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


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#21 ln040150

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Posted 17 September 2016 - 11:14 AM

I'm afraid this is one of those 'hit-send-in-haste" instances that I must unfortunately own from time to time, and I apologize to LN04150 for involving him.  I had not mentioned Seinfeld previous to the post LN replied to; I was probably referring to, or had begun to refer to Abbott and Costello.  The point I was trying to make is sadly lost, which makes this even more embarrassing. 
That being said, I stand on the point I did make, which was the inferior quality of Seinfeld's comedy.  The MTM and Gary Marshall productions mentioned above were the epitome of television comedy during the 1970's.  I am hard-pressed, however, to recall any program from the '80's onward that I could say was all that funny. 
There are some extenuating circumstances that may skew my impressions, not the least of which being the fact that I didn't really watch very much "broadcast TV,"  (if it wasn't for things like TCM, and having kids, I probably would not have much reason to have a TV even now).  Though even in reruns, I don't see the appeal shows like Seinfeld, Cheers, Friends, etc. had.

My beef in this whole issue is not over people's opinions of "taste," but of this question that keeps arising over "hard work." No one can dispute another person's taste. If you don't like something someone else likes, that's just life. But to question a successful entertainer's work ethic is astoundingly naive to say the least. And to say that a succesful comedian lacks "timing" is, in the words of the inimitable Daffy Duck, simply ridiculous. A comedian without timing isn't a comedian. First, so many comedians, today, choose to work alone where so many decades ago they worked in duos or in groups. Second, until recently, television and stand-up became the new standard formats for comedians, not radio, theater and film. Comparing film and television, specifically, imagine the difference in "hard work" between doing a film--one piece over and over again for about three to four months--to doing a television show--new pieces every week, week after week for twenty weeks or so. Again, forget the question of taste and simply consider the matter of "hard work." Can you really say it is any easier to do a succesful weekly TV show? And then add in the question of "taste" in so far as having to do comedy within the constraint of network television while the rest of the country is operating on total "free speech," as it were. And then add in the idea that you are always trying to do "something new and different" in order to appeal to your audience, and what, in the name of heaven, is "new and different" in the world of comedy, especially when you operate within the constraint of network TV? Comedians have always had to face these challenges, you might say, but they rarely had to face them every seven days until the advent of radio, and even then the pressures were never as great as they became with television. So, all subjective questions of taste aside, I really have a problem with people complaining about the work ethic of today's comedians.

#22 TexasGoose

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Posted 17 September 2016 - 10:59 AM

I loved Abbott and Costello as a child. Still do as a adult. Didn't know what "verbal slapstick" was but they had it. Their back and forth was a thing of beauty to watch and hear. They and the Marx brothers grew up in vaudeville. All of them had more than just the physical routines to their comedy. They had words. Words that made them all the funnier. The Marx Brothers more sarcasim and fast talking. Abbott and Costello told stories with their exchanges. made you listen.

 

I do not believe Wes Gehring is completely right or wrong about contemporary comemedy. Martin and Lewis were a great comedy team that reminded me of Abbott and Costello. The modern movie "The Blues brothers" used verbal and physical slapstick. Problem is there is not enought of it. Filthy words along do not make comedy and too, too much of todays comedy is that. Schock value alone. Laughing during a comedy is hit and miss today. You walk into a theather or rent a video hoping you get to laugh. Not so when you watched people like Laurel and Hardy, Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Abbott and Costello, The Marx Brothers, Lucy and Ethel, The Three Stooges, Martin and Lewis, Red Skelton, and even Bing Crosby and Bob Hope with "The Road Pictures". 


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#23 TexasGoose

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Posted 17 September 2016 - 10:32 AM

I'm afraid this is one of those 'hit-send-in-haste" instances that I must unfortunately own from time to time, and I apologize to LN04150 for involving him.  I had not mentioned Seinfeld previous to the post LN replied to; I was probably referring to, or had begun to refer to Abbott and Costello.  The point I was trying to make is sadly lost, which makes this even more embarrassing. 
That being said, I stand on the point I did make, which was the inferior quality of Seinfeld's comedy.  The MTM and Gary Marshall productions mentioned above were the epitome of television comedy during the 1970's.  I am hard-pressed, however, to recall any program from the '80's onward that I could say was all that funny. 
There are some extenuating circumstances that may skew my impressions, not the least of which being the fact that I didn't really watch very much "broadcast TV,"  (if it wasn't for things like TCM, and having kids, I probably would not have much reason to have a TV even now).  Though even in reruns, I don't see the appeal shows like Seinfeld, Cheers, Friends, etc. had.

 

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. 


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#24 Bgeorgeteacher

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Posted 17 September 2016 - 08:50 AM

Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld are absolutely brilliant. It is important to note today's comedy is a product of the world as we know it. Comedy would have died if the actors did not build on the sign of the times. I believe it's harder today to make someone laugh the writers have to be genius; it's a tough crowd. The actors today have to be superbly polished in order to pull it off. After 100 years of films it's just not as fresh, simple. For me it's just different in that i know the material is part of this giant industry painstakingly finding new material. Polished may have been an incorrect term used in this discussion. Our everyday life is just not the same as these old comedic film stars so it makes sense everyone always has 20/20 hindsight. Great post btw

Oh well... after thinking about Seinfeld, maybe I should change my original response here.  There are truly brilliant comedians out there that are polished.  I guess, when they are not featured in a sweet little course like this one, I tend to forget about some greats that are out there.  Thanks for bringing 


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#25 Bgeorgeteacher

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Posted 17 September 2016 - 08:50 AM

Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld are absolutely brilliant. It is important to note today's comedy is a product of the world as we know it. Comedy would have died if the actors did not build on the sign of the times. I believe it's harder today to make someone laugh the writers have to be genius; it's a tough crowd. The actors today have to be superbly polished in order to pull it off. After 100 years of films it's just not as fresh, simple. For me it's just different in that i know the material is part of this giant industry painstakingly finding new material. Polished may have been an incorrect term used in this discussion. Our everyday life is just not the same as these old comedic film stars so it makes sense everyone always has 20/20 hindsight. Great post btw

Oh well... after thinking about Seinfeld, maybe I should change my original response here.  There are truly brilliant comedians out there that are polished.  I guess, when they are not featured in a sweet little course like this one, I tend to forget about some greats that are out there.  Thanks for bringing all of this to my attention.  I stand corrected!


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#26 Bgeorgeteacher

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Posted 17 September 2016 - 08:47 AM

Good grief!  I feel so completely ignorant, and I think I keep repeating myself over and over.... but why in the world haven't I seen more of these??  I mean, don't get me wrong, I've seen the "Who's on first?" bit... as a math teacher, I've shown the math bits, but I don't know that I've honestly ever seen full Abbott and Costello features.  Clearly, I've been in a hole.  I guess I know what I'll be doing all winter long... catching up on my slapstick comedy classics.  

 

1)  Abbott and Costello, much like Harpo and Chico, are two verbal slapstick comedians that play off of each other.  There is one character that is the "voice of reason", while the other is allowed to be a little more liberal with the comedy.  The banter back and forth between Harpo and... well... anyone has always been a draw for me.  Abbott and Costello, in their own format, are doing very much the same thing.

 

2)  I would have to say I slightly agree with Gehring's comment about modern comedy.  My sense of humor is quite broad when it comes to the movies, and I really do love modern comedy films that could definitely fall under the slapstick genre.  Current films, however, seem to lack the finesse and style of these older movies, which is why my television is almost always tuned to TCM.  There isn't the "smartness" in current films.  You can have them running in the background, still have a few cheap laughs, and you don't really feel like you are missing anything.  I know for certain that if I'm distracted for 10 minutes of A Night at the Opera, I will have to rewind and find out what I've missed.  There are fantastic comedians out there, but their form of humor is just.... different.

 

3)  I don't have much Abbott and Costello experience beyond the film clips here, as mentioned earlier.  I can tell you from the math teacher perspective, I have junior high students falling in love with the "13 x 7 is 28" bits, found in multiple scenes in one form or another.  I am able to expose younger generations to a slapstick gag that is timeless!



#27 D'Arcy

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Posted 16 September 2016 - 10:38 PM

Once again, I'll have to squirt my two cents worth in here, if only for the usual reason that people do not bother to read anyone's posts except their own and the few surrounding theirs. This concept that today's comedians are somehow less hard-working or less competent is simply hard to swallow. I challenge anyone to watch "Seinfeld"--as merely one good example--and tell me these actors merely loafed about on set for a few hours lackadasically, without direction and in a slap-dash fashion, putting together a filth-filled half-hour program once a week on network television that became the best-loved comedy on American TV for years. Please, do try. True, Hollywood film execs do produce shlock after shlock based on the very concise idea that their audience is made up of fourteen-year-old boys (or others with the minds of fourteen-year-old boys); but what can you do with Hollywood execs when the money keeps rolling in to prove them right all the time? Yet even that shlock, more often than not, is the product of a great deal of time and effort; when carefully examined that time and effort has produced a considerable payoff. I am as "nostalgic" as the next fourteen-year-old boy for the good-old days, but, really now, can we stop being so over the top, please? Some of the best comedy we've ever seen is being produced today. We just are not smart enough, some of us, to notice it. Just as some of us weren't smart enough to notice it when Keaton was doing it 100 years ago.


Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld are absolutely brilliant. It is important to note today's comedy is a product of the world as we know it. Comedy would have died if the actors did not build on the sign of the times. I believe it's harder today to make someone laugh the writers have to be genius; it's a tough crowd. The actors today have to be superbly polished in order to pull it off. After 100 years of films it's just not as fresh, simple. For me it's just different in that i know the material is part of this giant industry painstakingly finding new material. Polished may have been an incorrect term used in this discussion. Our everyday life is just not the same as these old comedic film stars so it makes sense everyone always has 20/20 hindsight. Great post btw
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#28 D'Arcy

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Posted 16 September 2016 - 09:54 PM

I have a big heart for Costello...the other three seem far more serious for some reason I can't quite figure out. I also love love love Harpo!!! In comparison A&C feel more realistic with their unforeseen circumstances and blend their comedy so very well with everyday life. I find the Marx Brothers to be too jolty if this makes any sense. The word play of the Marx Brothers has just never left me with any wonderment of the "ah-ha" moment it's just bam and on to the next. I love the Marx Brothers it's just a different humor all together. Maybe I just don't get it but I find the two teams of comedians to have one being in emotion and the other analytical which is a huge success in any verbal slapstick the pairs plot.

I agree with Gehring today's contemporary comedians have a way of just being actors, not all but most. When watching A&C I find it hard to detect they have rehearsed lines. They flow in such a way it pulls you into their world. It's hard to experience this in today's films.

A&C adventures are there greatest contribution. You can put those two anywhere and it's a hit. These adventures just open the whole world up to their interpretation doing it the Abbott & Costello way.

#29 ScottZepher

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Posted 16 September 2016 - 08:57 PM

I don't know how I missed that post, Scott. Never the less, I think you've missed my point. Seinfeld (and as others have pointed out with shows like Frasier, Mary Tyler Moore, Friends, Cheers, Happy Days, etc.) managed to create very successful, PG-rated comedy over extended years in this era when, supposedly, comedy had fallen into disrepair and filth. Further, stand-up comedians of the era managed to do the same, albeit with less PG. And they all did so, clearly, through old fashioned ingenuity and very hard work, just as they had done it in the old days. To give them any less credit is simply ridiculous, in the words of Daffy Duck.

I'm afraid this is one of those 'hit-send-in-haste" instances that I must unfortunately own from time to time, and I apologize to LN04150 for involving him.  I had not mentioned Seinfeld previous to the post LN replied to; I was probably referring to, or had begun to refer to Abbott and Costello.  The point I was trying to make is sadly lost, which makes this even more embarrassing. 
That being said, I stand on the point I did make, which was the inferior quality of Seinfeld's comedy.  The MTM and Gary Marshall productions mentioned above were the epitome of television comedy during the 1970's.  I am hard-pressed, however, to recall any program from the '80's onward that I could say was all that funny. 
There are some extenuating circumstances that may skew my impressions, not the least of which being the fact that I didn't really watch very much "broadcast TV,"  (if it wasn't for things like TCM, and having kids, I probably would not have much reason to have a TV even now).  Though even in reruns, I don't see the appeal shows like Seinfeld, Cheers, Friends, etc. had.


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#30 drzhen

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Posted 16 September 2016 - 04:12 PM

"Pardon me, sir, but do you have no bananas today?"
"OHHHHHHHH....YES, WE HAVE NO BANANAS...WE HAVE NO BANANAS TODAYYYYY!!!"

Eddie Cantor, whose pre-code films were as risque as anything put on screen at the time.


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#31 JazzGuyy

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Posted 16 September 2016 - 03:23 PM

1. Abbott & Costello are quite different from Chico & Groucho. With the Marxes, both are delivering gag lines. There is no straight man. With A & C, Bud is clearly the straight man who sets up the punch lines but rarely, if ever, delivers one himself (but watch for his facial expressions and gestures which can often contribute mightily to the laughs). Also the Marxes' humor is more directed to adults and the humor is often quite sophisticated. Jokes about contracts and other things often related to stuff few of the young would be familiar with. Whereas the routines and gags of A & C appealed to all ages. The straight man really didn't play much of a role with the Marxes. Both Gummo and Zeppo eventually disappeared from the Marxes' work. It is impossible to imagine Bud without Lou and vice versa. The few things they did alone were generally disastrous.

 

2. I don't watch enough of current comedy to comment on this.

 

3. Bud & Lou had been together a long time before they had any success in either radio or movies. Their timing with each other and the repertoire of burlesque and vaudeville gag routines they could call on was vast. They brought the straight man-comic partner idea to radio, movies and eventually TV. One other thing I find is that Lou in many ways updated the Fatty Arbuckle comic character (the man who is more mischievous little boy than adult and whose fatness is implied as a source of laughs) for the sound era. Bud has been often referred to as the greatest straight man ever and I think that characterization holds.


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#32 ln040150

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Posted 16 September 2016 - 01:13 PM

Abbott and Costello brought rapid fire, split second timing and an exaggerated (there's that definition again) verbal disconnect to their routines. Not only did childlike Lou misunderstand what sharpie Bud was talking about but Bud often was oblivious to Lou's confusion, compounding the problem to the nth degree. Their contrasting physical appearance perfectly matched their characters, and Lou Costello had a flare for taking the most outrageous pratfalls, making their successful transition from radio to film possible. Costello was a marvelous, old school physical comedian and created an endearing man-child character that ranks with Langdon, Harpo Marx and Curly Howard. In fact, Moe was convinced that Costello was stealing some of Curly's shtick.

From the very beginning, comedy has always pushed the envelope and flirted with the boundaries of good taste. As offensive as this may be to many people today, one day this era will no doubt be remembered as fondly as the twenties and thirties. But we have lost a great deal of the brilliant physicality. The training ground of vaudeville and burlesque are long gone and the comedy clubs have become the place where comics hone their skills. As a result a more conversational, less grandly theatrical form of comedy is evolving, like it or not. I believe that this makes the understanding of slapstick more valuable, rewarding and yes, magical. Who among us has not watched these films and at some point, in response to a clever bit of business or an outrageous stunt, said either out loud or to themselves, "Wow!"

"Pardon me, sir, but do you have no bananas today?"
"OHHHHHHHH....YES, WE HAVE NO BANANAS...WE HAVE NO BANANAS TODAYYYYY!!!"

#33 ln040150

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Posted 16 September 2016 - 01:05 PM

1.  I would compare Abbott and Costello's verbal slapstick similar to Groucho and Chico's in that they are delivering lines where 1 has to maintain the straight man point of view.  However, unlike the Marx Brothers, Abbott and Costello have a slower delivery - so the audience is able (and really should) to get every joke.  The Marx Brothers are so fast that sometimes people are unable to get the joke at all.
 
2.  I agree with Gehring because I believe that today's humor can be in poor taste, sexist, racist or just plain stupid.  I think that these comics in this time period were more refined.  They took time to set up a gag, which may happen over a series of scenes, but when it is delivered -bam-you laugh. Today, there's too much use of props, bad language and no real finesse to the joke.
 
3.  I truly believe their facial expressions, body language and the chemistry that the two of them had.  You can see that they truly work well with one another and that jokes.  You can see how long they have worked together because their timing is unreal and it makes me wonder how many takes it took for some of their truly funny film scenes.

Like the vaudevillians of old, I will go about beating a non-living horse. The old-time comedians were no more refined than today's, they merely conformed, when necessary, to the standards of the day...and they really didn't when they didn't have to. Further, they were as tasteless, sexist, racist and just plain stupid as any comedians performing today. They used props just as much (although I really don't know how you could measure such a thing; and I don't know why you would) and set things up slowly or quickly depending on the gag just as much in the past as they do today. We cannot judge by the creme de la creme that we see in this class against the broad spectrum of comedy we are exposed to in our daily lives today. If you knew about all the rowdy, blue-talking humdrums around in the 1910s, 1920s, 1930s, etc.--why, after all, do you think they invented the Hays Commission?--you all might not be so fast to complain about today's comedians. It is, to say the least, an unfair comparison.

#34 Higgs5

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Posted 16 September 2016 - 12:09 PM

Abbot and Costello are perfectly paired and their signature “cross talk” routines are flawlessly executed. Much like the Marx brothers , their personas never varied -   Abbot was always the more rational, scheming character and  Costello the more gullible, childlike one (the baaaad boy).  Also, like the Marx brothers, their routines  reflected their roots in burlesque. The duo uses similar play on words/verbal jousting and physical comedy(Costello loses his voice/ability to move, Chick faints, they scream a lot, slap and yell at each other, scurry around frantically or break out running and throw down obstacles as monsters pursue them).  The film is staged like a real horror film with all the essential elements (scary plot, ghouls, vampires, a castle, a laboratory, thunder and lightning, dark forests); the plot is fairly complex/suspenseful;  the element of fear and Costello’s frustration over “no one believing” him drives the humor .

 A & C were  “polished” fast talking comedians  that captivated us and challenged our minds. Contemporary screen comedians  are definitely trending away from the more challenging, funny, and enduring  kind of comedy routines of the past –much of the comedy is simply inane and crude.



#35 drzhen

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Posted 16 September 2016 - 11:09 AM

Abbott and Costello brought rapid fire, split second timing and an exaggerated (there's that definition again) verbal disconnect to their routines. Not only did childlike Lou misunderstand what sharpie Bud was talking about but Bud often was oblivious to Lou's confusion, compounding the problem to the nth degree. Their contrasting physical appearance perfectly matched their characters, and Lou Costello had a flare for taking the most outrageous pratfalls, making their successful transition from radio to film possible. Costello was a marvelous, old school physical comedian and created an endearing man-child character that ranks with Langdon, Harpo Marx and Curly Howard. In fact, Moe was convinced that Costello was stealing some of Curly's shtick.

From the very beginning, comedy has always pushed the envelope and flirted with the boundaries of good taste. As offensive as this may be to many people today, one day this era will no doubt be remembered as fondly as the twenties and thirties. But we have lost a great deal of the brilliant physicality. The training ground of vaudeville and burlesque are long gone and the comedy clubs have become the place where comics hone their skills. As a result a more conversational, less grandly theatrical form of comedy is evolving, like it or not. I believe that this makes the understanding of slapstick more valuable, rewarding and yes, magical. Who among us has not watched these films and at some point, in response to a clever bit of business or an outrageous stunt, said either out loud or to themselves, "Wow!"


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#36 Mandroid51

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Posted 16 September 2016 - 10:46 AM

2. I agree with Gehring because I believe that today's humor can be in poor taste, sexist, racist or just plain stupid. I think that these comics in this time period were more refined. They took time to set up a gag, which may happen over a series of scenes, but when it is delivered -bam-you laugh. Today, there's too much use of props, bad language and no real finesse to the joke.

I agree and disagree because there are examples of more tasteful comedy today. I think it's a tough call because it's easier to study the past and comment than it is to look at the present. It's been discussed that at those particular times we've had depression, world wars, highs and lows as we continue to in contemporary society. The thing I see changing is size of population, cost of living, extension of lives, rise of disease, decline of Eco system and environmental issues galore. The Humor and styles may simply be evolving based on the world around us as we know it. Place these questions and responses in a time capsule/database and let's study it in the future when all our memories will be backed up on some central computer system in space...
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#37 RhondaWI

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Posted 16 September 2016 - 10:31 AM

1.  I would compare Abbott and Costello's verbal slapstick similar to Groucho and Chico's in that they are delivering lines where 1 has to maintain the straight man point of view.  However, unlike the Marx Brothers, Abbott and Costello have a slower delivery - so the audience is able (and really should) to get every joke.  The Marx Brothers are so fast that sometimes people are unable to get the joke at all.

 

2.  I agree with Gehring because I believe that today's humor can be in poor taste, sexist, racist or just plain stupid.  I think that these comics in this time period were more refined.  They took time to set up a gag, which may happen over a series of scenes, but when it is delivered -bam-you laugh. Today, there's too much use of props, bad language and no real finesse to the joke.

 

3.  I truly believe their facial expressions, body language and the chemistry that the two of them had.  You can see that they truly work well with one another and that jokes.  You can see how long they have worked together because their timing is unreal and it makes me wonder how many takes it took for some of their truly funny film scenes.


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#38 Barracuda89

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Posted 16 September 2016 - 09:09 AM

1. What sets Abbott and Costello's brand of verbal slapstick apart from that of the Marx Brothers is the unique aspect of the back and forth banter. The Marx Brothers are more insult-driven, or, rely often on sarcasm back-and-forth dialogue between 3-4 people. Abbott and Costello, however, being a duo, only rely on the wit and positioning of one other person. It was fun to see a duo go back and forth after watching the rapid-fire Marx Brothers.

 

2. I wholeheartedly agree with Wes Gehring's criticism of today's comedians. Abbott and Costello had a routine, starkly different than the haphazard way many comic actor's today approach comedy.

 

3. I am relly not sufficiently versed in the film career of Abbott and Costello but based on this clip, I look forward to becoming more familiar with them and their routines.


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"You should never, never doubt what nobody is sure about."--Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka


#39 JaneNoir

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Posted 16 September 2016 - 08:12 AM

I thought this clip was very different to the Marx one, relying more on the back-and-forth banter and the delivery of Costello, primarily. The Marx Brothers were playing more with words, whereas Abbott and Costello were playing more with how the words were delivered, I guess. Intonation, sound effects, pitch, etc.

 

As for Gehring's comments, I disagree. I think there are plenty of comedians nowadays that can rival those of yesterday in terms of "taste and timing". From stand-up comedians (Carlin, a very intelligent comedian, or Chappelle) to TV/film comedians (Robin Williams, Ben Stiller) and reality-inspired ones like Colbert or Stewart.

 

And since this is the first clip I see of Abbott and Costello, I'll skip the last question.

Colbert is a great comparison. Forgot about him.


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#40 ln040150

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Posted 16 September 2016 - 06:29 AM


It does seem though that we look to television more for the best comedy these days.  I notice TV series are mentioned more as good examples in the "modern" era

That's true, and, again, I believe this is because of that Hollywood mentality about the fourteen-year-old boy. But we do get films like "Shaw of the Dead," "Whisky Tango Foxtrot," and whatever is Woody Allen's latest, and the occasional independent oddity like "The Lobster" that break the mold and try to appeal to a different audience.
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