We're excited to present a great new set of boards to classic movie fans with tons of new features, stability, and performance.

If you’re new to the message boards, please “Register” to get started. If you want to learn more about the new boards, visit our FAQ.

Register

If you're a returning member, start by resetting your password to claim your old display name using your email address.

Re-Register

Thanks for your continued support of the TCM Message Boards.

X

Kyle Kersten was a true friend of TCM. One of the first and most active participants of the Message Boards, “Kyle in Hollywood” (aka, hlywdkjk) demonstrated a depth of knowledge and largesse of spirit that made him one of the most popular and respected voices in these forums. This thread is a living memorial to his life and love of movies, which remain with us still.

X

Jump to content


Photo

Daily Dose of Doozy #8: But Does Dracula Know It?: Abbott and Costello


  • Please log in to reply
85 replies to this topic

#1 mavfan4life

mavfan4life

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 350 posts
  • LocationSeattle, WA

Posted 05 February 2017 - 02:29 PM

Think of the two clips as an introduction to snakes in movie plots. In one scene, the hero is thrown into a pit of snakes and has to react quickly or die. In the other, the snake slyly encourages you into its' embrace and before you know it, you're trapped as the snake has wrapped its length around you and is squeezing the life from you. Both scenarios end up, more or less, at the same conclusion.

 

While we're not talking about an individual's death here, we are talking about the death of authority. Both the Marx Brothers and Abbott & Costello end up in the same place - the destruction of our perception of this world and its rules of order.

 

The Marx Brothers do this by creating a sense of equals - Groucho and Chico - negotiating over employment details in an anarchic patter, quickly ending in the destruction of order (the contract) and leaving us with nothing worth anything.

 

Structurally, Abbott & Costello set this up by creating, as others here have pointed out, a dominant-submissive relationship. Bud Abbott, the father-figure, impatient over the child-like Costello's fears.

 

Someone mentioned these men are put into situations they are unaware of and they struggle to cope as reality sets in. As Lou (the child) begins to understand their situation more fully, his efforts to bring Bud into that reality meet with resistance and the ignorance of arrogance. Slowly, the child begins to teach the man. In the end, Lou's line "Does Dracula know?" announces the reversal of their roles - the upsetting of the natural order.

 

Voila! They have reached the same state of anarchy as the Marx Brothers, just at a slower pace. In the end, everything you know is wrong.

As to Wes Gehring's comments, I have little patience for the position I see staked out here too often. Things evolve and what was funny in 1940 is considered stale in 2017. We who love these old films love them for a variety of reasons - the artistry, the dialogue, the cinematography, music, etc. That doesn't make them better. It makes them what they are and something we appreciate/love. I have much more of an issue with films of later decades that failed to evolve in their use of slapstick techniques and come across to me as simply lazy attempts at producing humor. The pie in the face is just not funny anymore. Everything changes for a reason.

 

Finally, Abbott & Costello's contribution to slapstick is the firm establishment of the true straight man/ clown relationship in film. Laurel and Hardy, who these two are so often compared two, were two clowns of different temperaments. Not so here.

 

I know it's been months since this class ended. I didn't have time to really participate during the time the class was open, but I'm in a slower work season now. I have a hard time reading these message boards, but I thought I should since I was having a hard time answering the questions in my own mind and needed a little prodding through others' comments. Well worth the time from my perspective. Brings so much more to the experience. 


  • jamesjazzguitar and HEYMOE like this

#2 Rejana Raj

Rejana Raj

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 71 posts
  • LocationDubai, United Arab Emirates

Posted 20 October 2016 - 07:01 AM

That's an interesting info about Rita Moreno as I liked her performance in The King and I (1956). Yeah, Lou Costello is the funniest man.

#3 Larynxa

Larynxa

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 71 posts
  • LocationToronto, Canada

Posted 18 October 2016 - 07:08 PM

Groucho Marx and Chico Marx are the well known exemplars with their verbal slapstick comedy. In this scene, Lou Costello is shown as a bumbling fellow who always calls out his buddy's name when he spots trouble. Bud Abbott is not a man who believes his friend explainations but when he sees it right in front of his own eyes does he believes Lou's alibi. As Dr. Gehring said, I have to admit that today's slapstick comedy is just readymade for the audiences as the slapstick comedy nowadays feature mostly the inspired materials taken from the slapstick comedy of yesteryears. Even though this comedy duo may not be known very well as The Marx Brothers, Abbott and Costello do have their uniqueness with their physical slapstick routines. I have admired their comic ability and I noticed their presence even in a Merrie Melodies cartoon short "A Tale of Two Kitties" which features a cat-duo with the long and thin cat named Babbit shares a resemblance with Bud Abbott whereas the short and fat cat named Catstello with Lou Costello.
Here's the link to cartoon short on YouTube: https://youtu.be/w2GfXxXUJy4



Costello's panicked howl of "Hey, A-bbo-ott!" inspired Rita Moreno's "Hey, you gu-uys!" catchphrase on the original 1970s version of "The Electric Company". She ad-libbed it during a sketch in which her "Millie the Helper" character (named after "Millie Helper", the nosy neighbour on "Bewitched") was learning to be a milkman. The catchphrase instantly caught on, and was soon used to open every episode. Even today. people who grew up watching the show will greet Rita by bellowimg her catchphrase.

Something else about Lou Costello: In Laurel & Hardy's "Battle of the Century", a very young Lou Costello is an uncredited extra, in the front row of the crowd, in the boxing match scene. He's quite noticeable, if you look for him.
  • Rejana Raj likes this

#4 Rejana Raj

Rejana Raj

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 71 posts
  • LocationDubai, United Arab Emirates

Posted 11 October 2016 - 07:30 AM

Groucho Marx and Chico Marx are the well known exemplars with their verbal slapstick comedy. In this scene, Lou Costello is shown as a bumbling fellow who always calls out his buddy's name when he spots trouble. Bud Abbott is not a man who believes his friend explainations but when he sees it right in front of his own eyes does he believes Lou's alibi. As Dr. Gehring said, I have to admit that today's slapstick comedy is just readymade for the audiences as the slapstick comedy nowadays feature mostly the inspired materials taken from the slapstick comedy of yesteryears. Even though this comedy duo may not be known very well as The Marx Brothers, Abbott and Costello do have their uniqueness with their physical slapstick routines. I have admired their comic ability and I noticed their presence even in a Merrie Melodies cartoon short "A Tale of Two Kitties" which features a cat-duo with the long and thin cat named Babbit shares a resemblance with Bud Abbott whereas the short and fat cat named Catstello with Lou Costello.

Here's the link to cartoon short on YouTube: https://youtu.be/w2GfXxXUJy4

#5 rajmct01

rajmct01

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 83 posts
  • LocationThousand Oaks, California

Posted 02 October 2016 - 12:48 AM

For those of you more familiar with the overall film career of Abbott and Costello (beyond this brief clip), what do you think is their biggest contribution to physical and/or visual slapstick?

Their timing was excellent. And Abbot's straight man to Costello was brilliant. Their routine "who's on first" is classic. It has been used on TV shows in it's original state or a variation.

#6 rajmct01

rajmct01

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 83 posts
  • LocationThousand Oaks, California

Posted 02 October 2016 - 12:47 AM

For those of you more familiar with the overall film career of Abbott and Costello (beyond this brief clip), what do you think is their biggest contribution to physical and/or visual slapstick?

Their timing was excellent. And Abbot's straight man to Costello was brilliant. Their routine "who's on first" is classic. It has been used on TV shows in it's original state or a variation.

#7 Katrina

Katrina

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 60 posts

Posted 01 October 2016 - 02:54 PM

1) I think that with Abbott and Costello it was less balanced. Abbott always had the upper hand in most of the situations the duo found themselves in but the audience was typically made to feel more on costello's side. Abbott often played a huckster, signing his pal up for dangerous situations to keep himself out of them but it doesn't make him less endearing to the general audience. 

 

2) I think he's right really. For the most part if you go see a comedy now days it's a lot of dirty jokes and things (visa vie the scary movie franchise or anything by seth macfarlane) it seems like they think they can't be funny without being crude or stupid. 

 

3) To explain my perspective on them I have to tell a little story so please forgive the transgression. I wasn't always a classic movie fan. I mean the family watched "it's a wonderful life" every year (it's my dad's favorite movie) but I didn't really appreciate it. Fastforward to 2005, my grandpa died that summer and I wasn't dealing with it well. So Dad would tell me stories of what he was like when he was younger and one day we were at walmart and he fished a dvd out of the discount bin and showed it to me. "Africa Screams" starring Bud Abbott And Lou Costello. He told me that it was one of my grandpa's favorite movies and I decided I had to see this. I watched it over and over and was surprised at how much fun it was. It was from that movie that I learned to appreciate classic movies and, indeed, I learned to love black and white films from watching that. I wouldn't be the person I am today without Abbott & Costello so I can't be unbiased about them. I feel like their impact was huge. I think that they practically invented the modern concept spoof film, long before Mel Brooks. It's a genre that still retains popularity today and I do know there were spoofs made long before Abbott & Costello but it wasn't the same I don't feel. They made a career out of spoofing the most popular genres of the time, again in the same vein as Mel Brooks and even today we can find them hilarious, which is the real test...can a joke told over 50 years ago still be relevant & funny...and yes it can. Knowing them as I do, I can tell you they used quite a bit of physicality but the verbal banter was always the best. I particularly loved this clip showing the near silent screaming that was a trademark move for Costello. 


  • Rachel Bellwoar likes this

#8 fediukc1991

fediukc1991

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 33 posts

Posted 24 September 2016 - 09:13 PM

Abbott and Costello verbal slapstick didn't feel like a comedy sketch compared to the clip with Groucho and Chico. Their style of verbal slapstick seemed more dramatic and/or was the part of a storyline. I have to agree with Gehring because today's comedians have lost that simple taste and timing in mvies today. Their biggest contribution I would have to say is Who's on First sketch. It is a classic routine and very familiar with everyone.



#9 pumatamer

pumatamer

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 67 posts

Posted 23 September 2016 - 07:15 PM

How would you compare Abbott and Costello's style of verbal slapstick in this clip with Groucho and Chico's style from Daily Dose #6? I feel like one big difference is that Abbott and Costello plant their comedy within an actual story or within a dramatic structure. The Marx brother's scenes feel more like comedy sketches rather than a scene within a story.

#10 T-Newton

T-Newton

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 105 posts
  • LocationOregon

Posted 23 September 2016 - 05:26 PM

1. How would you compare Abbott and Costello's style of verbal slapstick in this clip with Groucho and Chico's style from Daily Dose #6?

 

My response: Groucho and Chico were really two minds that thought alike and able to work off one another with very good ease. Abbot and Costello are rather different in character, with one being the everyman and the other a cowardly or clumsy buffoon. However, their approach makes them just as laugh-worthy as Groucho and Chico.

 

2. Wes Gehring's observation about the "polish" of Abbott and Costello's comedy routines is also a criticism of today's comedians that seem to lack "taste [and] timing." Even though it is a general comment, do you find yourself agreeing or disagreeing with Gehring's lament about contemporary comedy.

 

My response: I would have to agree with this statement. Some of the more classic gags have been around, and are still used today because they are timeless, not relying on any gimmicks, and because of that, they never get old. Comedians in pictures today tend to focus more on what's current than going back and observing the slapstick done by Abbot, Costello, the Marx Brothers, and the rest.

 

3. For those of you more familiar with the overall film career of Abbott and Costello (beyond this brief clip), what do you think is their biggest contribution to visual and/or verbal slapstick?

 

My response: Can't really answer that one. I should really watch more Abbot & Costello, as I've only seen two of their pictures.


  • HEYMOE likes this

#11 Jenneferf

Jenneferf

    Member

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 13 posts

Posted 21 September 2016 - 04:38 PM

Hi, I enjoy this class.  Any reason to watch TCM more is great for me.

 

1. How would you compare Abbott and Costello's style of verbal slapstick in this clip with Groucho and Chico's style from Daily Dose #6?  Its hard to compare apples and oranges!!  I can safely say that both teams are comedians.  Both have such different styles its really too hard to compare.

 

2. Wes Gehring's observation about the "polish" of Abbott and Costello's comedy routines is also a criticism of today's comedians that seem to lack "taste [and] timing." Even though it is a general comment, do you find yourself agreeing or disagreeing with Gehring's lament about contemporary comedy.  I AGREE with Wes Gehring completely!! Today's comedians do lack taste and timing.

3. For those of you more familiar with the overall film career of AbbottandCostello (beyond this brief clip), what do you think is their biggest contribution to visual and/or verbal slapstick?  The child like quality of Abbot and Costelo's comedy is what I find endearing.  They are not overtly over the top.  They have visual gags and verbal humor as well.  Thank you :) 


  • Rejana Raj likes this

#12 startspreading

startspreading

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 38 posts
  • LocationBrazil

Posted 19 September 2016 - 08:10 PM

1. How would you compare Abbott and Costello's style of verbal slapstick in this clip with Groucho and Chico's style from Daily Dose #6?

 

The Marx brothers are more fast-paced in delivering the jokes. Abbott and Costello prefer the one-liners and, in the clip, we can’t find non-sequiturs, malapropisms nor funny accents. The 1940s duo also employs a good deed of visual comedy in their movies.

 

2. Wes Gehring's observation about the "polish" of Abbott and Costello's comedy routines is also a criticism of today's comedians that seem to lack "taste [and] timing." Even though it is a general comment, do you find yourself agreeing or disagreeing with Gehring's lament about contemporary omedy.

 

I’ve got to agree. Although some people can label the old comedies as too innocent or predictable, it’s amazing that they still make us laugh and with smarter jokes. We don’t need to know a lot about Dracula or have watched the 1930 film being spoofed to enjoy Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, but if we do, it helps a lot.

  
3. For those of you more familiar with the overall film career of AbbottandCostello (beyond this brief clip), what do you think is their biggest contribution to visual and/or verbal slapstick?

 

I like how Lou Costello uses onomatopoeias here! Also, they are usually the opposite of Laurel and Hardy in shape: the fat one here is the silliest, while the tall and thin one is the “straight man”. Costello is not the one who gets Abbott in fine messes, but he tries to avoid them to all costs. 


  • HEYMOE and Rejana Raj like this

#13 JimmieR

JimmieR

    Newbie

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 3 posts

Posted 19 September 2016 - 09:12 AM

my answers are as follows, 1. groucho and chico verses Abbott and Costello are are different in the speed of their deliveries. Groucho and the team have a fast pace to the verbal confrontations between others and even themselves. They do a great amount of a play on words for verbal slapstick and a lot of pantomime and sleigh of hand for the visual slapstick. Abbott and Costello are not as fast with their verbal slapstick, but are just as hilarious. The visual slapstick that they do is also somewhat slower but still keep within the definition of slapstick.

 

For their verbal slapstick look at their routines with numbers, 7 goes into 28 13 times for instance, or Abbott talking to Costello about his new job in a bakery and loafing and dough. Who's on first is the most well know but they have alot more out there. As for visual slapstick check out how  Costello interacts with Stinky. all of this on their TV show. Don't forget the Susquehanna Hat Co. routine and the Niagara Falls skit in jail. Abbott used a lot of vaudville routines for their act and they made them work to a T.

 

I can't judge any of the older teams or individuals as I like the interaction of all the predicaments that they were in or got themselves into.

 

Extra, How about Grace and Allen for verbal slapstick?


  • Joifuljoi and HEYMOE like this

#14 Knuckleheads Return

Knuckleheads Return

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 52 posts
  • LocationKansas

Posted 19 September 2016 - 07:58 AM

1. Compare Abbott and Costello's style of verbal slapstick in this clip with Groucho and Chico's style in their clip. We see a back and forth between Groucho and Chico with Groucho thinking he is the smarter one of the two but Chico thwarts him at every turn. Groucho just thinks he is going to steamroller over Chico in the presentation of the contract wording but ends up with "No Sanity Clause". Abbott and Costello are fast paced and as Wes Gehring has pointed out one of their keys is their  ability to "play off one another...in an exquisitely timed verbal routine". The Marx brothers presented a sort of social class element to their characters... Groucho is always  a little bit higher class socially... a lawyer, college president, explorer, Fredonian President while Chico is the little immigrant guy with the accent. Abbott and Costello to me portray the average middle class guys of the 1940s-early 1950s era. Just two guys working a job trying to make it. In this clip they are baggage guys  for the shipping company. They wear the uniform and hats of their trade. Another observation is that the Marx brothers clip doesn't appear to advance the story line much but Abbott and Costello keep the plot moving with their gag... Dracula's internal alarm clock has gone off and it is time to arise!

 

2. Taste and timing. For discussion sake I would caution that comedy cannot stay stagnant. It is evolving and changing to meet the needs of its present audience. We as fans can enjoy silent slapstick, the early talkies, the verbal and visual films of the 1930s and 40s but I don't want to judge the comedians of today by the standards of yesteryear. For all the gags that carried forward from the golden age I am sure that there were many that just didn't translate over to the next era in the development of comedy. An interesting observation I'd like to add is that we all thought it amazing that Buster Keaton took eight years of planning to execute the "falling wall scene" in "Steamboat Bill, Jr." yet in a 1964 interview with  Fletcher Markle ,"The Great Stone Face" Keaton discussed (or dished) Abbott and Costello. In it he said: " Abbott and Costello --- never gave the story a second thought. They'd say, 'When do we come and what do we where(sic)?' Then they find out the day they start to shoot the picture what the script's about. Didn't worry about it. Didn't try to. Well, that used to get my goat because, my God, when we made pictures, we ate, slept, and dreamed them!" So each age of comedy looks back and perhaps thinks theirs is the "true pure comedy".

 

3. Abbott and Costello's biggest contribution. I think the biggest contribution that Abbott and Costello made to the world of slapstick would be their ability to adapt and change to the entertainment platforms available. They started out in Burlesque and moved into and became successful in the movies, radio and television. I think that this should act as an inspiration to up and coming comedians as they face the new platforms of our times such as streaming delivery. :rolleyes:


  • Joifuljoi, Janeko, Russell K and 1 other like this

#15 Lonbo

Lonbo

    Newbie

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 3 posts
  • LocationSan Francisco Bay Area

Posted 18 September 2016 - 04:06 PM

It took me a while to get this wonderful board to work for me so that I could chime in with a comment, but in the interim, I've really enjoyed reading everyone's observations.

 

(also... I am totally loving this course - my first foray into the world of online education - me LIKEY a LOT!!!) :D

 

So as a newbie (not to the Internet - heaven knows I wreak enough havoc on Twitter, IG and FB!!!), I guess it's time for me to weigh in... my very first comment... HERE GOES!!!

 

1. How would you compare Abbott and Costello's style of verbal slapstick in this clip with Groucho and Chico's style from Daily Dose #6?

 

For me, it seems that the Groucho/Chico style is a tad more cerebral... they both seem to be on a relatively level playing field insofar as their banter/dialog goes, where with Abbott & Costello, Abbott is definitely more 'in the know' where the cerebral approach is concerned.

 

2. Wes Gehring's observation about the "polish" of Abbott and Costello's comedy routines is also a criticism of today's comedians that seem to lack "taste [and] timing." Even though it is a general comment, do you find yourself agreeing or disagreeing with Gehring's lament about contemporary comedy.

 

 

I somewhat agree... While people were raving over the movie 'Bridesmaids' I was trying to find the humor in the film. 'Diarrhea en masse' seems to be pandering for laughs - most bathroom humor seems pandering............. but then you'll have a film like Adam Sandler's 'Grown Up's'  - where Kevin James's character's daughter catches daddy making a 'sissy' in the public pool at a water park (identifiable by the chemical they put in the pool to nail the culprit) that was really quite funny - this giant ring of dark blue encircling him - and the kids in the pool screaming and fleeing. If you want to see some excellent, contemporary slapstick - physical AND verbal - THIS is the film I would personally recommend (it also has HEART and a really great message too!).

 

And then of course... as mentioned by many people in this thread... the genius of Jerry Seinfeld, to make special note of the physical slapstick comedy of 'Kramer' simply entering a room - doing the catwalk at a bachelor auction - trying the 'Manziere/Bro' on George Costanza's dad when George's mom walks in... or 'Elaine' doing her 'dance' at the Christmas party.

 

I'd also like to cite the physical and verbal comedy in the show 'Friends' - Matthew Perry's 'Chandler' had some of the best material in the show!

 

Granted... none of these can truly compare to the classics - Chaplin, Keaton... and the aforementioned Groucho/Chico and A&C - they ARE the Tiffany standard!

 

3. For those of you more familiar with the overall film career of Abbott and Costello (beyond this brief clip), what do you think is their biggest contribution to visual and/or verbal slapstick?

 

 

For me personally, the bar is set very, very high with 'Who's On First.' Who of us who have taken a turn in acting or stand-up hasn't tried to replicate that routine?  How many sitcom's have we seen where comedy writers have paid homage to this amazingly fine-tuned banter? It's stood the test of time - 70+ years later.  The back story on Wikipedia is worth checking out:  https://en.wikipedia...Who's_on_First?

 

... till my next words of wisdom (lol) --- 'CHEERS!!!'


  • Rejana Raj likes this

#16 felipe1912t

felipe1912t

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 59 posts

Posted 18 September 2016 - 01:25 PM

Groucho and Chico's style had more intensity, more velocity, more verbal strenght. The Abbot and Costello's style seen on the clip prefers to build an emotion with the audience by exploring several cinematic instruments like: the art direction, cinematography and music score. They talk less, although the result is extremely effective in both cases.

 

I think that nowadays we have great comedians working, so I wouldn't say that the entire generation suffers from the lack of taste and timing. But yes, it seems like the great mojority of them prefer to speak high (almost scream) to get public's attention. And as seen on this clip, this is not the only way to get what you intend to. Something less is more, and on the specific case of comedy: timing is almost everything.

 

I'll fail to answer the third question because, unfortunately, my knowledge about their career does not go much further than this short clip. Here in Brazil they are not much popular, unfortunately, so even the distribution of their movies aren't regular around here. Glad to have the internet helping to solve this kind of problem nowadays!


  • HEYMOE likes this

#17 Schlinged

Schlinged

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 38 posts

Posted 18 September 2016 - 12:19 PM

Questions: 
1. How would you compare Abbott and Costello's style of verbal slapstick in this clip with Groucho and Chico's style from Daily Dose #6?
 
Groucho and Chico were faster paced, but their props were a standard contract while Abbott and Costello's routine was about Costello's fear of Dracula which included Bela Lugosi, albeit briefly, but evolved into one of their standard routines of having Lou coming to Bud's rescue when problems arose. There were no double entendres or malapropisms, nor other characteristics that defined the Marx Bros routine, but the quick and sharp wit was still there, e.g. "Does Dracula know it?"
 
2. Wes Gehring's observation about the "polish" of Abbott and Costello's comedy routines is also a criticism of today's comedians that seem to lack "taste [and] timing." Even though it is a general comment, do you find yourself agreeing or disagreeing with Gehring's lament about contemporary comedy.
 
I agree with Gehring, as the rise of the so-called R-rated comedy is more aimed at adolescent boys with bathroom and sex humor rather than putting any thought into a coherent plot or comedy routine. 
 
3. For those of you more familiar with the overall film career of Abbott and Costello (beyond this brief clip), what do you think is their biggest contribution to visual and/or verbal slapstick?
 
Their top contribution is the classic Who's on First Routine. They use similar types of routines throughout most of their movies but I think the musical bent of some of the producer's ideas tended to downplay the verbal and physical slapstick that made Abbott and Costello famous. 

  • HEYMOE likes this

#18 Larynxa

Larynxa

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 71 posts
  • LocationToronto, Canada

Posted 17 September 2016 - 11:58 PM

Try "The Red Green Show". It started as a shoestring-budget public television program about a merry bunch of misfits in the Canadian wilderness…and it pretty much stayed that way. For 300 episodes, Red, his nephew Harold, and the Possum Lodge gang celebrated doing what men do when women aren’t around-and some things that are even worse. 


It started out even lower than public television. It started out on a little independent local station called CHCH, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Steve Smith and his wife, Morag, had done variety shows for years, and an embryonic version of Red would do monologues on those early shows.

Later, Steve tried to get other stations to carry "The Red Green Show", and when they all turned him down, he bought the airtime and sold the commercial slots himself. That's how it got on the Canada-wide Global TV network. Americans living near the Canadian border picked up the show on their TV antennas, and thebuzz began to grow. That led to the PBS airings of the show, which was hugely successful in pledge-drives. After the show was a huge cross-border success, finally, Canada's main TV network (CBC) picked it up.

For me, one of the coolest things about "The Red Green Show" is that it owes so much of its guys-only comedy to a woman: Ava Stokl, who edited all but one of the episodes. All those hours in the edit-suite, putting everything together so it ran with perfect comic timing, refined all that comic gold.
  • Mandroid51 and ln040150 like this

#19 Whipsnade

Whipsnade

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 40 posts
  • LocationArroyo Grande, California

Posted 17 September 2016 - 11:18 PM

      The primary difference between the verbal slapstick of this Abbott & Costello clip and the Marx Brothers “contract scene” is the slower more deliberate pacing of this scene.  Fewer of the  defining characteristics of verbal slapstick are present, and the scene is as visual as it is verbal.  The nature of the gag dictated this difference.  While the comic basis of the contract scene was  absurdity, the comic basis of this scene was fright.  It was, necessarily,  driven by circumstance and setting.  The contract scene would have been equally effective in any setting; its humor was independent of circumstance.  But this scene required this kind of context to have been effective.  
 
      A secondary difference between the verbal slapstick of these two clips is the nature of the relationship between the partners in the respective comedy teams.  The characters played by the Marx Brothers were independent agents associated only by circumstance.  As such, the power dynamic between them was relatively equal.  They may have banded together in common cause, but they were not a team.  Abbott & Costello, though, were not thrown together by circumstance. They were not  independent; they were a team.  Nor was the power dynamic between them equal.  Costello was always subordinate to Abbott.  It was not the normal relationship between a straight man and comic; it was more like the relationship between a scolding father and a mischievous child (Costello’s catchphrase: “I’m a baaad  boy!).  This approach to their comic partnership may have been due to the fact that they were not contemporaries; Abbott was ten years older than Costello.  This dynamic had a profound effect on their verbal slapstick.
 
      I am inclined to agree with Gehring’s critique of modern comedy, though my opinion is based more on my bias towards old movies than on hard facts.  I think the argument is stronger with regard to taste than it is to timing.  Ours is a more coarse and vulgar society than was that of the forties (people were as vulgar then as now, but society suppressed it).  It is telling that most of the arguments in favor of modern comedy cited television shows as examples.  Television is the most controlled medium, in terms of the taste of its content and the public (and governmental) reaction to it.
 
      The biggest contribution that Abbott & Costello made to verbal slapstick was the sharp and clever verbal patter of their classic routines (such as “Who’s on First”).  They are the first team we have looked at that started their career after the end of the silent film era.  They started in vaudeville in the early thirties and moved to live radio by the late thirties (on the Kate Smith Show).  The exclusively aural world of radio allowed them to perfect their verbal slapstick in a way that no other medium would allow.  Even after they started making movies, they remained a presence on radio (on Bergen & McCarthy and their own show).  This may be why film historians have tended to dismiss them -- they were not a product of the movies.  Their popularity predated their movies; the popularity of their movies in the forties was aided by their radio-based familiarity.
 

  • ln040150 and Lonbo like this

#20 Jeff Netto

Jeff Netto

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 43 posts

Posted 17 September 2016 - 09:20 PM

I've been enjoying the interviews with Wes Gehring, but I find myself disagreeing with his dismissal of contemporary slapstick. I understand that the apparent vulgarity of this modern comedy might make it seem crude, unpolished, and distasteful through and through. But one of the ways we've been asked to look at slapstick is through the lens of its subversive potential. Slapstick, from the beginning, set its sights on the dictates of refinement in taste. It's always been a rough and tumble kind of comedy -- at the opposite end of the spectrum from our chuckles at Wilde's more polished witticisms and subtler ironies. 

 

So if you start off from the 1940s and flash forward sixty-some years, you move from the bluster and banter of the Marx Brothers and Abbott & Costello to the shock-comedy slapstick of Ben Stiller. Is Stiller's comedy more crude? Certainly. About sixty years more crude. But maybe that's what's necessary to give slapstick the same bite in 2016 that it had in 1948. I think we should look for continuities rather than contrasts when we examine the comedies of then and now. Nostalgia for the then can blind us to the wonderful innovations of the now.


  • ln040150 likes this




0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users