Burlesque is not as bad as stripping. It's far worse

People enjoying a lifestyle are choking and denigrating people trying to build a life

13 July 2013

9:00 AM

13 July 2013

9:00 AM

A female friend asked me to a burlesque night she had organised. She honestly thought I would enjoy it. ‘Come and see naked women who aren’t being exploited,’ she said.

My friend said this because I sometimes hide from the world in the dark caves of Hackney, where ladies collect pounds in a pint glass and then turn around a pole with all the joie de vivre of a rusty weathervane in a light gale. On a wet weekday afternoon there are typically six or seven punters in these stews, who half-watch the show while drinking lager, munching crisps and thumbing through Loot or watching the cricket on the screen in the corner. I like these places. Flesh, alcohol, crisps, cricket, literature — the five pillars of civilised manhood, all accessible from one bar stool. Sometimes there’s even a working loo. It’s so much better than burlesque.

I shouldn’t have to see burlesque. Dita Von Teese, the American queen of the genre, has made it clear that it’s really just for women. Seventy per cent of her audience are women, apparently; the rest are gay men and boyfriends dragged along. So I ought to be able to leave this type of nudity to the people who understand it, but I am a stand-up comedian, so sadly it’s unavoidable in my line of work.

If I play a ‘variety’ night, there’s burlesque. At every taster show or chat show at the Edinburgh Fringe, there’s burlesque. I went to a fundraiser for International Women’s Day; there was burlesque. At every summer festival there’ll be a cabaret tent, and for cabaret you can pretty much read ‘burlesque’. Burlesque, it seems, has become the curry powder of light entertainment.

But my friend wanted company so I faced it again, with its camiknickers and sequins and women doing that ubiquitous ‘Aren’t I cheeky?’ face while taking an awfully long time to get undressed. Once again I found myself confronted with the fact that I must be some gross specimen of a man because I was still trying to find it erotic. Two hundred other men were, apparently, seeing art, beauty, postmodernism and ‘a power-play possession of the voyeuristic gaze’, just like it said in the brochure. I could just see tits; tits that had been desexualised by choreography and rehearsal. She takes this off, she winks at him, she shuffles to the side, she performs a sleight of hand that takes her bra off. The armour of familiarity — boredom, even — is so thick that none of the women seemed to exist in the moment of disrobing, and so trying to enjoy their nakedness was like trying to enjoy aircraft food. It was a tasteless encounter. I found myself thinking what it must be like to gaze upon a beautiful corpse.

This analogy delighted my friend. ‘I’m organising gore-lesque next,’ she said. Gore-lesque, she explained, further desexualises itself by having the performers pretending to slash each other’s wrists in a frenzy of stage blood. By showing how objectified women end up, she explained, it makes objectification impossible. ‘You would literally have to be a psychopath to enjoy it sexually.’ I felt sad. Had my humble little skin-pit on Old Street driven women to this?

Well, we needn’t worry. The sort of place I like will disappear soon. My burlesque–loving friend is a vocal member of the campaign to have strip clubs abolished in Hackney. ‘Women control burlesque,’ she says. ‘Men control lapdancing.’

She railed against Camden council, too, when it tried to have burlesque licensed along with traditional nudity back in 2009. While I appreciate that burlesque has a different purpose to a strip club, the two are not heaven and hell. The burlesque artist Gwendoline Lamour wrote in Time Out of the ‘unsophisticated brutishness’ of the men who frequent strip clubs, adding that to license burlesque would disenfranchise venues and performers, ‘leaving yet more room for the yob culture to thrive and flourish’. Even as an unsophisticated brute, I wondered at the idea that, without the synthetic antivenin of burlesque, we would all be poisoned by testosterone. Sex for money is bad: we must overwhelm it with ironic sex for money. We must fumigate every corner with irony.

In the end Camden gave in. Now licensed pole-dancing is pretty much dead, while unlicensed burlesque is a feathery, corseted plague. The idea that it’s good for women is taken as received wisdom; in 2010 Gok Wan made an overweight, fragile lady perform burlesque on television in order to empower her, and it seemed oddly normal, as if burlesque were occupational therapy for the timid.

Last year when Beatrix Von Bourbon made it to the semi-finals of Britain’s Got Talent, I felt that all was lost. Meta-nudity had broken out of the middle-class laboratory and was infecting the people. Soon every village would have a burlesque club where the Post Office used to be. Yet it was a revelation. The format prevented Beatrix from slithering away under a blackout as most performers do. She had to stand there — naked, sweating, anxious; suddenly human, asking two men and two women for their approval. I’ve taken all my clothes off. Is that good enough? Amanda Holden told her that her knickers were the wrong colour.

Of course it’s not good enough. It’s not supposed to be. The argument that most performers do it for fun rather than money should madden, not soothe us. Stripping should be the preserve of students, immigrants, single mothers and other hardworking people who are trying to get to the next rung where, we hope, they can do something else. The people enjoying a lifestyle are choking and denigrating those who are trying to have a life.

And so I find myself in an unholy alliance with second-wave feminists and anyone else who isn’t convinced that burlesque is the pill for every ill of patriarchy. People like the radical feminist Laurie Penny, who tried burlesque as a subversive jape and didn’t like it. ‘Smile! You’ve got to smile until your face hurts,’ she recalled her director saying. ‘There followed a year of making eyes and flashing my knickers, until my body felt even less my own.’

She should have tried Brown’s, or the White Horse. There the women — more socially, physically and ethnically diverse than you will find at most burlesque nights — never feel obliged to smile. There’s no whooping or cheering. Last Wednesday a man whistled, but we all gave him a stern look, so he stopped. As always there was cricket-clapping at the end of each turn. The women didn’t care. They were not looking for approval. Nobody was looking for anything. Well, the man next to me was looking for a camper van with less than 80K on the clock; the women were looking for their next pound.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Liam Mullone is a comedian. His latest show, Game Over, will be at the Caves in Edinburgh from 1 to 25 August.

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Show comments
  • Shai Shahar

    Outrageously unfunny ans typically [Brit] male view of what can be a true art form. Don’t know if this article is more reflective of his mood or the mediocrity of the wanna be talents on stage but I strongly recommend next time someone recommends a burlesque show that you see it in Amsterdam, which is home to some of the best shows in Europe and with most of the best stars.

  • Devin

    This poor poor man. Someone has forsaken him, and it shows.

    • Swank

      I’d hate the joint the writer visits, but I think his points overall are well made: I like belly dance, and in my opinion as a dancer and viewer of dance, the exciting dancers are the ‘heartfelt’ ones, the ones that love it. The dull dancers are technically competent but mechanical, even robotic. Lots of boobs and hips and leg but nothing the slightest bit erotic: which for a family venue may be just what’s required — but it takes the lustre off the dance, in my opinion. (When I dance (only in private), I don’t have the whole dance mapped out: most of it’s improvised in response to the music. Much more enjoyable that way.)

      • Sylvia

        By that logic, the most boring dances of all are the types that are classically thought of as the most refined…anything explicitly choreographed, such as ballet!

        • Swank

          Well I wouldn’t go that far: professionals can do a lot of successful choreography, but there is a big difference between, say, Maria Shashkova at her peak and the American called Sadie, for example. One is highly fluid — and erotic; the other is not.

          I don’t really admire ballet very much. And I certainly think that belly dancers have the best figures. A ballerina is a stick with muscles attached. No, thanks!

      • Simon Morgan

        Where do you dance?

        • Swank

          In my living room.

      • Alex

        Burlesque shouldn’t be in a fucking family venue. It shouldn’t be sexualised at all. End of story.

  • Sarah Price

    This guy’s a comedian? Go figure…

  • Sara Hawthorn

    Bad burlesque is horrific. But when done well, yes there’s some real art to it. I half agree with what you say; the British burlesque scene is saturated with the explosive contents of cheap bottles of fizz but having tried it once I can see why it’s a confidence booster for some women. And I’ve seen some brilliant burlesque acts over the years. You could say the same about the rise of pole dancing as fitness regime. Who’d have though being caked in bruises from groin to little toe would appeal so much?

    • Amanda Hull

      anyone can do burlesque…there is zero ability needed …easy,a cop out..boring and an insult to other performers who work hard…like myself… It may have been great in the 50’s but now ..it’s an embarrasment to the stage

      • Twinkle Toes

        Anyone can get up on stage and be an ass in a play or a stand up night or a dance piece. Not everyone can do great things with it. I hate seeing bad performance and there is a lot of it going around on ALL fronts.

        Burlesque is a part of what I do onstage and the other people I know (who are very good) work extremely hard at their craft.

      • Sarah

        Work hard? How exactly is selling videos of yourself sticking plastic cutlery up yer pink and stink classed as performance? Not only that but you’re a member of strip action, a strip club night where “The Dream Men” (male strippers) perform. Little miss hypocrite Amanda!

      • Glorian Gray

        Oh my. In the 50s burlesque was predominantly women, managed by men, stripping for the visual and sexual pleasure of men. Today it owned, run, performed and enjoyed by women, for creative purposes. What a thing to say…

        • Snow

          Here here!

  • Penny

    What Liam is saying, in a nutshell, is, “I only like stripping if the performers clearly aren’t enjoying it, and there are no women in the audience.” That doesn’t mean that burlesque is “worse” than stripping.

  • Twinkle Toes

    There’s a lot of comedians and now there are a lot of burlesquers. Most of them are shite and a handful are great. Stand-up comedy isn’t for everyone; it’s usually a male leaning on his mic stand rehashing humiliating tales about himself or someone else, relying on a somewhat informed audience. Burlesque isn’t for everyone; it’s usually a female with lots of glittering costumes, stripping for a somewhat informed audience. There is a lot of performers who fall out of these generalisations.

    Seems like this fellow needs a few more opinions before he writes more than 800 words. Most of us burlesquers who perform for a living know EXACTLY that we’re stripping for money, no doubt about it. We’re also getting paid for the presentation and preparation.

    Those who “demand” that it be called an art form need to shut up and let things be fluid. Who cares if it’s art or stripping or pulling things out of a hole in your body? Performance when it’s good… is simply that. Performance when it’s bad… likewise.

  • Franco Milazzo

    There is plenty of burlesque out there and not all of it is wonderful. We know: our article on bad burlesque had comments from three continents: http://www.thisiscabaret.com/the-shittest-burlesque-ive-seen/

    There are many positive aspects, though, about modern burlesque. It is a thriving, collaborative scene largely run by women from the ground up unlike any other sector of the entertainment industry. Alongside the classic performers, there are many innovators breaking through whose acts are ostensibly rooted in striptease but are mini-masterpieces of character, choreography and costume. Go see them before bitching about the scene as a whole.

    This article is little more than trolling, sneering, cheap misogyny by way of a surplus degree in English Lit. Good luck in Edinburgh telling gags about the local accent and the cuisine. Your audience may need to borrow some burlesque-style corsets to keep their sides together.

    (all views my own)

    • Well said, my friend. My thoughts exactly.

  • Jo King

    Liam, thank you for your opinion. Everyone is entitled to have one and now we know yours.

    I am sorry that you find burlesque so “tasteless” and also that you think all the performers who work in strip clubs/pubs “don’t care”. I also apologise for perhaps taking your remarks out of context but then I feel you have taken many components of this issue out of context, so wtf?!

    I have spent most of my life as a stripper, burlesquer, pole-dancer and teacher of all three. I worked in the White Horse for many years and loved it there. I am sure that anyone who saw me or my colleagues stripping will tell you that we worked hard, danced well, smiled genuinely and most definitely cared that the customers were enjoying our performances. It wasn’t about “approval” it was about providing erotic entertainment. As a comedian, I am sure you are aware that people don’t have to like you or like what you do to nonetheless find your work entertaining!

    By the way Liam, are you a comic for fun or for money or because you are an immigrant, student and hard-working single dad?

    Tits and arse in all their guises and across all genres seem to affect some people in deep and sometimes disturbing ways. If you look up the word “EXPLOITATION” in the dictionary it means to make the most of ones assets to the greatest possible advantage. You might just discover that the majority of women in burlesque and/or lap dancing are in fact, exploiting themselves of their own free will for an income that they have control over and dare I say it, yes, many of them, for the sheer unadulterated fun of it too

    Get over yourself Liam . If you hate burlesque so much – don’t go and watch it! Go back to the “dark caves of Hackney” but make sure you have lots of pound coins (or even fivers – they take notes too!) ready to give to my lovely stripper friends who I am sure have more” joie de vivre” in their beautifully manicured little fingers than you will ever know!

    • Swank

      You must be jo king.

  • Kae Oz

    Anyone trying to remove the sexuality from burlesque is doing it wrong. Yes, sometimes it is artful, but being an art doesn’t make it any less sexual.
    And I am sad for the sad strip joint he frequents. I have been to plenty of strip joints where the girls have a great time. Some of them do porn, some never do more than strip down to tiny panties, but they love being sexual and they love entertaining. And we have to stop thinking we have to separate women enjoying themselves in a happy healthy matter and their sexuality.
    I am sad for the Western shame that makes any one feel that a job in the sex work field has to be suffered miserably for the woman to have any future,, and that any woman who enjoys it is somehow sick or wrong.

    • Swank

      Jeepers! Sex in the nature of things shouldn’t be ‘work’ and it sure as h ll shouldn’t be a ‘field’. Don’t let your brains fall out, girl.

      • evewc

        don’t be naive–sex and commerce have been linked since the Dawn of Man. What’s the oldest profession?

        • Swank

          That’s a very odd way of defining a ‘profession’. What it is, instead, is the oldest self-betrayal and the oldest exploitation. Make no mistake.

          • evewc

            I’m not endorsing it. Calm down.

          • Swank

            Strange responses, really. First I’m told I’m naive, then I’m told I’m overwrought. Meanwhile I’m a dispassionate observer. Oh well.

      • Kae Oz

        I guess food “in the nature of things” shouldn’t be work either. Cooking shouldn’t be a field either, I suppose.
        It shouldn’t be work because…. ? You enjoy it? You want it? You don’t choose to pay for it? Everyone should view it the same?
        How do you feel about art? Should it be work? Should people get paid for expressing their nature?
        Your work is what you get paid for. Some people are paid for the brains, some their physical might, some
        their beauty. Some are just paid for the attention they have to give.
        Whether they be caretakers or dog sitters. Some are lucky enough to get paid for what they love doing and would do anyways – like many actors. Some have to take crappy jobs to keep the lights on, like fast food workers.
        Some sex workers love their work. Some do it to keep the lights on. But it is their work.
        It is not up to you tell someone whether or not what they do is a legitimate field. Especially when that field has a strong customer base and is very lucrative.

        And Sex is my “field”. I am Sexual Health Educator and Rape and Abuse Prevention Educator. Thanks for the concern of my cranial well being. My brains are pretty well secured, “guest”.

        (and yes, I am assuming by your trying to detract from my comment by “mentioning” my gender just after calling into question the state of my brains, that you are a boy).

        • kingnez

          I am Sexual Health Educator and Rape and Abuse Prevention Educator.

          95% of your previous comments are about rape and sexual violence you see it everywhere. It must be sad to be constantly fighting windmills.’You cant rape the willing my dear’

        • Alex

          Great reply! Guest, go remove your male chauvenistic lame arse from the planet.

      • Kae Oz

        Thank you for drawing the parameters for what people should and should not get paid for. Obviously the centuries of sex workers before, working the “worlds oldest profession”, have had it wrong. And artists should work for free out of love of the art,
        But my poor little girl brains just jiggle so when I am bouncing around through this world, they get all loose. Thanks to people like you who know how it “should” be for the rest of us.
        You hear that Jenna Jameson? Lexington Steele? Heff? Sex is no longer a thing to profit from, and you no longer work in a “field”! You are all free! No, go forth and get that job at the Piggly Wiggly

    • Alex

      Holy crap, a woman defending the sex industry and strip club workers?! Do you have a temperature? I am sorry, but I am blown away to see a woman using logic on the topic. If only more woman and actually people in general could be this reasonable.

  • Her

    “Stripping should be the preserve of students, immigrants, single
    mothers and other hardworking people who are trying to get to the next
    rung where, we hope, they can do something else”
    How is it ok for single mothers? Students? What is it male students do for money? What a vile article. I don’t care how ironic this is meant to be. In fact, if it’s meant to be ironic it’s even more sickening.

    • aggieagatha

      The writer watches too much TV. The single mum, the immigrant and the student are all stereotypical tropes for the “stripper” character.

      Not saying there aren’t immigrants, mums and students stripping. However there is more to both sides of the clothes-removal-entertainment coin.

  • Bettsie Bon Bon

    Dear Liam, – go and see Luna Rosa tell me its not erotic, go see Kitty Bang Bang or Kiki Kaboom tell me you dont laugh! I prefer to watch people that are enjoying what they do, but you know what ever floats your boat and gets you off- bored people not so much for me- I am unsure they would want you to put them all in the same category….this article is only helping what i’m trying to stop- opening the gap between strippers in lap dance clubs and strippers in burlesque clubs, cheers mate, Enjoy the cricket im off to tassel twirl 🙂

  • Her

    By the way, go look up the word ‘feminist’ and then tell me that a woman running her own show (lighting, making costumes, editing music and choreographing the routines and more) isn’t feminist.
    You utter troll.

    • IanB

      I say, a rather extreme reaction, there, what, what, Her, old girl? He’s not a troll but he’s also not a very naughty boy. Doubtless fears ice cream too. Too much pleasure. This is not trollism – he’s just a guy who hasn’t yet learned to enjoy the pheromones!

      • Her

        Poor chap. If I were feeling charitable I’d pity him.

    • JS7

      They are not “running their own show”, not really. That is the central point made by feminism. Perhaps you need to look it up again.

      • Her

        How is putting on an entire show not running a show?

  • Chris H

    How dare you post your opinion, Liam. Don’t you know you can’t have or express opinions unless they are ones these people agree with?

    Freedom of speech. Not freedom to not be offended. You’ve gone into this wanting to be offended and have missed all the humor in it. Not everyone is going to love what you do. That does not make them wrong.

    • TVsKyle

      Liam has the freedom to post his opinion, and people have the freedom to disagree with him. I, for one, am exercising my right to not find the humor presented particularly funny.

      • Batman

        And no one is condemning you, or ridiculing you, or making snide comments about you using your freedom of speech.

        See how that works?


        • TVsKyle

          If they did, they’d have the freedom to do so because they have the freedom of speech.

          You’re not really Batman.

          • Batman

            Like has already been said. Right to free speech, not the right to not be offended.

  • Scarlette Switches

    Haha! This man IS a comedian and I appreciate the commentary. Don’t hate the stripper hate the game.

  • Unfinished article

    You’re too clever for me Liam. I cant work out what is irony and what is sarcasm here.

  • evewc

    My burlesque troupe produced several benefit shows that donated all proceeds to battered women’s shelters and environmental groups. Many performers and troupes are likewise conscious of giving back to the community, particularly in regards to women’s issues. This is a VERY narrow take on a wide and varied spectrum of art and performance.

    • Beauchard

      The article is too long, mysoginistic, not vey substantive and for the greatest part incoherent.
      i could not understand what the man was talking about. Then I read your comment and I understood why Liam Mullone dislikes (your kind of ) burlesque.
      I am a heterosexual man. I enjoy watching attractive women taking their clothes off if there is an element of tease, naughtiness and forbidden fruit involved in the stripping.
      Yet I read comments here about burlesque being almost biblically innocent, a kind of power feminism and so politically correct that it is suitable for the local clergy. Now you add the argument of charity.
      I do not find stripping for politically correct charities erotic.
      Perhaps your troupe would appeal more to women and metrosexual men.

      • evewc

        I don’t see how you could possibly know what “my kind of” burlesque is, seeing as I gave no details about our style of performance. Giving back to the community and producing fun and titillating burlesque need not be mutually exclusive. Blanket pronouncements about burlesque often require qualification because burlesque runs a very wide gamut. Some of it is cheeky and fun, some of it is dark and avante garde. Some of it focuses on humor and irony, some on straight-up stimulation. I’m amused that someone who has no idea of what my troupe’s done feels confident telling me who would and would not enjoy our shows.

        • Beauchard

          Thank you for your reply.
          Yes I do know that (neo) burlesque runs a very wide gamut. I also know about the cheekiness, fun, avant garde, humor and irony stuff etc. So does Mullone; “Burlesque, it seems, has become the curry powder of light entertainment.”
          However, burlesque may even be an art form, but he does not find it to be erotic: “I could just see tits; tits that had been desexualised by choreography and rehearsal.” He prefers the (entourage of the) strip joint.
          Put in a more artful way. He prefers the the sexuality of women who correspond to female characters in a Henry Miller novel or a Salvador Dali drawing, to the sexuality of socially conscious empowered feminists who donate their earnings to politically correct charities. I do as well.
          Well what do you expect from unsophisticated brutes like him and me. I also eat red meat.
          An earlier generation of empowered women burnt their bras. This empowered generation is taking them off to the cheers of their sisters and metrosexual men. They have now made it to prime time television. Way to go! I have no objections.
          It may be great fun, but eroticism is something else.

          • evewc

            I do not doubt that you speak honestly for yourself. You saw some burlesque and you didn’t think it was hot. This brand of sexual spectacle is not your cup of tea. It isn’t for everyone and I get that. There is a difference, however, between expressing your personal opinion, which is valid, and assuming that you speak for all or even most heterosexual males, which is fallacious and hubristic. I’m not crying that entitled straight guys such as yourself don’t think burlesque is hot. Maybe you’re one of those people who OD’s on porn during adolescence and it stunted your sexual imagination and creativity.You were never our audience and we’re better off on both sides for it. But don’t whine about the genre as if your personal preferences dictate what All Straight Men dig.

          • Beauchard

            “Maybe you’re one of those people who OD’s on porn during adolescence and it stunted your sexual imagination and creativity.”
            Oh dear, have you ever read Henry Miller or seen one of Dali’s erotic drawings? No? How about Lady Chatterley’s Lover? Everybody has read that. It’s in paperback and not that thick. On the other hand, you may only be interested in feminist eroticism.
            Your rather limited enclosed mind (a reference to Descartes) is actually quite funny. You seem to be so proud of it.
            “Entitled straight guys”, that’s American is it not? I googled the phrase and could only find lesbians using a lot of expletives about heterosexual men.
            To me you sound like someone with quite a few issues. Starting with rejection. Nothing to be ashamed of. everybody has problems.
            Whatever. As I said before: I have no objections to neo-burlesque. Enjoy your lesbian/bisexual/transsexual (multiple choice) performing. you do not have to make the sexuality grade of Henry Miller or Salvador Dali.
            I am sure you will find one or more nice partners with lots of politically correct sexual imagination and creativity.

          • evewc

            sounds like I struck a nerve.

          • evewc

            and I don’t know why telling me something I said is American. I assume that’s a putdown? If we’re going that route, don’t get your knickers in a twist 😉

          • Beauchard

            Sorry I have to go. Getting late where I live. No chance of communication. The “female form” is not part of my vocabulary. I do not have a “case”.
            BTW, I now live in Amsterdam. Seen lots of burlesque and other things. Actually I have lived in four countries, but that is another story.
            You did not understand my short anecdote about the museum in Figueres. It is not about surrealism. Never mind.

          • evewc

            I don’t understand why you were going on about Miller and Dali in the first place. Do burlesque a favor and don’t go to any more shows.

          • Beauchard

            No. if this was about the Middle East, maybe I would be involved.
            This is just intellectual gymnastics for me.
            There is a Dali museum in Figueres on the Costa Brava(Spain). Lots of European tourists go to the Costa Brava for a beach holiday. They have heard of Dali, so many families decide to visit his museum. A good decision, it is an excellent museum. They stand in long queues in the heat.
            His erotic drawings are in the beginning. The families have to walk past the drawings. I have watched their expressions change from positive expectations to astonishment and disgust. Real eroticism is not appreciated as much as popular burlesque.
            I think Mullone is gross and insulting, but I do understand what he is saying. Burlesque (actually it is neo-burlesque) may be fun, avant garde and pleasantly artistic. It may be excellent cabaret. However, when he says it is not erotic, I agree with him.

          • evewc

            how much burlesque have you seen? And you can calm down on the whole Dali thing. Proclaiming your love for a surrealist interpretation of the female form isn’t helping your case.

          • evewc

            as is your right. That’s fine. But a lot of straight men do find it erotic. I know this because I’m a performer and I’ve seen it. I’ve experienced it. What goes for you does not go for all of straight mankind.

  • JzoJzo Bitte

    As a woman and a burlesque dancer with a sense of humour and common sense, I found this hilarious. It’s obviously satire people, fucking Christ. This just goes to show that we’re not doing something right as a society, when women who participate in an alternative form of entertainment that oozes subtlety, can’t even understand a blog post.

    • Swank

      I don’t think your post has quite enough swear words.

    • If it’s satire, it’s obviously not very good satire or otherwise more people would get it. It just came off as a rambing rant by a privileged ass over here.

  • Angelina

    As a burlesque dancer, I take great offense to this article. Not because the author doesn’t like burlesque, but more WHY he doesn’t like it. As it appears to my understanding of this article, burlesque is boring, but it’s also a self-fulfilling prophecy. We’re boring. But we also smile too much. If a performer isn’t boring, he/she smiles TOO much, which is also boring. Pick one! I think that the reasoning behind the author’s boredom lies not with the art of burlesque or its performers, but more with the insecurities and uncomfortable nature of the author. He must be very insecure if the main reason he likes traditional strip clubs more is rooted with the misconception that all the women are there because they don’t have any other choice to make money (most strippers I know do it because they like it.) This means he finds an unwilling nature, and desperation sexy. As usual, this article says more about the distirbing and antiquated views of te author rather than about burlesque itself. shame on you, author, for perpetuating an antiquated notion that a naked woman’s body is shameful and should only be shown as a last-ditch effort. It makes total sense that he would be repelled by burlesque, which is by definition, a rebellion and display of parody that takes some goddamn guts to display. It’s intentional, and willing, and THAT is SEXY.

    • aggieagatha

      He’s just butt-hurt he didn’t see vag fast enough and didn’t have someone twerkin’ their sculpted ass in front of his face. I guess he enjoys the sleaze and the quick entertainment.

      • Darknut

        Not sure what’s wrong with enjoying any of those things. As you describe them I’m thinking “uh… yeah.”

        No he should pretend to *not* like sculpted asses so he can be more “genuine.”

        I think the main point of this article is that between the traditional strip club and the burlesque show–is that the strip club is honest. It’s an exchange that happens when no one analyzes it and f#$%s with it. It’s a room full of people doing what they want –making a mutual exchange instead of some perversion of it people are telling them they *should* want.

        “The people enjoying a lifestyle are choking and denigrating those who are trying to have a life.”

  • akynos

    this shit was funny. though the notion that men own the lap-dancing is absurd.

  • Tara Sue

    I’ve stripped for 8 yrs and I get were he is coming from. Burlesque your on stage and your really out here. Put in the spot light 4 every one to see and picked apart. Now remember not everyone has their “good days”, sometimes your just not their type of girl and there goes your night and your mood. And because your just art to them (not just some tits) they are going to be even harder on you. Don’t forget girl are mean and your now in a girls world not a mans. Girls are harder to please. Here is stripping…..If I’m not your type of girl. Well I don’t care because there is someone in the club where I am. If they are rude or mean I can tell them to eff off and walk away, I have the power. I MAKE MY MONEY HOW I WANT TO MAKE MY MONEY. If I think the five dollars are worth it its up too me and only me.

  • Burlesque is so incredibly varied and diverse, to judge the entire genre by one experience is akin to saying “I read a book once and it was not as enjoyable as kayaking, therefor all books are awful.”


    It’s obvious to me that the show Liam experienced was BAD burlesque. It
    does sound like a boring evening featuring talentless performers. There
    is no mention of the classic, humorous scenes and music hall /
    vaudeville jokes that make the show entertaining. The U.S. had a
    long-running financially successful show called THIS WAS BURLESQUE more
    than two decades ago. It was hilarious. Nudity was part of each short
    plot, but only one ingredient in the recipe!. Certain casts included
    classic comedians such as Mickey Rooney or Red Buttons as the headline
    performer. Their characters were doctors, judges, policemen and hobos wearing baggy pants. It was fun. It was entertainment!

    • Beauchard

      I think you are missing the point.
      He is not referring to classic comedians. He is not talking about the “nudity” that is “only one ingredient in the recipe”.
      He, like all the women commenting here, is referring to the main course of neo-burlesque; the part when women take off (some of) their clothes.
      He is purposely being insulting, so most of the comments have been emotional and missed the point.
      What he is saying is that Dita Von Teese does not tease because there is no hint of forbidden fruit in her performance. It is even innocent enough for Britain’s Got Talent.
      That women are being empowered and not exploited is wonderful, but that does not necessarily make them sexy. Certainly not to an “unsophisticated brute” like Mullone. He writes that they are not sexy, just boring. He uses the imagery of a “beautiful corpse”.
      The burlesque ladies commenting here are angry with him. They maintain that their art is a form of emancipation and has nothing to do with men’s sexual desires. Yet they scream at him that they are sexy and maintain that there must be something wrong with him if he does not agree with them.

  • Knives_and_Faux

    The difference between a stripper and burlesque show? About two stone.

  • IanB

    Liam, you’re still in thrall to your own fear of enjoying sex and sexy things! Just rejoice in the gorgeousness of lovely women!

  • jatrius

    What is the parody in operation here? Why is this titillation regarded as ‘burlesque’?

  • Diws

    to paraphrase Peter Bagge, Reason Magazine’s cartoonist, ‘Thanks for politicizing partial nudity, folks’.

  • The_greyhound

    I always think that the Duchess of Cornwall is an inspiration to us all : this is how a retired sex-worker should conduct herself.

  • KatMonDieu

    Aw. Here we have a codger with a limited view of women and sex in general. (A sure sign of a bad lay). Such tragedy! He’s bored! We must entertain his sad saggy balls…toute suite! It is our duty as women to make him feel his oats or else how will he regurgitate top notch comedy? I don’t know! I must stop thinking and just strip and stop smiling and simply grind; Poe faced…because there is no room for creativity in the arena of sexual expression. Alas! Alack! Alay! Would I want to be this man for a day?
    But he must be an expert on sex cuz he has a cock.
    Just kidding 😉

  • nationalexistance

    Any more pictures?

  • David

    They watch cricket in strip clubs??

  • Candy

    You’re delusional. Liking to stir such controversy, eh? Well, get out there more. See more burlesque, or don’t if you’re going to react with such negativity that tries to bring down the better half of the world. Poo on you!

  • Thank you, Liam, for speaking the truth.

    Burlesque is like safe BDSM. What’s the point?

  • Funk Cutter

    if Liam had seen Burly-Q he wouldn’t be so down on it all! but most modern burlesque is, unfortunately, lacking in comedy, political awareness and sexuality – and it needs to have less XX people performing in it too – there’s others in this spectrum we call ‘gender’ you know?

  • R Violet

    I love this article. Thank you so much for writing it. I totally agree.

  • Katy Jones

    I maybe biased as I am a burlesque performer but what you are describing is not what I or a lot of my associates do. There is “the classic striptease” which is about the tease and i find it is the hardest style to pull off, there is a huge influx of hobby performers that do it for confidence, empowerment, blah blah…bollocks…i dont pay to see a show to watch someone work out their emotional issues…the true burlesquers do it to put on a show and they are bloody good at it, the show girls are sexy, then you have the fierce or the funny or the clever and ironic performances…true burlesque isn’t just about getting clothes off it can deliver a message or a punch line and represents a whole lot more…BAD BURLESQUE on the other hand is rife and causing damage to the reputation of the industry and the truly amazing performers out there. If people want to get up and take their clothes off for any reason then fine it is a free country and if some strippers do it for pounds and thats their choice fine. If someone thinks that strutting around with a feather boa is going to make them feel better about their body then fine again its still a free country but if you’re going to do Burlesque then, research it properly as it is an art it is NOT stripping your way to empowerment for us women folk

  • Snow

    Can’t help it, have to put my own opinion in here. Okay a couple of things about me – I’m a mother, I own and pay for my own home with my boyfriend (my child’s father), I work full time from home so I can do school runs more easily, I attend aerial hoop lessons every Wednesday night to keep in shape. I started burlesque shortly after my son was born. I hated my figure, I had no confidence and burlesque really helped. The beginners classes don’t force you to wear or do anything you don’t want, my teacher was and is professional and friendly and goes out of her way to make sure you are getting the most out of lessons for your physical health and your confidence. I perform to entertain, I perform because I love the attention (all performers have to, to a point, I’m sure as a comedian you can understand that) and predominantly I perform for me, paid or unpaid. I have a day job to support me and my family and burlesque is hobby for me, a big hobby, just as much as modelling, singing, drawing, writing or making jewellery. And yet all these things are real careers for other people. It’s fine that you don’t like the standard cheesecake acts, or the gorleque acts etc, it’s your opinion, but you don’t read a Stephen King book, say you don’t like it then swear off all other books whether they be horror, crime or romance, so why treat a form of entertainment that way? I dislke the “comedian” Al Murray, but that won’t stop me loving Bill Bailey

  • “Curry powder of light entertainment,” I hope you trademarked that shit. If not, I am going to. In fact, I think I have a new act;)

  • Mulberry Field

    It is so hilarious that burlesque has become such a sacred cow. I consider it a luxury
    hobby of the middle class hipster who is too young to have a mother
    whose life track and identity was limited by the sexist eras they
    romanticize. In the 40’s and the 50’s, my mother and grandmother’s
    generations weren’t encouraged to be much more than arm candy or homemakers. I
    don’t see how a plus model emulating a pin up girl is some
    kind of revolutionary message that stirs up everyone’s intellect.
    Really? I didn’t realize our collective intellect resided in the pants
    of a man.They are actually pointing out the fact that they come from a
    class that can afford to strip for shit money! Oh honey let’s go
    slumming! Burlesque chicks are always so quick to call out real
    strippers as skanks when strippers are just keeping it real. Most
    strippers will not deny the skankyness of their job or the class into which they were born. The only real difference is that they have to get naked for a living in order to
    afford the lifestyle your urban hipster takes for granted.

  • Gia Nova

    I think the real issue here is not the style of dancing burlesque vs. modern stripper. I think the issue is hobbiest vs. professional. There is tons of overlap between burlyQ and stripping. Hell, strip clubs came directly from burlesque halls! The problem is highlighted by the women’s (in the article) attitude. Many of my shows are burlesque & some of those are actually horror burlesque (or gorelesque as she calls it). I can only speak for myself, but I do those shows because it is what I find sexy, not to desexualize it! I guess I am (and my fans that enjoy it) the sick people she mentions lol! Oh did I mention I get payed for it? I didn’t start taking my close off to ’empower’ myself, unless you count trying to make rent and feed yourself empowering…which I do. Stripping, sometimes in the style of burlesque, has become my career and hobbiest do make things more complicated….but people who don’t want to be looked at in a sexual nature while bumping and grinding their hips and breast naked need a reality…and history check! IMO burlesque AND stripping can be art forms, but you see artist of every form trying to make a living at it. You almost never see people just giving away their paintings, sculptures etc for free in mass…

  • who cares

    It’s not supposed to be erotic that’s not the purpose of burlesque it’s supposed to be mocking and funny.

  • Alex

    All thsi pro-burlesque bullshit is what he is talking about. His point is if people want to perform in a strip club, their call. If people want to attend a strip club, their call. There are male strip clubs too, why has no one lobbied to shut them down? Why if a woman smiles until it hurts whilst stripping in a manner that is meant to be ironically provocative, but where I get shot if I get a boner, meant to be acceptable socially, unregulated and unlicensed. But if a woman wants to earn money, money that men work many more hours than it takes that woman to earn off him, that is distasteful? Where is the equality you left wing lib-tard hypocrites?

    We are talking about strip clubs here, not brothels and there is no one standing up for the male strippers rights nor complaining about the social degradation there. You all sicken me with your single sided, holier than though bullshit views. Come face me like a man, if you got the balls for it. Or did you chop them off and sell them to make a feminist happy?

    A real man can stand up for the rights of more than one side you limp dicked bastards. As for feminist women. Believe me, you do not actually want equality…. But then you already know that.

  • Edward Hyde

    Why is stripping “bad” at all? for centuries the naked female body has been seen and admired in art so I fail to see the problem, if a woman finds she can earn money by taking her clothes off then that is no ones business but hers.
    As to Burlesque – that is a cop out for women who tend to be “larger bodied” and are either too unattractive/old to make it as strippers (seriously – take a look at DvT when she is topless & the mess those implants made of her, hideous!) or else don’t have the courage to do the job properly.
    Female nude stage dancing is a performance art and valid, no one screams and points fingers when supermodels walk down catwalks with their breasts on display or when ballet dancers decide they dont need their shirts so what is the problem with stripping? (rhetorical btw – there isn’t one except in the heads of the closed minded)

  • kdoll

    There are so many negative comments here… and I have to say I’m not exactly with them. I have a lot of friends who do burlesque and of course there is some talent there like anywhere… but … to be honest it often feels like people who have a curiosity about the sex industry or a penchant for exhibitionism or perhaps even need validation of their body or their version of sexy or ‘sexy’ choose burlesque because it is so ubiquitously and unwaveringly supportive of the performers. It’s a no risk, only reward venture. Perhaps that’s why it is often boring. Real strip dancers … do well based on marketable characteristics including but not limited to a nice appearance and somewhat proactive attitude. If they don’t have at least a little bit of what the clientele wants they are unlikely to make money, find it tolerable or continue to do it. I often get this feeling that burlesque performers do it a few times and get the attitude that they are just as sexy and beautiful (to the general population) as an average 22 year old exotic dancer. Burlesque performers are in a fake world of sorts where we’re all pretending that watching the slightly overweight middle aged woman do a routine that requires neither talent nor beauty is really worth it. Ask yourself… if my friends/girlfriends weren’t here, if I didn’t secretly want validation myself, if no one would ever know my opinion, would I want to watch this? <3

  • Deaive

    Apart from all the wonderful stuff others have said, I’d like to add that there is nothing wrong with being sex-positive. Titillation is part of human nature and when it isn’t exploitative, it’s harmless for those who enjoy it. I do feel that there is a gender balance issue, though there are more and more male burlesque performers, and one of the main aspects of burlesque is its ‘retro’ feel, alluding to times that were at once more innocent and much less so.

    This article is a very bad attempt at feminism which completely misses the point and ends up being a sad example of misogyny.

  • rp

    Well put. Funny but poignant. As a guy who spent a lot of time in the vintage scene of San Francisco, selling vintage clothing and swing dancing and immersed in the lifestyle and scene, and a pretty sexual guy, I have struggled with how completely boring burlesque is to me on every level. Even seeing a nude woman does not make it worth it. You sum it up pretty well. Portland Oregon has some great bars that are active fun full bars with the bonus of strippers on stage. Some are rather alt hip types. Love that. Here in Seattle, strip clubs are sad lonely places that do not serve alcohol. But still better than burlesque.