A variety show is a show that features a variety of performing acts. These may include actors, musicians and singers, acrobats and jugglers, animal trainers, magicians, comedians, puppeteers, and other kinds of performers.
Ed Sullivan hosted a long-running variety show on CBS, from the 1940s to the early 1970s. The Smothers Brothers hosted a comedy/variety show in the late 1960s. Other performers hosted successful variety shows through the years.
Variety shows were a good "breaking ground" for new acts, in the early years of television. They were also useful to established performers, to give them steady work and regular exposure to audiences.
Interest in the format lessened in the United States during the 1970s. Dolly Parton tried to start a new variety show in the 1980s, but it did not last. Performance competition shows, like The Gong Show, Star Search, and today American Idol became the new breaking ground for performers.
The variety show format is still sometimes imitated by ensemble comedy programs. Television talk shows carry much of the spirit of variety shows, in offering a variety of entertainers to appear.