The Anthology Television Series as Vaudeville

Being back in America was good for a couple things, Hulu being one of them. During one of my binging moments, I was recommended Cake, a live-action and adult animated anthology/comedy television series. These anthological short-form comedies are very similar to the vaudeville acts described by Jenkins. Indeed, much of Jenkins’s descriptions of vaudeville performances apply to these forms of television.

Like YouTube, Cake features an ‘ecclectic mix of content drawn from all corners of our culture and lays it out as if it were of equal interest and importance’. The episodes are short, no more than 25 minutes long. In the first episode, the short film “Oh, Jerome, No” is intercut with animated shorts that almost act as “commercial breaks”, and each block of the short film is related, but still qualifies as a stand-alone. The use of these “commercial breaks” remove the feeling of one short being showcased or prioritised over the others. Secondly, the mix is truly eclectic. As each short film is made independently of each other and by different people, the structure, form, and humour are completely original to each.

The ‘actor-centred mode of production’ is best seen in Samantha Jayne’s contributions.  In “Think of Nothing” for Quarter Life Poetry, the audience is allowed into her hectic, relatable millennial head as she “raps” the accurate struggles of meditation. At one moment, her thoughts are derailed as she tries to remember if she unplugged her straightener. Jayne’s spoken word is visualised as she takes us through her day via her inner thoughts. As Jenkins says of filmed vaudeville performances, Jayne performs ‘directly to the camera … actively courting the attention and approval of the viewer.’ She literally sucks the audience in, as the perspective is that of a passive viewer in her mind.

 

Henry Jenkins, “YouTube and the Vaudeville Aesthetic,” HenryJenkins.org (20 November 2006): henryjenkins.org/2006/11/youtube_and_the_vaudeville_ aes.html.

“Self-Care” Cake, Season 1, Episode 3, FXX Network, 9 oct 2019 Hulu

“Cache Flow” Cake, Season 1, Episode 1, FXX Network, 25 sept 2019 Hulu

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