The Jewish Foundations of Kabaret Literacki, 1920–1939
This chapter describes the Jewish foundations of kabaret literacki (literary cabaret), a specific form of cabaret consisting of comedy sketches, monologues, and songs with satirical social and political content. Kabaret literacki was a revolutionary phenomenon in terms of Polish culture, Jewish culture, and notions of Polish national identity. It flourished mainly in Warsaw between the world wars — that is, in the capital of a newly independent nation that was also a great Jewish metropolis with a third of its residents identifying themselves as Jews or 'of Jewish background'. This is not to claim that Warsaw held a monopoly on innovative, high-quality cabaret in Poland. The lively city of Lwów, long a centre for Polish theatre, offered stiff competition in the form of cabarets. Nor did Warsaw's kabaret literacki attract the many Varsovian Jews who resisted Polish acculturation for religious and/or political reasons. The most innovative Yiddish-language kleynkunst theatre, Ararat, was in Łódź, where its director, the poet Moyshe Broderson, provided songs and sketches, and the famous Yiddish comedy team of Shimen Dzigan and Yisrael Shumacher, a voluble chatterbox paired with a phlegmatic straight man, performed.
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