People appreciate a good diversion. The humdrum routine of day-to-day life can be so dull, so alienating and stultifying that people yearn for a good laugh. To wrench these guffaws from tight lips was the stock and trade of the tummler: the official comedians/pranksters/master of ceremonies/and life enliveners who used to work the resorts in the Borsht Belt. Hold steady, for a second, I promise I’ll get to the point.
Outlandish humor, witty puns, audience interaction, outright plagiarism of other’s routines, and plenty of lewd material kept the audience laughing, kept them amused, kept them engaged, kept them distracted from the humdrum routine that awaited them at vacation’s end. The role of the tummler – the word is actually Yiddish – is described by Leo Rosten in his book The Joys of Yiddish as:
“he tells stories, cracks jokes, plays prank. He wears outlandish costumes, imitates peculiar people, trips over…
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