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May IrwinSinging, Shouting, and the Shadow of Minstrelsy$
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Sharon Ammen

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780252040658

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252040658.001.0001

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(p.36) 2 Stardom
May Irwin

Sharon Ammen

University of Illinois Press

Chapter two considers Irwin’s career during her years of greatest popularity. Her appearance in vitascope’s “The Kiss” from The Widow Jones enhanced her fame. The author analyzes Irwin’s string of successes in comic farce and her use of scenes of intoxication during a time of temperance crusades. Irwin’s style as a major female comic elicited positive middle class audience response as she used her performance skills to help make the audience identify with her even as she profited from the nineteenth century growth of the “cult of personality.” Like other fat comics, she used her size as a source of humor–but maintained an image of personal attractiveness.

Keywords:   “The Kiss”, vitascope, comic farce, cult of personality, fat comics, female comics, performance skills, middle class audience, temperance

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