While stage appearances of the comic figure in the European commedia tradition potentially reflect the act of giving a face, the grotesque mask of white actors in American minstrel shows can be determined as a specific performative defacement othering African Americans to invent whiteness. But how does popular theatre as a potentially reflexive mode of performance become translated into these racist practices? Against the backdrop of the Black Atlantic, the transatlantic slave trade and the global history of racism, my paper focuses on the aesthetics of European and North American popular theatre of the early 19th century from a comparative perspective. I will look at theatrical forms predating our notions of blackface minstrelsy in order to determine specific relations between marking and masking on stage. The objective of my paper is to contribute to the current German-speaking debate on performances in blackface by extending our focus to hitherto under-researched historical and geographical questions.