flavor of Lowry’ s scrapbooks yet provide for finer distinctions. Part one, “ Jokes,” is organized by subject matter and cataloged by genre, dialects, and wordplay. From “ Accidents” to “ Work,” this exhaustive catalog of humor features over one thousand jokes with topics that range from city slickers and country hicks through midgets and old maids to Swedes and tattoos. Part two, “ MC Material: Biz, Jokes, Routines, and Skits” is germane to the job of master of ceremonies, routines, and skits. It features topics from fractured fairy tales to stuttering. Part three, an appendix, “ Ed Lowry Laffter,” reproduces a privately published collection that is now a rare collector’ s item.
“ Although some of the jokes can undoubtedly be found in other places,” explains Levitt in his introduction, “ I know of no source as rich as this one for the twenties and thirties, a period so abundant in humor that for years afterward it fueled radio, cinema, and television.”