Here’s a great list of vaudeville slang I found. I love a peek into the vocabulary of any specific art form. A lot of these terms are in common usage now, but some are just a great look into the life of a working performer.
Here are a few:
Three-sheeting – Hanging around the theatre making it known that you are a performer in order to try and impress others. Grandstanding. Named after the 44″ x 84″ posters that were used in the lobby of the Vaudeville theatre to promote the show
Playing to the haircuts – Last on the bill. In other words, playing to the backs of the audience as they left the theatre.
The Gerry Society – The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Named for founder Elbridge T. Gerry. Originally founded to prevent the exploitation of child labour, the society was a thorn in the side of vaudevillians. The society declared performers must be over 16 to work in vaudeville. Buster Keaton, Fred Astaire, Rose Marie and Milton Berle were only a few of the child performers who ran into trouble with the Gerry Society.
Also, I had hear the term “working blue” before, but I never knew where it came from…
Blue – Crude jokes or other material using graphic sexual or toilet references or profanity. The term comes from the days when Keith-Albee insisted that performers stick to strict standards of propriety and would send blue envelopes with cuts to performers. You obeyed them or quit. And if you quit, you got a black mark against your name in the head office and you didn’t work on the circuit anymore.
Take the time to learn the slang used by people in the same artistic field you want to be in. It makes it easier to talk to other people interested in the same thing and helps you be taken seriously.