American Vaudeville Museum

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Irish in Early Variety

History IX

The participation of Irish entertainers in the early days of the American Variety dates back to the days when New York City was the cradle of American variety theatre and the Concert Saloon was its primary venue. As New York City was also a major port of entry, immigrants, particularly the Irish, provided a large and appreciative audience for variety performers. The Irish also provided some of the entertainment; immigrants with a knack for song and dance found the stage far more congenial than hoisting a hod filled with bricks to the third story of a construction project.

Newly arrived Irish immigrants included an array of entertainers: comedians, dramatic actors, musicians (Uilliean pipers), dancers and singers. Some got together and performed close military drills in French Zouave uniforms. Topical songs enjoyed a currency far beyond their time period and the singers who first sang them in early variety.

“Oh, why did we ever lave it

Our hearts they now crave it

We are two Irishmen,

Both with might and main;

We’ll go back to the Old Dart (Ireland) again.”

“Back To The Old Dart (Ireland) Again,”

as sung by Sheehan & Jones