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Med Show Glossary

Definitions of terms commonly used in medicine shows.

Afterpiece- a multi-gag comedy act closing a show

Bally or Ballyhoo- flamboyant pre-show activity, designed to draw a crowd

Banners- ads for local merchants, painted on cloth and hung around the proscenium

Bit- short, single-gag comedy act

Butcher- candy or nostrum vender, usually also a cast member

Carry The Banner- to be down and out, penniless

Chopped Grass- dried herbs used in medicines

Corn Punk or Corn Slum- any remedy for corns

Double- (noun) a two-performer bit; (verb) to perform more than one role

Fixer- legal adjuster, using graft if necessary, with local officials; also, “patch”

Flash- showy display of merchandise or decorations

Frame A Show- to gather a cast

Grease- any salve

High Pitch- sales pitch delivered from a raised platform

Jake- comic, black face character

Keister- portable display case for the pitchman’s wares

Lecture- pubic term for the doctor’s medicine pitch

Lecture Store- storefront from which a pitchman works

Lot- show grounds

Low Pitch- sales pitch delivered from ground level

Nut- basic operating expenses; also, “burr”

Physic Opera- medicine show

Pitch- persuasive sales talk

Reader- pitchman’s license to sell

Rube- outsider to show business; also, “towner,” “sucker,’ or “chump”

Shill- confederate who poses as a customer; also, “stick” or “timber”

Slum or Slum Junk- cheap merchandise or prizes

Square Off- to cool the heat, calm a potentially disruptive crowd

Sunday School Show- a clean show, everything “moral and refined”

Tip- crowd gathered before a pitchman

Tripes- folding tripod to support a “keister” (sales display case)

Turn The Tip- to activate the crowd to buy

*****

Hinson, Glenn. 1983. Glossary. The Vi-Ton-Ka Medicine Show program book, The American Place Theatre: 18-19.

Acknowledgements to: Glenn Hinson

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