In Defense of the Stooges

Hello, this is my first post after many years of lurking. I am also that rarest of creatures, a female Three Stooges fan.

I cannot help but notice that whenever the Stooges are mentioned on this board, a fair number of Dopers react with derision. Elitists! The Stooges are every bit as worthy a comedy team as any, on a par with Laurel and Hardy or the Marx Brothers.

Blasphemy you say! Sez you, I say!

I will not expound on the Stooges longevity, boundless energy, their reliablity, their dedication to their craft, the respect and affection that each held for the other. But I put it to you, none could throw such quick and convincing slaps, pokes, and kicks, and yes react to those same slaps, pokes, and kicks with such
grit, grace and beauty. They were athletes of a uncommon kind. The short and
squat kind, and those are certainly the most uncommon.

Take, for instance, in the short “Hoi Polloi” when Curly gets his hand caught in a spittoon going after a discarded cigar. Moe and Larry pull him free, and Curly comes up with the cigar and is delighted. Moe, however, is appalled for the Stooges are trying to impress the society people at the party they are attending.
He slaps Curly’s cigar clutching hand. Normally, Curly’s arm would come around and hit him in the back of the head, but ah, the Stooges have decided that such a move would be a cliche since they have performed this stunt many times. So instead, Curly’s arm freely pinwheels madly without stopping, and Moe, after watching for a few beats, reaches through Curly’s gyrations and in an equisitely timed move, slaps Curly on the side of the head, thus giving the illusion of moving Curly’s head into the path of his own approaching hand. Curly thus suitably reproved, Moe and Larry hustle him off, and continue to chat with their lady friends as if nothing had happened as true gentlemen should.

Now, that’s entertainment! If you showed the above scene in slow motion and set it to Mascagni’s Intermezzo, everyone would call it art.

So dis no more my Stooges. And yes, girls like them too.

Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy the Stooges… very much. I don’t think they reach the comedic heights as consistently as Laurel and Hardy, or the Marx Brothers. But I think they have moments as wonderful as any slapstick comedians.

It’s Shemp that bugs me as not very funny, and the later ones with Curly Joe that are, I think, just repeating themselves.

Volume 5 of the Stooges’ collected works just came out and they’re great! This latest volume has the last of the Curly episodes and the start of Shemp’s run. Woohoo! Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk!

I want to marry you. :slight_smile:

The Stooges were great (at their best – they did a lot of crap, too), but nowhere near as good as the Marx Brothers and even Laurel and Hardy (who were beloved, but not all that funny).

Blasphemer. Laurel and Hardy were great. The idea that they did were did some crap is not a fair criticism. That is comedy. Comedy will always be hit and miss.

Well, the Marx Brothers did six great movies and then a pile of crap, too. Every comedian does. Dying is easy, comedy is hard.

So you go with their peak. And that means the Stooges are third rate. Sorry, just the way it is.

A common complaint, to be sure. There are many levels to appreciating the Stooges, and if one prefers to stick to the shorts directed by Del Lord from 1935- to…oh saayyy…1943, I can understand. These are the boys in their prime. As for later efforts, Joe Besser, I’m sorry to say, is not even in the same ball park.

But then, would it be fair to judge the Marx Brothers by saying "Sure, ‘A Night at the Opera’ was wonderful, but what about ‘The Big Store’ or ‘Love Happy’? Those really stunk. Of course not.

It also helps to remember that by the time Curly Joe DeRita came along, the trio was considered more as kiddie fare, since the shorts hit their second wind among the after school set. The Stooges were also in their late sixties, and obviously slowing up a bit.

Now as for Shemp, the case is interesting. He was actually one of the original Stooges, going all the way back to their first “mentor” Ted Healy. Shemp also had a respectable solo career, working with the likes of W.C. Fields, Abbott and Costello, and Olsen and Johnson (in ‘Hellzapoppin’). Unfortunately, by Shemp’s time, Jules White was directing most of the shorts, and while competant, he wasn’t really gifted, plus he really ramped up the violence.

I believe the secret to enjoying a Shemp short is as much about not expecting a Curly caliber performance, as it is the luck of the draw. ‘Fright Night’ is very good, as is ‘Brideless Groom’. My personal Shemp favorite is ‘Squareheads of the Round Table’. It has the justifiably famous ‘Oh Elaine’ parody seranade.

Oh, and Leaffan, I’m too overwhelmed for words!

A common complaint, to be sure. There are many levels to appreciating the Stooges, and if one prefers to stick to the shorts directed by Del Lord from 1935- to…oh saayyy…1943, I can understand. These are the boys in their prime. As for later efforts, Joe Besser, I’m sorry to say, is not even in the same ball park.

But then, would it be fair to judge the Marx Brothers by saying "Sure, ‘A Night at the Opera’ was wonderful, but what about ‘The Big Store’ or ‘Love Happy’? Those really stunk. Of course not.

It also helps to remember that by the time Curly Joe DeRita came along, the trio was considered more as kiddie fare, since the shorts hit their second wind among the after school set. The Stooges were also in their late sixties, and obviously slowing up a bit.

Now as for Shemp, the case is interesting. He was actually one of the original Stooges, going all the way back to their first “mentor” Ted Healy. Shemp also had a respectable solo career, working with the likes of W.C. Fields, Abbott and Costello, and Olsen and Johnson (in ‘Hellzapoppin’). Unfortunately, by Shemp’s time, Jules White was directing most of the shorts, and while competant, he wasn’t really gifted, plus he really ramped up the violence.

I believe the secret to enjoying a Shemp short is as much about not expecting a Curly caliber performance, as it is the luck of the draw. ‘Fright Night’ is very good, as is ‘Brideless Groom’. My personal Shemp favorite is ‘Squareheads of the Round Table’. It has the justifiably famous ‘Oh Elaine’ parody seranade.

Oh, and Leaffan, I’m too overwhelmed for words!

Whoopsie, didn’t mean to double post there. Totally rookie mistake by a newbie. Mods, please correct as you please.

Thank you, and good night!

The Stooges need no defending! They Are We!

Niagara Falls!

Slowly I turned . . .

I want to start a new sorority with the OP.

Sister!

I will go so far to say that no comedic actor –certainly within the realm of slapstick / physical comedy if not the entire genre- has more gags associated with him than the great Curly Howard.

Lessee, we have the:

  1. nyuk, nyuk, nyuk
  2. the two-handed rapid face scrub
  3. “Oh, a wise guy”.
  4. the circular running in place with one leg stationery
  5. the circular running in place while lying on floor
  6. the hand-wavy dismissal usually accompanied with “Mweeee!”
  7. the one hand straight up eye-poke block
  8. the solitary angry dog bark

That’s all I got but I know there’s more.

Is there another comedian with an equally impressive body of work?

Additionally, and this gets overlooked a lot imo, they had some great wordplay in their shorts. There was a lot of clever dialog involved beyond the “Scram, knucklehead” and “Oh, wiseguy, eh?” I am unable to cite anything off the top of my head other than when they’re dressed as professors singing with a basketball.

Indeed! There’s more to the Stooges than just the slapstick violence.

MOE! LARRY!! THE CHEESE!!!

Also “playing one’s cheek as a percussion instrument”.

I think Curly is the sole reason why the Stooges are remembered today rather than having faded into the mists of history like, say, the Ritz Brothers.

You forgot “Soitanly!” (or however you’d spell it). I remember a story years ago about someone (the details escape me, but I think it was a Chicago TV news or weather person) who was a big Stooges fan; when he was getting married he kept threatening to say “soitanly” instead of “I do”. His fiancee threatened him with all sorts of dire consequences if he did it. Then when it was her turn for the vows, she did a perfect Curly “soitanly”. :frowning:

I don’t have much to add, but let me say that the late-era (in Stooges terms, at least) movie Snow White and the Three Stooges is brilliant. It has Stooge comedy (to a degree), a ventriloquist act, figure skating (with Olympic champion Carol Heiss!), songs, sword-fights, and it acts as a re-telling of a classic fairy tale. Quite good. If for no other reason than that I appreciate them.

The trial film with Who Killed Cock Robin was full of puns.

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[QUOTE I think Curly is the sole reason why the Stooges are remembered today rather than having faded into the mists of history like, say, the Ritz Brothers.
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Oh, nononononono, no! This is a misconception which must be addressed.

The very excellent book, “Last of the Moe Haircuts” by a wise Stooge fan whose name unfortunately escapes me at the moment, postulated the following: The Stooges were the embodiment of the Freudian outlook on human psychology.

Moe is the Superego, Larry is the Ego, and Curly is the Id of the human personality. Our Moe is locked in a constant struggle to contain and control the wild nature of our animal Curly, and our Larry is the everyman Ego siding either with Moe or Curly in order to resolve the conflicts which naturally arise in everyday life.

Of course, Freud is not the god he was once looked upon as, but I think the analogy is still apt. Curly alone would be overkill in our comedy psyches. He needs Moe and Larry off whom to react so that he may fit into normal human society. You’ll notice the ordinary folk of the Stooges shorts often merely stand slack-jawed at the mayhem unfolding before them. That is why the shorts would fall apart if they featured Curly alone.

The Stooges were nothing without teamwork.