A variety show, also known as variety arts or variety entertainment, is entertainment made up of a variety of acts (hence the name), especially musical performances and sketch comedy, and is normally introduced by a compère (master of ceremonies) or host. Other types of acts include magic, animal and circus acts, acrobatics, juggling and ventriloquism. The variety format made its way from Victorian era stage to radio to television. Variety shows were a staple of anglophone television from its early days (late 1940s) into the 1980s.
While still widespread in some parts of the world, the proliferation of multichannel television and evolving viewer tastes affected the popularity of variety shows in the United States. Despite this, their influence has still had a major effect on late night television—where late night talk shows and NBC's comedy series ''Saturday Night Live'' (which originally premiered in 1975) have remained popular fixtures of North American television.
The format is basically that of music hall in the United Kingdom or vaudeville in the United States.〔("Television in the United States". ''Encyclopædia Britannica Online'', 2011. Web. 06 Jun. 2011 ).〕 Variety in the UK evolved in theatres and music halls, and later in Working Men's Clubs. Most of the early top performers on British television and radio did an apprenticeship either in stage variety, or during World War II in Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA). In the UK, the ultimate accolade for a variety artist for decades was to be asked to do the annual Royal Command Performance at the London Palladium theatre, in front of the monarch.
In the United States, former vaudeville performers such as the Marx Brothers, George Burns and Gracie Allen, W. C. Fields, and Jack Benny honed their skills in the Borscht Belt before moving to talkies, to radio shows, and then to television shows, including variety shows. In the 1960s, even a popular rock band such as The Beatles undertook this ritual of appearing on variety shows on TV. In the United States, shows featuring Perry Como, Milton Berle, Jackie Gleason, Bob Hope, and Dean Martin also helped to make the Golden Age of Television successful.
From 1948 to 1971, ''The Ed Sullivan Show'' was one of CBS's most popular television series. Using his no-nonsense approach, Ed Sullivan allowed many acts from several different mediums to get their "fifteen minutes of fame". Sullivan was also partially responsible for bringing Elvis Presley and The Beatles to prominence in the United States.
Sid Caesar pioneered the television variety show format with ''Your Show of Shows'' (1950–54) and Caesar's Hour (1954–57).〔(【引用サイトリンク】title=Sid Caesar )〕
ABC aired ''The Hollywood Palace'', an hour-long show broadcast weekly (generally on Saturday night) from January 4, 1964, to February 7, 1970, where the Rolling Stones first appeared on American TV.
In the UK, ''The Good Old Days''—which ran from 1953 to 1983—featured modern artists performing dressed in late Victorian/Early Edwardian costume, either doing their own act or performing as a music hall artist of that period. The audience was also encouraged to dress in period costume in a similar fashion.
On television, variety reached its peak during the period of the 1960s and 1970s. With a turn of the television dial, viewers around the globe could variously have seen shows and occasional specials featuring Dinah Shore, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Andy Williams, Julie Andrews, The Carpenters, Olivia Newton-John, John Denver, John Davidson, Mac Davis, Bobby Goldsboro, Lynda Carter, Johnny Cash, Sonny and Cher, Bob Monkhouse, Carol Burnett, Rod Hull and Emu, Flip Wilson, Lawrence Welk, Glen Campbell, Donny & Marie Osmond, Barbara Mandrell, Judy Garland, The Captain & Tennille, The Jacksons, The Keane Brothers, Bobby Darin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Mary Tyler Moore, Dean Martin, Tony Orlando and Dawn, The Smothers Brothers, Danny Kaye, Des O'Connor, Buck and Roy, Roy Hudd, Billy Dainty, Max Wall. Manhattan Transfer, Starland Vocal Band, or ''The Muppet Show''. Even "The Brady Bunch" had a variety show. Variety shows were once as common on television as Westerns, courtroom dramas, suspense thrillers, sitcoms, or (in more modern times) reality TV shows.
During the 1960s and 1970s, there were also numerous one-time variety specials featuring stars such as Shirley MacLaine, Frank Sinatra, Diana Ross, and Mitzi Gaynor, none of whom ever had a regular television series.
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