Vaudeville was a form of theatrical entertainment popular in the United States of America and Canada in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Its popularity peaked in the 1920s with the popularity of both radio and motion pictures, and it faded from the American landscape. Vaudeville, unlike Broadway Musicals, was composed of a series of unrelated acts grouped together onto a single billing performance. An evening's show could be an amalgamation of comedians, animal acts, magicians, female and male impersonators, acrobats, musicians, dancers, and more.
The most popular form of entertainment in America for many years, vaudeville played mostly in a series of Vaudville Houses owned by a single corporation, such as the Orpheum or Pantages Circuits. One of those houses became The Muppet Theatre. The Muppet Show has much of its foundation in Vaudeville, with comedy bits ranging from Blackouts, to comedy skits like "Veterinarian's Hospital." Even the practice of yanking acts off stage with a giant cane found its way into Muppet productions, such as with Robin attempting to sing "They Call the Wind Maria," and Mary Louise's Muppet Show auditions.
The Muppets have also performed many songs which were staples of the circuit, including "For Me and My Gal," "Ta-Ra-Ra Boom-De-Ay", and "The Bird on Nellie's Hat." Many of their earliest television appearances were on shows with their roots on the Vaudeville stage as well, including The Ed Sullivan Show.
Many of the most popular entertainers of the twentieth century began their careers in Vaudeville. Bob Hope, George Burns, Señor Wences, Edgar Bergen, Milton Berle, Buddy Rich, Chet O'Brien, Pearl Bailey, The Three Stooges, and The Marx Brothers all got their starts playing the circuit, many at a very young age.
- Statler and Waldorf performed "The Varsity Drag" in episode 208 of The Muppet Show, and later performed the burlesque/vaudeville number "Take Ten Terrific Girls" in episode 409. Their vaudeville outfits from those numbers were the inspiration for the Vaudeville Statler and Waldorf Action Figures.
- Sam the Eagle looks through a microscope at a water drop -- and is horrified to see Kermit the Protozoa and Fozzie Amoeba performing vaudeville shtick in episode 409.
- Some of the most famous Muppet vaudeville acts include Lew Zealand and his Boomerang Fish, The Flying Zucchini Brothers, Angus McGonagle the Gershwin-gargling Gargoyle, and Bobby Benson and his Baby Band.
- A series of Big Bird and Snuffy bumpers were created, with Big Bird and Snuffy performing a vaudeville act which transitions to the next segment.
- Another Big Bird and Snuffy segment features them on the vaudeville stage, performing a song about S words and telling gum-wrapper jokes.
- In a third bit, Big Bird and Snuffy present the Spanish Word of the Day (teléfono) in vaudeville fashion. (First: Episode 3992)
- Vaudeville duo Herman Happy and Stanley Sad sing a song about how they live up to their names in animated segments on Sesame Street. (EKA: Episode 0789)
- In another animated Sesame Street segment, a vaudeville act of two SAME people ends when one of them falls off the stage. (First: Episode 0778)
- Maria, Luis, and Gordon dress in vaudeville attire and sing a song about writing things down, to teach Forgetful Jones how to remember things.
- Many Sesame Street songs were performed with a vaudeville flair, including "Big Round Nose," "Pigeons and Cookies and Trash," "Fuzzy and Blue (and Orange)," "Three," "The Sneeze Song," "That's What Friends Are For," "Mr. Between," and "Fur."
- In The Sesame Street Dictionary, Cookie Monster appears to tell jokes in the vaudevillian style throughout the book.
- The characters Chet and Snooks are nods to old-time vaudeville comedy teams; they are also named after Sesame Street crew members and former vaudevillians Chet O'Brien and Mortimer "Snooks" O'Brien.
- The video Bert & Ernie's Word Play is formatted like a vaudevillian show, featuring Bert and Ernie hosting with straw hats and canes and exchanging jokes.
- The Great Doc is the great-great-uncle of Doc on Fraggle Rock, and was a vaudeville magician, who toured the country, playing such theaters as the Victoria and the Schubert.
- Pepe & Seymour performed a vaudeville comedy act and try to tell the El-if-i-know joke in episode 107 of Muppets Tonight.
A common trope that has developed in popular culture involving a bad performer being pulled off stage by a shepherd's crook is usually attributed to Vaudeville.