A bawdy comedian who inspired Bette Midler, Belle Barth narrowly avoided trouble with the law by delivering some of her most wicked punch lines in Yiddish. Barth became known on the vaudeville circuit in the 1930s and 1940s for her impressions of Sophie Tucker, Al Jolson, and Gypsy Rose Lee, but in the 1950s, she began creating original routines that combined her musical talents with her flair for raunchy stand-up comedy. She carefully dodged the obscenity laws by using one–liners with Yiddish punch lines that everyone but the police in the audience understood, but despite her caution, she was once arrested and fined twenty-five dollars for indecency, and on another occasion was sued by two schoolteachers for corrupting them with her act. Her arrests did little to hamper her success—she recorded a number of comedy albums, most notably If I Embarrass You, Tell Your Friends, and she performed in New York, Miami, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Belle Barth." (Viewed on September 20, 2014) <http://jwa.org/people/barthe-belle>.