"What Made Pistachio Nuts?": Anarchistic comedy and the vaudeville aesthetic

Jenkins, Henry Guy, III.  The University of Wisconsin - Madison. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 1989. 9010309.

Abstract (summary)

Anarchistic comedy, a body of comedian-centered film comedies produced in the first few years of the sound era, represented the intersection between the vaudeville aesthetic and classical Hollywood norms. These films are characterized by a subordination of visual and aural style, narrative structure and character development to the demand to foreground performance virtuosity and to provoke audience response. The dissertation will trace various points of contact between the vaudeville aesthetic and more classical and reputable forms of comic narrative, suggesting the ways that the two formal systems could function together and the ways that they contradicted each other. Moreover, this dissertation outlines the various moral, ethical, social and cultural meanings that were attached to these differing conceptions of popular amusement, linking the formal reworking of the vaudeville aesthetic within the Hollywood cinema with a transformation of basic ideological assumptions and a redefinition of its cultural status.

Chapter one traces the emergence of a new comic aesthetic in turn-of-the-century America, its controversial reception, and its impact on early film comedy. Chapter two examines the manifestation of this new comic aesthetic within vaudeville. Chapter three discusses Hollywood's recruitment of stage stars in the early sound era and the ways that their images were adjusted to audience response. Chapter four is a case history, showing the interplay of film and vaudeville aesthetics in the production of Hollywood Party. Chapter five analyzes different strategies for integrating narrative and performance in early sound comedy. Chapter six offers a detailed formal analysis of Diplomaniacs, a representative example of an anarchistic comedy. Chapter seven examines the genre's ideological address, suggesting how anarchistic comedy offered spectators a utopian release from social constraint. Chapter eight looks at female comic performance and its relationship to the generic structure of anarchistic comedy. A conclusion summarizes the dissertation's overall argument about the impact of the vaudeville aesthetic on early sound comedy and suggests the study's implications for genre theory and history.

Indexing (details)

Motion Pictures;
American studies;
0900: Motion Pictures
0323: American studies
0465: Theater
Identifier / keyword
Communication and the arts; Social sciences; Comedy
"What Made Pistachio Nuts?": Anarchistic comedy and the vaudeville aesthetic
Jenkins, Henry Guy, III
Number of pages
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 51/01, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
Bordwell, David; Fiske, John
The University of Wisconsin - Madison
University location
United States -- Wisconsin
Source type
Dissertation or Thesis
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL