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Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Abbott and Costello

Part A of the 2015 A-Z Blogging Challenge


MOST of you should know who Abbott and Costello are. There are some people around my age who read this blog and don't know them, which probably shows a bit of lack of awareness on their part for pop culture. My Dad made sure that my sister and I got into them at a young age and it's probably to blame for my very broad appreciation of all things comedy.

For those who don't know, Abbott and Costello were a comedy duo who mainly did films. Abbott was the tall thin straight man, while Costello was the crazy short fat man. The humour was often based on miscommunications between the two.


A lot of their humour was just plain clever. Despite the craziness and slapstick, there was some real genius going on.


And of course, they're responsible for what's probably the most famous and enduring piece of comedy of all-time... The Who's On First sketch. It's very repetitive, but worth every second.


To my sister and I, who learned about  Abbott and Costello at a young age, it came as a shock to realize that nobody in our generation knew or cared who they were. In seventh grade, we spent a term studying humour and I thought it would be a great idea to bring in some of our A&C tapes to show the class. We put on a live sketch show they did where they performed all of the best bits they'd done in their movies. I was in my seat grinning and the teacher was at the back of the class chuckling. The rest of the class were sitting there in stunned silence. I found myself piping up from time to time, saying "Watch this, this is a good one!" or "Do you guys get it?"

My uncle and my cousin constantly make fun of each other about A&C, especially the Who's On First sketch. My uncle tried to show it to my cousin, who had the same reaction as my class mates. Now whenever my uncle makes a joke that bombs, my cousin will say "That's almost as funny as Who's On First," and whenever my cousin tries to be funny, my uncle will say "You don't have to listen to him, he doesn't think A&C is funny."

Because of my introduction to A&C at a young age, I've grown up appreciating humour of any genre. I can't understand when people say "South Park just isn't funny" or "I only like intelligent humour." I'm equally nonplussed by people who say they like comedy, but really only watch Chuck Lorre sitcoms. There's nothing wrong with The Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men, but there's SO MUCH more out there that constitutes funny. Get out there and explore it.

We haven't even touched on my love for The Marx Brothers.


53 comments:

  1. Oh dear. There is a lot of humour out there, but I never, ever warmed to the Marx Brothers. Abbott and Costello, yes.
    And I love your family jokes. We have them too and they are often things that no-one else could understand, much less find funny. Their loss.

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    1. That's a shame, but I guess not everyone will like everything ;) It's weird how inside jokes are often the funniest, but only to those on the inside ;)

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  2. I watched Abbot and Costello all the time as a kid. They played their movies on WGN the Chicago super station (it was called a "super station" because it was a local Chicago station that was watched all over the country on people's cable). Yeah, it's kinda lame that so many today don't know who they are. It's befuddling some of the stuff people on the internets find funny. I am convinced they can not really find that stuff funny, but just act like they do to be part of a particular fandom. What ever happened to liking stuff because it was actually GOOD??

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    1. There's no doubt there are a lot of things that catch on just because everyone else is talking about them. Case in point: the Kardashians :P

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  3. I come from a family who have a weird sense of humour. A lot of people look at us sideways when we're rolling around laughing because they don't get it. I remember watching A&C when I was a kid and laughing out loud. Although one of my all time favourite sketches was Eric Sykes and Tommy Cooper's "The Plank".

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    1. I haven't seen that one, I'll look it up :)

      Haha yeah the best kind of humour is the stuff that only you and the people you care about get ;)

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  4. The who's on first one I thought everyone knew, mentioned it once to people my age and they looked at me all puzzled. Guess they can stick to he big bang theory lol I like humor that isn't forced down your throat. May chuck lorre shows hit one joke and then run with it for 22 minutes until it is beaten into the ground

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    1. Yeah I agree. Even though I have no problem with it (I do find The Big Bang Theory really funny), I like it when people appreciate a bit more of a variety.

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  5. Heeeeeeeeeeeeey AAABBBOOOTTTT! Really, do I need to say more? ;-)

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  6. Love A & C, Michael! And even my kids, who are in their late teens, know 'Who's on First?' thanks to their parents ;)

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  7. I used to watch them on TV and laugh. I think they are forerunners of many comedy routines. Makes me think of The Carol Burnett Show.

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    1. We never got the Carol Burnett Show in Australia, isn't Carol Burnett the one who did the Gone with the Wind parody?

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  8. When I was a kid in the 1960s, A & C movies were shown constantly on TV here in Canada. I watched them all! And enjoyed them too. "Heyyyyyyyyyy Yabbott!"

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    1. Most of my knowledge of them comes from four movies: Meet the Mummy, Who Dunnit, Hold that Ghost and Keystone Cops.

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  9. Abbott and Costello are comedy gems.

    In general, I gravitate towards anyone who appreciates a good laugh - doubly so, if they don't mind being part of the joke every now and then. I hung around some playful pranksters.

    We're off! The A-to-Z has officially started! Good job, Michael!

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    1. I've actually been trying to work on being able to laugh at myself. I'm way too sensitive about my height etc :P

      Haha thanks Cherdo ;)

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  10. Carolyn from Pastimes-Passions-Paraphernalia.org. I love the older comedies, in particular the older English comedies. The Plank is one of them. My brother used to like A & C when he was a kid, it is true humour that you can laugh out loud. Great write up.

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    1. You're the second person to suggest The Plank now, I'd better get on that ;)

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  11. I didn't know much about Abbott and Costello, so this was fun to read. When I'm watching one of my favorite movies/shows with someone who has never seen it before I'm always saying, "This next part is good. Watch!" lol

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    1. Haha yeah it's hard not to :P Hopefully we don't end up spoiling it for them.

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  12. Those guys, I remember and often tried to copy them, word for word. Could be why I'm crazy today! Great post, Michael (smile).

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  13. I have certainly heard of their famous skits, but I've never actually watched them. Excuse me while I go educate myself in comedy!! :)

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  14. I watched them as a child, but have to admit that I never really liked them that much. I preferred Laurel and Hardy, and I loved the Marx Brothers, The Three Stooges and the Crazy Gang.

    Eileen @ In My Playroom (also doing the A to Z Challenge)

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    1. I've never seen Laurel and Hardy unfortunately, but they seem very similar to A&C?

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  15. My favorite Abbott and Costello movie was the Meet Frankenstein one. Hilarious.
    I also really like the Marx Brothers and was so happy when they ditched their older brother, Karl. He was just so damn cranky.
    And THAT is probably a very old joke.

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  16. Pet peeve, canned laughter. What about you?

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    1. Jokes that I can see coming a mile away :P

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  17. I used to watch Abbot and Costello on re-runs when I was a kid. They had them and the Three Stooges on after school.

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    1. I've only ever seen ONE Three Stooges film, but I thought it held up pretty well :)

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  18. Although I watched plenty of their movies, Abbott and Costello make me a bit nervous, kind of like the three stooges. :)

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  19. Odd to think there is a whole generation (or two) who just don't get it. The Who's on First is a classic.

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  20. Who's On First - probably the greatest comedy skits of all time. They're so quick with the delivery. Nobody could do humor like these guys. Well, maybe the Marx brothers. I saw Groucho at Universal Studios once. He flirted with me and I blew him off. (He was a pretty good imitator, but I knew. Oh, I knew.) Cheers.

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    1. We met that same imitator! You should have seen his face when he asked my 6-year-old sister what her favourite movie of his was and she replied "Duck Soup".

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  21. Abbot and Costello are great! Although I'm looking forward to reading more about your love of the Marx Brothers as I am a HUGE fan of them! Great post! If you have time you should come by and check out my A Post.

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    1. I did have something else planned for M, but I might add this in too...

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  22. I like Mr. Bean, my boys crack up over his skits. My husband and I like Curb Your Enthusiasm. It's so out there in its storyline. I got the Three Stooges for my kids to watch. I should have them watch Abbott and Costello.

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    1. That's a really nice spread and all really clever :)

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  23. funny stuff. I grew up knowing of their comedy - you have to know the greats to appreciate the newbies. Comedy keeps evolving. But Who's on First? What.......? Greatness

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    1. I agree, the only reason the older stuff might seem hack now is because everything these days is based off what happened then!

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  24. MICHAEL ~
    I have (or so I say) a great appreciation for a wide, Wide, WIDE range of comedy. If it tickles my funny bone, it makes no difference what TYPE of comedy it is. I love crazy slapstick stuffs (if it's done really well) all the way to some pretty highbrow comedy that sometimes requires the audience to have a fairly good grasp of a variety of subjects such as history, art, science, etc. (FRASIER would fall into that category, with lots of puns based on psychology, passages from famous books and operas, and so on).

    I like wordplay and puns, and the toddler with the big head who gets smacked in the back of the legs by incoming water at the beach and falls into the soup. You know... EVERYTHING, so long as it's funny.

    I love that a young guy like you, living in Australia, was raised to have (and still has) an appreciation for classic comedy routines like Abbott & Costello. My parents both had great senses of humor - although their senses of humor were slightly different - and I think I inherited from both of them. My Ma would have been more into the wordplay and puns, my Pa was more into the wacky stuffs. I grew up listening to Roger Miller songs because of his influence.

    Of the "olde tyme" comedians from the earlier "talkie" era, my favorite is almost certainly LAUREL & HARDY. I also like W.C. FIELDS a lot (and he was predictably a favorite of my Pa's). I loved CHEECH Y CHONG in the 1970s (and still like their old stuff). BILL COSBY was really funny when he did stand-up comedy (his recently revealed behavior notwithstanding).

    I always thought SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE was way overrated, and the lesser known SCTV was usually hilarious and far better than SNL.

    One of the funniest and most clever shows ever was the ROCKY & BULLWINKLE cartoon show in the 1960s. It may have been cartoons, but most of the jokes went way over the heads of children watching them. That must have been the first ever animated show secretly directed at adults (way before The Simpsons, South Park, or any of these newer adult cartoons). Example: In one episode, the airplane carrying Rocky & Bullwinkle is out of fuel and going down. Rocky starts reading from the Congressional record and speaking the words directly into the fuel line. All that "hot air" manages to keep the plane flying. No children would "get" that joke, but all adults would.

    I think a lot of stuff that passes for comedy today is pretty tired, half-baked, and mediocre compared to a lot of what came before it. And I think that's because the public has been largely "dumbed-down", so stupid stuff seems funny while anything a young person really has to "think about" goes right over them.

    I love the old black & white episodes of THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW. In my opinion, without a doubt the overall funniest, wittiest, and best written comedy TV show of all-time was FRASIER. Not far behind it was ALL IN THE FAMILY. Somebody mentioned THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW, and that was one I loved and watched often. EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND was pretty damned funny, too.

    One show that was really great with some fantastic "character-based" comedy was MOONLIGHTING. That's where Bruce Willis first became a household name. That's a show where you might need to watch it several times before you really began to understand what makes the characters click, and then it seems really funny.

    My Ma was a big fan right from the start, and she tried to get me to watch MOONLIGHTING for awhile, telling me how good it was. Finally, I watched a one-hour episode and I thought it was OK. She got me to watch a second episode and I thought: Fairly humorous, not bad, not great. But after watching a third episode, I really "got it" and from then on I was totally hooked and couldn't wait for the next one to air.

    Funny movies in 'The Age Of Color'? Awww, don't even get me started!

    ~ D-FensDogG
    'Loyal American Underground'

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    1. That's great to hear! I find it hard to nail down a particular type of humour that I'd categorise as my "favourite", but if a had to pick something, I'd probably say satire - anything that points out the problems with society or any of its aspects in an intelligent way.

      It was pointed out to me one time that American humour and British humour are quite different and often don't work in each other's cultures. But since us Aussies were born of the British and get most of our media from America, we tend to have a much more rounded sense of humour.

      Laurel & Hardy, W.C. Fields, Cheech & Chong and The Cosby Show I'm still yet to experience. That's why for the past few months I've been compiling an extensive list of comedy from throughout history and the world and once I'm done I'll work through it all the way from the 50s to now.

      I've got to be honest, I wouldn't have gotten that joke if you hadn't explained it, but I still laughed out loud - that definitely is funny. Another early adult cartoon was apparently Ren & Stimpy. It was reportedly FILLED with gay jokes (eg: they're about to play baseball and Ren says "Now remember, you're the pitcher, I'm the catcher")

      I disagree that comedy these days is dumbed down compared with the old days. Airplane! is one of the greatest comedies in history, but if we're talking intelligence-level in comedy, I'd put South Park above it. It blows my mind how topical, edgy, satirical and over-the-top hilarious they can be. Case in point: they once took the simple fact the WalMart is dominating the supermarket sector and turned it into an amazing farcical story where WalMart had become self-aware and made plans to keep growing until it consumed the entire American economy. It was a being of pure evil and the people who worked there became scared to speak up lest the store made them "disappear". Also, one of my top five favourite comedies is Boston Legal. If you've ever seen that show, I don't need to tell you how incredibly intelligent and high-brow it is.

      I have seen a few episodes of Moonlighting and quite enjoyed them. I actually think that Friends is so far the comedy that's aged the best. I understand that Seinfeld was funnier at the time, but people younger than me often don't get Seinfeld. Whereas Friends is just as loved now as it was by the people who grew up with it. Then again, it's only been 10 years since it finished, so time will tell :P

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    2. MICHAEL ~Oh, I love satire, too! Also one of my favorite forms of comedy. Maybe (like you) my very favorite type, when it's done well.

      I do think that British humor and American are slightly different. Or at least they used to be. There has been so much "cross-pollination" due to mainstream international media in the last couple decades that I think both have borrowed from each other and often aren't that different anymore.

      But even when I was very young, in my late teens and early twenties, my friends and I (and a lot of other Americans) totally loved Monte Python, Benny Hill, and other British comedians. So, I think the people who were aware of things on either side of "the pond" could appreciate the other bloke's or dude's comedy.

      When I said comedy today has been, I believe, dumbed-down, I was speaking generally, not in an all-inclusive way. I think generally it is true. But that DOESN'T mean all comedy today is "dumb" or "dumbed-down". Nor does it mean that all comedy "yesteryear" was of a higher level. The 1970s had no shortage of dumb comedies on TV either, such as 'Three's Company', 'Happy Days', 'Welcome Back, Kotter', 'Sanford & Son', and just too many to mention.

      Overall though, I think a lot of the older comedy demanded more from its audience than much of the comedy today. And that's probably why something like an Abbott & Costello routine might not fly so well with young people today. Or why a Marx Brothers comedy is too fast - with all the wordplay - for modern audiences to keep up with, and in some cases the audience members just don't have a good enough basic education to even understand all the puns as they go racing past.

      Incidentally, when I mentioned Bill Cosby, I didn't mean 'The Cosby Show' or any of his TV stuff. I was referring strictly to his old stand-up comedy which was really good, BEFORE he became a TV star.

      I'm guessing you can't view YouTube videos, but I'll try this anyway...

      Here's a link to one of Cosby's well-known stand-up comedy skits. See if you're able to view it. In one place he refers to 'Candid Camera'. Not sure if you know what that is, but it was a very popular - and funny! - TV show in the '60s and '70s where crazy situations were created and then just normal "Joes and Joans on the street" would get caught in them and not know they were being filmed for television.

      Bill Cosby's 'NOAH AND THE ARK'

      ~ D-FensDogG
      'Loyal American Underground'

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    3. Yeah good point, cultural differences have been slowly diminishing thanks to globalisation.

      There's a very unfair view that some British/Australian people hold that British humour is witty/intelligent while American humour is dumb/crass. The Simpsons made a fantastic reference to it where Marge is in a book club and the book of the month is Bridget Jones' Diary. They realise that no one's read the book and one of them goes "Well, I wish you had, because I invited the author to join us. The camera pans across to the British author sitting and drinking tea and she says "Oh that's okay, Americans can't understand our subtle humour anyway." Then the Yakity Sax theme plays and she starts running around the room Benny Hill style being chased by cops etc.

      I call it low-brow or "lowest common denominator" humour. It mainly refers to Chuck Lorre sitcoms which just have a particular humour that's accessible to everybody. Some people don't appreciate that :P

      I'd never heard any of Cosby's stand-up, but from the way other comedians talk about him, he seems to be the greatest of all time. We never had Candid Camera, but we've heard it referenced enough and had enough of our own versions that we get the reference. The link worked.

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    4. I don't know anything about Chuck Lorre. The truth of the matter is that I don't watch ANY TV anymore and haven't for many years. Don't even have TV service where I'm living. But I have so many DVDs - movies and TV shows I like from the past on DVD - that I never lack something to watch when I want to watch something.

      That Simpson's bit IS really, really funny. I genuinely laughed out loud reading about it. (By the way, I was watching Benny Hill and digging his stuffs back when I was in my early twenties, if not even before that. And yes, I do have some Benny Hill on DVD.)

      I don't know that I'd say Cosby was the best stand-up comedian of all time. A matter of taste and opinion, like any other art form (and my own vote in the stand-up category probably goes to Jackie Mason, whom some people can't stand).

      But Bill Cosby is certainly in the running, I would say. He had great timing. One thing I always liked about him was that he could be really funny without resorting to profanity and really crass scenarios. Of course, with all these rape allegations, suddenly his "clean" style of humor seems kind of tainted in a way.

      ~ D-FensDogG

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    5. Chuck Lorre was the creator of Two and a Half Men, The Big Bang Theory, Two Broke Girls and most recently Mom. He basically created the lowest-common-denominator style of humour. He also did Dharma & Greg, but I'm not sure that's in the same mould.

      For me, the all-time best stand-up is George Carlin.

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    6. Oh, got it. I've seen maybe a total of 45 minutes of 'Two And A Half Men' at various times, and I've heard of the others. 'Lowest-Common-Denominator' not my style.

      Yeah, George Carlin was definitely funny. I saw a good amount of his shows during my younger years.

      ~ D-FensDogG

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