Dr. Rich Edwards

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

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Use this thread to discuss Abbott and Costello in terms of slapstick.

 

As usual, this Dose is also available in Canvas.net on the "Daily Dose of Doozy" page. 

 

 

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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?

 

I'd compare it because it primarily involves a two-person setup in both. They also rely on what each sidekick is saying to play on the verbal slapstick. What you say will be used against you in slapstick.

 

Really glad you opted for this movie as part of the daily doozy! Actually managed to Pvr it so not just relying on a clip -horror is definitely a course you should teach in the future Dr. Edwards and I'd be first in line to sign up. Naturally the marriage of comedy and horror plays well in my eyes. I'm incredibly biased though :)

 

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 on allot of today's Humor not having the taste. Our society has been dumbed down a great deal because of reality tv and social media making everyone a wanna-be celeb.

 

I think that for those same reasons we all have less time for true art and "timing" in today's fast moving digital world. In the context of reality tv etc. we are all seemingly artists and celebs so therefor less attention on other's craft and more on acquiring the spotlight for monetary gain. Of course there are exceptions to this this theory because some of today's comedians are truly stellar. To some extent the art and craft of timing and taste is not something that can be taught, of course the greats study the greats history has shown so that too is very arguable. Chaplin had a gift as did all the slapstick comedians being studied. I think Abbott and Costello are the best btw, and think they got a raw deal if not celebrated more formally.

 

 

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 energy, in my honest opinion -plays best. One is sparky and ready to yell at the drop of a pin and the other plays it straight but harps back with stealth yet speedy timing balancing them both very well. Physical, verbal, and tonal qualities make them the best. It would appear that opposites always play off eachother better than equals. The greats knew to utilize their differences...

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I was so pleased to see Abbott and Costello included in this lineup, because the duo is a childhood favorite of mine.

 

In my opinion, Abbott and Costello seem to me to be on more uneven ground than the Marx Brothers did in the Daily Dose of Doozy #6. And that uneven power dynamic worked well for Aboott and Costello -- with Abbott typically the stronger, more dominant, more bullying, straight man. Costello the more "every man," the underdog, with his expressive face and exaggerated vocalizations. As a kid, I was always pulling for Costello. And their physicality to each other also demonstrates this. Their routines are less exaggerated, to me, than as seen with the Marx brothers, more real in tone. There's still some exaggeration, but it's less overt. This gives their routines a different dynamic than what I've seen in other verbal slapstick routines. There's a less crazy atmosphere, though no less humorous.

 

I do agree with Mr. Gehring's observation regarding their polish and timing -- their routines were perfectly executed. The shooting dice scenes, the crazy math when paying their rent (or not paying their rent) -- there was a wit and a verve that we don't see too much of these days.

 

 

 

 

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I have little background in film analysis but I have really enjoyed all of the comedy clips so far and I have added Turner Classic Movies to our channel choices to watch more of these great movies.  My comment is very general  There are few movies today that cause me to laugh out load at any of the humour but I have laughed out loud at some of these choices!  When I was growing up, I saw a bit of Abbot and Costello on television and heard their most famous clips on radio.  I missed Chaplin, Keaton, LLoyd and WC Fields; they were less frequently aired on the channels available then.  I agree that much of the comedy today is in poor taste but I believe this reflects Western society in general where there are few rules about what is appropriate.  Throwing off constraints should not make entertainment less amusing but the focus has shifted to shock or titillate viewers rather than to work hard the way these comedy greats, did in finding fun in the ordinary.  There is fun in the silly situations in life and the enduring popularity of these films proves the point.    

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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?

 

Like Groucho and Chico, the genius of Abbott and Costello is the timing and cadence in the delivery of their lines.  I assume they honed these skills through hundreds of  performances in live theater.  They can take ordinary lines that on paper are not particularly funny and deliver them in such a way that makes them humorous. I remember Jerry Lewis talking about the genius of Dean Martin’s skill as a straight man.  Without the timing and delivery of a good straight man, the payoff of the joke is lost.  Abbott  is a great straight man for Costello.

 

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 wholeheartedly agree with Gehring’s assessment about today’s comedy and comedians.  The lack of contemporary comedic skill is due to a variety of factors.  First, Abbott and Costello, as well as the Marx Bros., spent hundreds of hours performing their routines before life audiences.  They could toss or refine bits that didn’t work.  One of the reasons that the Marx Bros. were so successful in films was that MGM’s Irving Thalburg allowed the brothers to test their material before live audiences.  They would take the best material from the live performances and put them in their films.  Today’s performers do not work on their material the same way.

 

Another difference is the “routine.”  Comedians used to work on “routines” that relied on timing and delivery to work.  Today’s comedians can only come up with verbal jabs and crude scenarios and call it funny.

 

Finally, the Marx Bros. and Abbott and Costello learned to work as a unit.  Their cohesiveness as a comedy was critical to their success.  We see similar comedy success in TV series like Seinfeld, MASH, The Big Bang Theory where the ensemble works together to achieve great performances.

 

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?

 

On the one hand, they were another link in the chain of comics that relied on teamwork to be successful (Martin and Lewis, Bob and Ray, etc.)           However, that teamwork and contributions of the straight man may not have been recognized by the general audience, by heaping too much praise on the funny man (Costello) without acknowledging Abbott’s contribution.

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1. The previous clip with Groucho and Chico in A Night At The Opera (1935) was more of a routine using double entendres, puns, misinformation, and exaggeration, not to mention absurdity that made this deal about an opera singer in the contract more lie a business arrangement, than this clip in which Abbott plays the skeptic and Costello the childlike believer who believes that Dracula did open his coffin, similar to a parent who believes that their child lis lying about something that they made up, but the child would say that it's true.

 

2. Yes. I find that contemporary comedy today does lack the taste, perfect timing and polish of classic comedy routines that modern day comedians omit from their material for a larger audience to a new basis.

 

3. Their biggest contribution is the classic verbal comic routines that were non-offensive, clean, and family-friendly humor that some comedians today would try to incorporate in their comic routines, they also came up with a setup for their classic routines that they perfected from their days in burlesque as stage comics, their director Charles Barton was the first comedy director to incorporate the three camera setup instead of the one camera setup on film to match their timing perfectly, since he was a wonderful collaborator, another film that I highly recommend for spooks and chills is The Time of Their Lives (1946), being one of their most expensive films of that time.

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Even as I child I can remember saying, "Open the stupid box!" I still say it whenever I see the trailers for today's horror movies. In as much as this is the case, I'd say there is a great deal of similarity between the two duos in that they are, neither of them, dealing with the reality of the situation, or expecting us to do so. Other than that the similarities disappear. As noted below, the intricate relationship between Abbott and Costello as a team is so completely different, and is virtually maintained in this film (and clip) as to make any association with the Marx Brothers impossible. Groucho and Chico are always switching places, matching wits. There is no matching of wits between the two boys from Newark. Abbott is always the "superior" between the two, and that is almost never the case between the Marx's.

 

As with so many other fields, when someone comes along to break creative ground, intentionally or at random, others follow in their tracks and tend to miss the mark by merely repeating what seems most obvious. Lenny Bruce broke "the golden rules" of comedy by using direct obscenity rather than innuendo and double-entendre in his routines, and went further by telling long stories about his personal life rather than short jokes. His success led to a long line of comedians who used obscenity for the sake of obscenity, something Bruce had never done.

Prior to Abbott and Costello, we had Hope and Crosby, Olsen and Johnson, Burns and Allen, Benny and Sylvester and others establishing a series of bantering couples. With Abbott and Costello we see something of a return to the pattern of Laurel and Hardy except that Abbott is a character usually (and seemingly) more urbanized, sophisticated and in control of the situation (and in control of Costello in some fashion). On the other hand, this duo had also created a uniquely stylized conversational pattern, different from any of the comedic pairings mentioned, dependent often upon Abbott slapping his hands together and Costello flinching or playing with his hat and coat, or swaying as if to some internal music.

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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?

 

This clip, of Abbott and Costello, relies more heavily on props and setting than Groucho and Chico's....  and, in my opinion, it's not one of their more complex verbal exchanges. A&C is, in this case, less rapid fire than G&C. Part of the charm in both cases draws on the familiarity we have w/ their characters.

 

 

 

 

 

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 Mr. Gehring. The second shift (first being away from the Silent masters) is away from material requiring attention to detailed verbal & visual exchanges of the Marx Brothers, Abbott and Costello, Gorge Carlin or Stephen Wright to the visual mess, er chaos, which is Gallagher's Sledge-o-Matic or auditory assault of Richard Pryor or Andrew Dice Clay's profanity. 

 

 

 

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?

 

In my opinion, Abbott and Costello are the "every-man"... they're usually working stiffs whom humor finds and generally abuses.

I think their contribution is that they had a way of including the viewer IN their situation.. You can see both sides and understand the confusion, but it compounds the hilarity.  You know the name of the player on First, but can see how Costello would be confused...  and on and on.  That gag is pure, unadulterated verbal slapstick at it's best.

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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?

 

Like Groucho and Chico, the genius of Abbott and Costello is the timing and cadence in the delivery of their lines.  I assume they honed these skills through hundreds of  performances in live theater.  They can take ordinary lines that on paper are not particularly funny and deliver them in such a way that makes them humorous. I remember Jerry Lewis talking about the genius of Dean Martin’s skill as a straight man.  Without the timing and delivery of a good straight man, the payoff of the joke is lost.  Abbott  is a great straight man for Costello.

 

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 wholeheartedly agree with Gehring’s assessment about today’s comedy and comedians.  The lack of contemporary comedic skill is due to a variety of factors.  First, Abbott and Costello, as well as the Marx Bros., spent hundreds of hours performing their routines before life audiences.  They could toss or refine bits that didn’t work.  One of the reasons that the Marx Bros. were so successful in films was that MGM’s Irving Thalburg allowed the brothers to test their material before live audiences.  They would take the best material from the live performances and put them in their films.  Today’s performers do not work on their material the same way.

 

Another difference is the “routine.”  Comedians used to work on “routines” that relied on timing and delivery to work.  Today’s comedians can only come up with verbal jabs and crude scenarios and call it funny.

 

Finally, the Marx Bros. and Abbott and Costello learned to work as a unit.  Their cohesiveness as a comedy was critical to their success.  We see similar comedy success in TV series like Seinfeld, MASH, The Big Bang Theory where the ensemble works together to achieve great performances.

 

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?

 

On the one hand, they were another link in the chain of comics that relied on teamwork to be successful (Martin and Lewis, Bob and Ray, etc.)           However, that teamwork and contributions of the straight man may not have been recognized by the general audience, by heaping too much praise on the funny man (Costello) without acknowledging Abbott’s contribution.

Actually, today's comedians work very diligently at their craft, and anyone who doesn't realize this simply doesn't know the business. The fact that the comedy business has changed is a matter of public tastes having shifted and that shift has to do with several factors, mostly commercial. For a comedian to succeed in today's economy, they have to work hard and do what the audience wants. If not all segments of the audience likes it, that's too bad. But if most of the audience likes it, they will succeed in spades. If that means cursing a blue streak, then some of them will curse a blue streak. And for some of them, that's exactly what works. But "works" is still the active word. It still never comes easily to anyone. It's a great mistake to believe otherwise.
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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 engage in true repartee (i.e. “A succession or interchange of clever retorts :  amusing and usually light sparring with words”, per Merriam-Webster) while Bud Abbott plays the straight man to Lou Costello’s bumbling and timorous comic character.

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The verbal slapstick style w/ Abbott and Costello seemed more down to earth, as two co-workers conversing matter-of-factly.  The banter dealt with the job.  Whereas the verbal with the Marx Bros. in the stateroom built upon the situation of allowing more and more bodies into an already small space.  Lou tends to have an innocence or naiveté bout him in this film, like a child about to confront something scary and with Bud there to knock some sense into him.

 

I'd have to agree with Gehring's comment about the the comedy routines of Bud and Lou- polished and perfected.  They both exemplified physical and verbal slapstick routines.  Contemporary comedies tend to be either very witty or border on the "obscene" and bodily functions.  I would rather enjoy something witty, original and a salute to the slapstick artists of yesteryear.  

 

Abbott and Costello took what they learned and knew from vaudeville and other comedians and made it their own.  Abbott tends to be the "mean" one and Costello the one who is usually on the painful end of the physical.  I would show the "Frankenstein" film to my students as a Halloween treat and they'd cringe, yell and laugh at Costello to get away from the monsters in the laboratory scene.  Some students told me that at first they really didn't care for a black and white film, but they discovered that if the story holds their interest it didn't matter if the film was b/w and the routines were funny and even funnier that what they see on TV.  I think the Abbott and Costello comedies are a great way to introduce children to cinema slapstick.

 

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Actually, today's comedians work very diligently at their craft, and anyone who doesn't realize this simply doesn't know the business. The fact that the comedy business has changed is a matter of public tastes having shifted and that shift has to do with several factors, mostly commercial. For a comedian to succeed in today's economy, they have to work hard and do what the audience wants. If not all segments of the audience likes it, that's too bad. But if most of the audience likes it, they will succeed in spades. If that means cursing a blue streak, then some of them will curse a blue streak. And for some of them, that's exactly what works. But "works" is still the active word. It still never comes easily to anyone. It's a great mistake to believe otherwise.

 

Very well stated!

 

And though I slammed Dice, I ****MUST**** say, he appeared on Arsenio Hall's talk show many years back.  Hall just kept saying, "Ya gotta be clean"... "ya gotta be clean"...    Arsenio provided the slapstick relief THAT night.   Dice went out and was CLEAN  and HILARIOUS.  Not even a great grandmother would have been offended...   His stage act is filthy.   But it's well-tooled filth and equally hilarious.. and it's what evidently sells.  I think he's along the lines of Alice Cooper... his act serves as a catharsis...(Alice's quote about his own concerts).

 

That modern day comics are hard-working there is no doubt...   But as with the comedians of yore, all are not everyone's cup of tea. To be honest, I neither like nor do I "get" the Marx Brothers.  I don't think they're funny.  I watched half the Sanity clip and wanted to rip my ears off.  I opted to just skip the rest.  lol   Golly I hope the last part's not on the quiz tomorrow! hahahahahahahah

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Lou Costello always cultivated a "little boy" image, pitching his voice higher than Abbott. (Originally so audiences could tell them apart on radio). In Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, Bud expresses amazement that Lou has attracted the attention of a beautiful woman. The Marx Brothers, meanwhile, are clearly oversexed grown men. Groucho is ever in pursuit of a wealthy matron and Chico, well, likes the chicks.

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I think Abbott and Costello were much more of a product of their time than W.C. Fields and the Marx Brothers. That's perhaps a reason that their legacy is somewhat inferior in modern times, though they remain popular and funny.

 

Abbott and Costello relied much more on verbal than visual comedy, in my point of view, and they were the first and most famous film comedy duo in which the two actors played distinctly different characters, the pure comedian (Costello) and the straight man (Abbott, for whom a common misconception is that he wasn't funny and his partner did all the work, while in fact Costello couldn't produce most jokes without him).

 

Costello plays a naive, simple man who's easily frightened and lets his partner make all the decisions, while Abbott is the thinker, looks serious (but he isn't) and gets often impatient with Costello's way of thinking (which, as seen in this clip with Dracula, is sometimes the right way). Their chemistry and humor are, in my opinion, more comparable to that of the other great duo, Laurel & Hardy, than that of the Marx Brothers or Fields.

 

I don't believe that there is no taste or timing in contemporary comedy, but I agree that in the old days comedians had found a magical way to make films that were funny, timeless and a success in the box-office, while most modern comedies accomplish only some of these factors, if any. Public taste about humor and comedies in our time is the most probable reason for that.

 

Abbott and Costello modernized slapstick, introduced gags and routines (e.g. Who's on First) and connected slapstick comedy with totally different genres such as sci-fi and horror films. All these contributions influenced many great comedians of the next generation (Mel Brooks, Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker, just to name a few) and are still important today.

 

 

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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?

 

Abbott and Costello’s style of verbal slapstick I would characterize as slow and methodical based on the visual elements of the scene whereas Groucho and Chico would be doing rapid-fire, verbal back and forth with each other and often would be commentary having nothing to do with the scene or plot, just outright outrageousness.

 

 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 would agree with Wes Gehring that Abbott and Costello’s comedy routines were well structured and required a keen since of timing to work effectively.  Obviously this required a great deal of work, planning and rehearsals to get it right.  I further agree that contemporary comedy seems to rely more on “shock value” having an audience thinking, “I can’t believe he/she said or did that!”, therefore it must be funny to someone.

 

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?

 

Abbott and Costello’s biggest contribution to comedy would be the way they worked as a duo, to make the “straight man & comic” work in a team format.  A format that would benefit other duos such as George Burns and Gracie Allen, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby and maybe even the Smothers Brothers.  A well used, tried and true way of delivering comedy.      

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Abbot & Costello's verbal style differed from the Marx Brothers in the fact that Bud was a straight man, but also was a power figure over Lou. He was gruff, criticizing, disapproving - he was always giving Lou a hard time. Lou was always bumbling and getting into situations. That dynamic between the two was consistent throughout their careers. That meant Bud would often set up the joke and Lou would give the punchline as in:

"That's the bunk!" (Bud scolding)

"That;s what I'm trying to tell you. That's his bunk!" (Lou's punchline)

This also meant that the content of the verbal slapstick was often in the form of an strong figure questioning, commenting, criticizing and a bumbling figure explaining and excusing himself.

Groucho and Chico (and Harpo) were more on an even playing field, and none of them played the straight man, they were all three funny men. So they would be quipping back and forth between themselves.

 

I would disagree with Wes Ghering's comment that today's comedians lack 'taste [and] timing". As for taste, remember that slapstick itself was considered crude and unsophisticated - pies in the face, pratfalls, falling into rain barrels, pants falling down, etc. I think most bloggers here would consider Blazing Saddles a comic masterpiece, but there are jokes in it that are quite crude (consider the whole farting sequence). Mel Brooks once responded to this in an interview:

What do you say to your critics who say your movies are in bad taste?

Brooks: Up yours!

One of the characteristics of comedy is that it pushes the envelope, and often faces things we find uncomfortable.

 

As for timing, I think that still exists today. In the 70's you have Monty Python. Their routines have Impeccable timing. Go to the 80's and we have Murray, Aykroyd, and Ramis in Ghostbusters. Fantastic timing. Or how about Clue (1985), or The Big Lebowski (1998). I think the comic timing in these films is great.

The sitcom has become the place for comic routines nowadays, and these are often played to studio audiences. It's true we see less of it today in the movies.

But even today, I'm watching Ash Vs. The Evil Dead (2015) and the quips in there still rely on timing.

[after dramatically shoving crosses in the ground at some graves]

You knew they were Jewish, right?

I-I did not... Wish you could have said something before I made those dumb crosses, but...

Perhaps most of the comic routines that require timing have moved to TV, but I think it's still alive.

 

Abbot & Costello's biggest contribution to visual and verbal slapstick is their now famous dynamic of the gruff and the bumbling. It is similar to Laurel and Hardy but much stronger. It became so you could put that dynamic in any situation and let it play out.

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1.       One similarity between the comic teams is that each team has a smart man (Groucho and Abbott) and a dumb one (Chico and Costello). The relationships are quite different, though, and that affects the verbal slapstick. Abbott’s Chick and Costello’s Wilbur have a parent-child relationship where the child is scared of monsters in the dark and the parent doubts him. In the Night at the Opera scene, the Marx Brothers are peers who take an almost existential approach to the idea that they could ever collaborate reasonably about a contract.  Both teams have well-timed repartee, a patter style they had honed in vaudeville. Part of Abbott and Costello’s style is repeating back what the other guy said (“I saw a hand.” “A hand?” “Where?” “Over there.”). There’s a rhythm to it just like there is rhythm to performing modern hip hop. (The Marxes had great verbal rhythm too.)

Much of the success of this clip (and the film as a whole) comes from the juxtaposition of timid Lou Costello versus a full-on presentation of Universal’s famous movie monsters. In this clip, we get a dark and stormy night, mysterious music, candle lighting, and Bela Lugosi reprising his performance as Count Dracula. Shots of nervous Wilbur in the foreground and the coffin opening in the background are both chilling and funny.

2.       The modern era of filmmaking is more stylistically realistic than was true in the 1930s and ‘40s. Timed patter humor would be more out of place in a modern comedy where it was the style in many ‘30s films, especially comedies. Whether or not Abbott and Costello’s style would “play” in modern films is irrelevant. They were masters of style in the 1940s.

3.       Abbott and Costello seem best remembered for their “routines,” rhythmically performed escalating discussions in which Costello becomes more and more agitated, whether over the danger of guarding Dracula’s coffin or determining which player is on which base.

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The settings for the two clips are completely different.  In the Marx Brothers clip, Groucho and Chico never leave each other's sides so there's an easy repartee between the two.  And there really are no props used in the clip except for the paper contract.  Also, the dialogue is between two men who act as adults.

 

In the Abbott and Costello clip, Bud and Lou are usually physically separated from each other and the dialogue is based on Bud's having to constantly come back into the room to respond to Lou' s

anxious calls. There are a lot more props used in the clip.  Also, the interactions between the two are similar to that of parent (Bud) and child (Lou) as Bud tries to reassure Lou that there's no such thing as Dracula.  And he eventually becomes really irritated with Lou, refusing to believe what Lou is trying to tell him is happening.  It's much like a parent getting annoyed with a child who is supposed to go to bed and is afraid of the darkened bedroom. 

 

The polish and timing are wonderful in both clips, and Groucho's and Lou's trademark mannerisms are in evidence in both as well.

 

I do agree that taste is lacking in the routines of many of today's comedians.  Vulgarity abounds!! However, having said that, I also have to say that there's obviously an audience for this kind of  shock entertainment because these comedians are doing very well!  And there are still comedians both in films and on TV who can produce quality comedy without the tastelesness.

 

I think that Abbott and Costello's contribution is to the refinement of the "straight man vs funny man" teamwork.  They both seemed so natural in their roles and I'm sure their work became the foundation on which other comedy teams built their routines.

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I honestly cannot give a biased opinion on this-please understand-I know word for word "your pick ?shovel or pick" from Abott and Costelleo meet the mummy. ,Sunday afternoons were spent at my grandfathers house watching the local Seacaucus station as my dad packed the car to take us home to Penn. 1st the Charlie Chan movie,then Shirly temple and Last a Abott/Costello movie. The trip home was always 3 hours of my dad listening to my brother and I repeat Abott/Costello routines.

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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?

 

In terms of Abbott and Costello, there was a more complicated and uneven tone, but it worked in their favor. Obviously, we all know that Abbott was the dominating one in the duo, and Costello was the put-upon, clumsy one. There was a 'straight man/bumbling man' relationship between them. Abbott was introduced a gag, and Costello would take it and extended it to its overall punch. The comedy came from everyday situations, whereas Croucho and Chico's came from sheer absurdity that didn't exaclty connect with everyday conflict. Both duos had at least a few aspects in common, especially when it came to making people laugh successfully.

 

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.

 

​Honestly, I agree and disagree, because in today's comedy, the subtlety has disappeared, and it relies more on gross out and very raunchy humor. I agree with Gehring on that one. There is nothing sacred anymore today, where everything that can happen does, considering the amount of bodily humor and drunkenness that you can actually find in comedy today. However, there are certain groups that are attracted to that kind of humor. There is a fan base around it. Overall, I'm definitely with Gehring; I miss the buildup and well-detailed timing that it took in the past to deliver any gag perfectly. I also miss the emotion that came with the comedy of the past.

 

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?

 

I think their biggest contribution is the fact that they are everyday men involved in everyday situations. They also added the absurdity and outrageousness that can surface from real conflict. There is a huge amount of realism their comedy. We can always find ourselves in mundane mishaps; we just have to find the humor in them, and that's what Abbott and Costello do so remarkably well. 

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The exchange between Groucho and Chico Marx seems more playfully adversarial while the exchange between Abbott and Costello was more like my father talking to a child. That is until Costello gets in the final singer with “Does Dracula know?”

 

I believe Castillo's ability to slip into a childlike persona from time to time and Abbott's ability to play “the father” is what made them a unique team. As mentioned earlier in this module Theatre audiences at the time were much more homogeneous therefore had to have a wider appeal. I believe that Abbott and Costello had a special talent for reaching the very young because in Castello children had a figure they could relate to closely. Comedians still use this child-like figure today as seen in such things as the movie “Elf” and the TV show “The Simpsons”.

 

I also believe that the plots to their movies played a role in their success and served as inspiration for future comedians. In many of the roles they were “fish out of water”. They found themselves in situations with which they were not familiar and did not completely understand. In “Buck Privates” they were in the Army (a new experience many people going through at the time) and in “ Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein” they were with monsters. Looking at the time frame when Abbott and Costello were at their most popular we can see it was a confusing period - a World War and postwar era. Like Abbott and Costello people found themselves in unfamilar situations. By watching Abbott and Costello people were able to identify with this team and laugh a little at themselves as they laughed at the movie. This technique of using unfamiliar situations is still used today in movies such as “Wayne's World” where amateur TV hosts are thrown into the real world of professional TV.

 

The two points I mentioned is what I think are the influances Abbott and Costello had on slapstick comedy today. Of course I just may be looking at them through rose-colored nastalga glasses because I used to always watch them with my sister and cousins.

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Abbott and Costello should not be compared to anyone since all of the slapstick comedians we have been discussing are all unique in their own ways. I have loved Abbott and Costello since I was in the fifth grade and my teacher showed us Who's on First, which is an excellent example of a verbal gag. My teacher also showed us Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein so it is great to see this one again after all these years and with a newfound respect for these to wonderful and apparently overlooked comedians. I agree with Wes Gehring that today's comedians lack timing and precision that the old-time comedians had in abundance. Not to mention that some of the comedy these days to me is not even that funny, at least not to me. Not when you know what real comedy used to be. The only ones who come anywhere close to the comics of old are Robin Williams, Jim Carrey and Fran Drescher(who reminds me of Lucille Ball) in her show The Nanny.

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Ch Ch Chiiiiiick! There is definitely a difference between Abbott and Costello in this clip and Groucho and Chico in doozy 6. Although both verbal back-and-forth is silly ritualistic and for that funny reason over the top. But Groucho and Chico are far more Quick with the banter. It is a brilliant faster pace. Abbott and Costello Although also polished and precise, their delivery is a more relaxed delivery. Fear and all :-) Abbet and Costello are like the every day man so to speak. There is something much more caricature like with Groucho and Chico.

Gehring's observation with today's humor, comedic seems rings true. The old timers were more polished. Their verbal slapstick and banter was quite precise in their delivery and how they were going to deliver it. Today call Maxine have a more improvised feel to them. Some of it can be brilliant i.e. Rob Reiner's "this is spinal tap" these guys were improvising. It was brilliant. But there's a huge difference. It's almost like they're trying to make each other laugh. The old comics or Persaud ice in their performance to make us laugh. I remember Lucille Ball commenting on how precise she was, getting ready for certain I love Lucy scenes. She had to work very hard to make it look that simple and funny.

What was the third question? Oh! They are greatest contribution? They were just great at being Abbott and Castella. Very funny. Every day man down to earth great and Andy Persaud ice back-and-forth banter. The way they fed off each other back-and-forth. It was perfect wonderful gags. And truly "who's on first" could very well be the most brilliant back-and-forth slapstick verbal gag of all time. My friend just recently thought and cannot believe how much it still stands. These many years later. Absolutely hysterical and brilliant. All of the timing folks. All in the timing.

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For me, Abbott & Costello's greatest contribution to comedy was their TV series. This series is considered by many to be the ultimate repository of classic burlesque comedy routines, including "Slowly I Turned", "Crazy House", and dozens more.

 

I feel that these half-hour episodes (roughly equivalent to a 2-reeler) are the ideal length for a comedy film, because they're long enough for plot and character development, without being so long that you need to stretch and pad and put in romantic subplots.

 

My favourite is "Lou's Birthday Party", because it has great slapstick, while also allowing Lou to really show his comic vulnerability.

 

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=L86dbgB4Gf0

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