Today an art form evolved.
Mid-16th century Italy was a place of great riches, political accomplishments, and artistic achievement. It gave the world the Commedia dell’Arte, which mixed all of those themes into a topsy-turvy carnival-type theatrical experience: Servants would outwit their masters, great loves would be won and lost, and the most lewd behaviors would be presented along with restorative tributes to the human condition, performed by stereotyped, masked characters who’d return play after play. Harlequin was one (his diamond pattern suit would form the basis of jokers in courts and on playing cards); Pantaloon and Punchinello were others. Equal parts soap opera, satire, and sleaze, it was wildly popular, and it was easily exportable because the performances were conducted entirely in mime and song. The French supposedly couldn’t get enough of the stuff.
It didn’t work for the English, though, perhaps because they were uncomfortable with women on stage (after all, Shakespeare’s female roles were performed by male actors). It wasn’t until an impressario named John Weaver came up with the right formula for his audience. His high concept was to strip out most of the overt references or allusions to classical themes or truths that filled the Commedia, and tack on lots more blunt clowning. Think less pretense and more slapstick, literally, as his borrowed characters, like Punch(inello), traded club whacks with others (Judy, mostly). He also added a good dose of audience participation, making the first performance of his “ballet pantomime” on this day in 1717 a precursor to the holiday pantos that are still an English tradition.
People have been cutting and pasting art content for centuries.