Thursday, May 27, 2010

Which Came First--Bud or Lou or Moe or Shemp or Larry?

The Abbott and Costello movie Naughty Nineties has a lot of great comedy bits in it. Set on a showboat in the 1890s, it manages to sandwich some of Bud and Lou's best routines within the otherwise straightforward plot (involving gamblers trying to take over management of the boat). This, of course, includes what is perhaps the best filmed version of Who's on First.

Another routine involves a series of misunderstandings leading poor Lou to think he's eating a hamburger made from a cat. I found a reference stating that this (like "Who's on First" and many of their other film routines) was based on a routine they did when they were in vaudeville.

What's interesting it is that in 1949, the Three Stooges used almost the exact same routine as part of their short Malice in the Palace.

That makes me wonder. Did the Stooges recycle the routine from the Abbott and Costello film? Or from Abbott and Costello's old vaudeville act? (The Stooges started on vaudeville also, remember.)  Or maybe it was the Stooges who first did it on vaudeville. Or maybe someone else entirely originated it. Vaudevillians were always "borrowing" material from one another. In fact, Lou Costello in Naughty Nineties uses a gag involving Lifesaver candy that Groucho Marx first used in the 1932 movie  Horse Feathers.

 Heck, there's a bit in Naughty Nineties in which Lou is forced to pretend to be the bad guy's reflection in a shaving mirror. It's nearly as funny as the classic scene from Duck Soup, in which Harpo pretends to be Groucho's reflection in a full-length mirror.

Oh, well, it really doesn't matter, does it? It's not something that needs to be researched thoroughly. Whomever first originated any one particular vaudeville routine, each comedy team that used it would give it a life of its own. All that matters is that it comes out funny.

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