Dr. Rich Edwards

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

86 posts in this topic

1). The biggest difference bet win the two is pace of the delivery. The Marx Brothers is fast pace, rapid fire, whereas Abbott and Costello was slower and more what the everyday person would speak. Abbott (yes I know I got it turned around in my last post) plays the perfect straight man and Costello is more the comedian. This can be seen again with Dean and Lewis. And it works well.

 

2) Yes I agree that today's comedies lack timing and polish. With Abbott and Costello you get the gag because it's simple perfected and you can get it right away. Today the majority of comedies think they have to be raunchy to the point of being vulgar. The majority of the comedies are totally stupid situations that I just can't relate to. Again Abbott and Costello for example worked as a team and had their gags timing down to a science. I agree with another post that Seinfeld and M.A.S.H worked because they worked as a team.

 

3). Their success was in the teamwork and providing clean, non- offensive humor. I believe that the sensors had a lot to do with that. It was actually mentioned last night after The Bank Dick. Fields original script was rejected by the sensors and a writer was brought in and did one that wasn't funny. In the end he did his original script and it worked fine. Like many of the teams of that era the teams had worked together for years and perfected their time and gags.

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I grew up watching on tv films of Abbott & Costello  (The Three Stooges too) and the Universal horror classics. And I always enjoyed coming back to see those movies, and before, as now, see those beloved characters all together in "Abbott & Costello meet Frankenstein" was an experience like no other. Abbott & Costello differ much from the other great comedians that we've seen. Their routines are simpler, more "naive", the humor is in the interaction of the two characters, in his dialogues, in the situations that they face. Bud Abbott is "serious" and Lou Costello "clown, and the victim of the abuse of his partner. (unlike the routines of Groucho and Chico where both generate situations of humor)


This scene in particular, viewers know that Lou fear is justified, and, although the situation of terror, their reactions cause us grace. They were some big, unjustly forgotten by many specialists. But I met them before which Keaton, the Marx Brothers, ect, and the affection endures. and I suppose that many of my generation happens the same.  And if still having fun their routines, and so many other comedians of the past, it is that perhaps that way do humor no longer exists, and it is a shame.


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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.

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Who HASN'T heard of Abbott and Costello? Their routines were way more polished than those of the Marx Brothers. The Marx Brothers spoke quickly and just threw everything straight at you. Abbott and Costello worked very hard to polish their routines and spoke at a normal pace, making it sound like normal, everyday conversation.

 

Though Abbott and Costello came from burlesque, their routines were still refined enough for the whole family to enjoy. (Though I'm sure some of it might have been toned down by the Hays Code). I cannot stand the much more vulgar, R-rated comedy of today that is purely for shock value.

 

Costello's plays on words and the careful comedic timing between the two is why many of their routines are still very funny today.

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I have a postscript on my previous post. In comparing the likes of Groucho Marx and today's comics. I think there is more improvising now. But please know I am a lover of all comedy ( let's say most) . I'm having great fun with the slapstick course. But I love "this is spinal tap"I love Christopher Guest and all his movies. I love comedy. I just think there was a more precise and thought out delivery with the Marx brothers and Abbott and Costello. It's great deconstructing these old films. And remembering the greatness of the slapstick era. Whether silent or talkies. … That is all.

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The Marx Brothers verbal slapstick is faster and more twisted. Where as Abbott and Costello are slower and straight forward. Abbott is always the straight man with down to earth advice where Lou is more in a panic at times.

 

Gehring's is right about today's comedians.They tend to have bathroom routines and potty mouths. They lack the art of verbal slapstick. We have relaxed the standard of comedy to an all time low. You can be funny and not be vulgar.

 

I think the biggest contribution of Abbott and Costello is the gag is Lou panics and Bud has to reassure that whatever he thinks is happening is not happening.

 

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I love How each play off each other bud Abbot playing straight man to lou costello one the of the great comedy Duos it is sad they aren,t given the credit they deserve

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1. Both the Marx Bros. and A&C can claim stage origins, but each patterned their styles on very specific--and diverse--qualities.  Harking back to Dale's definitions, A&C are the epitome of " . . .dialogue performed at breakneck clip."  Their routines, extremely polished as everyone says they are (and I agree . . .I have to, my wife takes her A&C very seriously), but exaggeration punctuates every single one.  Harpo is probably the only Marx who "yells."

 

2.  Agree. so, so agree.

Where, or where did comedy go wrong? 
 

3.  Abbott and Costello, IIHO, were never standard-bearers, but their comedy had an infinite amount of applications: stage-to-movie, radio-to-TV.  They had a very good way of recycling routines that, while somewhat predictable, kept them continually funny.

 

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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.

I have, and I have to say: it really is a show about nothing.   Seinfeld's appeal, like A&C (which btw, there is such a thing as Abbott and Costello Meet Seinfeld), was to take the nucleus of his stand-up and continually refresh it by means of the misadventures of his co-stars.  It was like the cartoon shows of the late '70s and '80s, but with the moral at the beginning of the show. 

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I just couldn't get any of those clips to play, but fortunately I remember A & C rather well since they were a staple of my childhood.  In comparing them to the Marx Bros, I would characterize the Marx's as more cerebral.  Groucho is always calculating while Chico rambles.  But with Abbott and Costello, they are more "buddies" and are experiencing everything together.  Lou is nervous and non-sensei while Bud is calm and reasonable.

 

I do agree with Gehring's "taste and timing" comment for the most part (in the movies, not in stand-up)  When exactly, though does "modern" start?  Tom Hanks' comedies were pretty great, and there were a lot of talented, tastefully funny people on TV in the 70's, 80's and 90's.  The casts of Frasier and Mary Tyler Moore were outstanding.

 

A and C's biggest contribution?  I feel they were more accessible to a wider audience, including children.  A lot of the banter of the Marx Bros would go over the head of most youngsters, and certainly Fields' work was more adult in content.  Guess that's why I remember A & C more to this day.

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1. Groucho & Chico's bits were way out there, almost anarchic. They wandered every which way, hilarious but not really grounded in what passes for a plot. Abbott & Costello's interplay grew from their characters, like the Marxes, but the bits were very much in line with what was going on and helped advance the plot. They were two distinct personalites that played off each other beautifully.

2. I basically agree with Gehring's assessment. Many modern comedians have good material (even the potty mouths) but they are all schitck and no or little personality. They just say lines and there is little development beyond setups.

3. A & C interplay with each other was brilliant. It grew out of their characters organically. Who's on First is a brilliant routine, still funny name lively even now.

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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.

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

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Abbott and Costello and the Marx Brothers are similar with their verbal slapstick. They play off each other. A&C is a little slower especially with  Costello's slowly realization on situations. Today's comedy are not that funny. They are so full of potty humor.  I've never found it funny. I always turn to the old comedy movies just to get a laugh. I think there is actually one show I do watch that is contemporary and isn't dirty in any way and really funny. I don't know why writers resort to filth and think it's funny. A&C work great together. I watch both and even to see Abbott's facial expressions when Costello would do something crazy. The comedy was well delivered by them.

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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 think the Marx Brothers style is more setting up for a joke rather than Abbott and Costello's style, which feels like it's a conversation leading up to a joke or punchline.

 

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. Abbott and Costello can be funny without being raunchy or overly exaggerated. It's still funny and enjoyable. Today's comics seem to want to get to the blue jokes quicker, which can be used over and over. Abbott and Costello can take you on a trip and get you to the punchline and still can be just as good.

 

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?

 

Who's on First has to be their most famous clip. It's brought up in conversation and people immediately know what it means. The clip has also been parodied so many times, including one of Johnny Carson's famous skits as President Reagan talking to his press secretary about swimming with James Watt at the YMCA. If you haven't seen the bit (and I know we're studying movies), it's must see.

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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.

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1. In comparing Abbott and Costello with Chico and Groucho, both teams rely on impeccable timing, rapid delivery, and standard roles (Bud and Groucho were always the bosses). However, Groucho and Chico always looked the same in every picture, but Bud and Lou used costumes to suit their roles. Groucho and Chico relied on accents, but Bud and Lou did not. Conversations between Groucho and Chico always were a bit absurd, whereas Bud and Lou were more down to earth; the best work by Bud and Lou were often a play on words, double entendres, and non sequiturs. Their best bits could stand alone outside the film.

 

2. Gehring's about contemporary comedy is a broad generalization that is sadly accurate. There are exceptions like the late George Carlin, who was a master of timing and language. A great many comedians rely on sex, curse words, and shock value to generate a response. For example, Lewis Black is comparable in my opinion to Alan King, but too many people get turned off by his overuse of the f-bomb. Everybody knows "Who's on First?". My favorite Abbott and Costello routine was "7 times 13 = 28". I have performed this for my students for the last 13 years and they always laugh. The comedy of Abbott and Costello is timeless.

 

3. It would be too easy to focus on their bits and routines ... those are treasured. As a kid, I found all of their movies to be absolutely hysterical and entertaining. They perfected a technique discussed in the first week, when we learned that slapstick often did not help the plot progress. Their bits and routines were a break from the action. They also included musical performances ... who can forget The Andrew Sisters doing "The Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" in "Buck Privates"? There were real plots in which the boys were entangled, and the violence was pretty mild. They were also able to take their style to television, and they repeated many of their routines.

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Abbott and Costello used word play and I think Chico and Groucho conveyed the dialog of the contract at a breakneck pace. I agree with Dr. Gehring's comment is fairly accurate because I think some of today's  comics don't take enough time to perfect their routines.Abbott & Costello were a unique comedy team I think they contributed a style of comedy that is timeless.

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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?

Both pairs of actors/comedians are using a situation for their verbal slapstick, but Abbott and Costello bring more props into the bit, and they are spoofing a well-known horror story.
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 can think of arguments on both sides. I think Kevin James is a very funny comedian (who, by the way, reminds me of Lou Costello). Some of James’s exchanges with Leah Remini on his show The King of Queens are clever. I also think Drew Carey and Jerry Seinfeld are very witty. But I must admit they don’t have the back-and-forth banter that Abbott and Costello do in this clip.
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 am not very familiar with Abbott and Costello, not since I watched them on television as a child—and I am not admitting how long ago that was! But that fact does make me wonder: Maybe their biggest contribution came about because their routines were so clever and polished (and they didn’t resort to off-color humor) that they were suitable for children’s television shows. Thus, they widened their appeal, and lots of people got to see them and to appreciate them from an early age.

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Abbott and Costello are quite similar to the Marx Brothers in respect of the quick-paced verbal exchanges. In direct comparison to "A Night at the Opera" clip, Abbott and Costello utilize malapropisms only a couple of times. The Marx Brothers approach to this kind of wordplay is timed to precision. They bounce words back and forth so efficiently, their skill equates to an odd mergence of each of their own artistic expressions. (Instead of each being stand alone Marx brothers, they have a capability to blend as a broader, more expansive, holistic act.) I believe this is why the Marx style works so well. They have an unmatched consistency in their abilities of staying on the same wavelength, which is a profound strength.

 

Abbott and Costello are also consistent with their timely verbal expressions. I love the initial vocal inflection of curiosity (Abbott) vs. fear (Costello) addition. This is genius is creating an entirely different tone, which generates the back and forth exchange of comedic chatter to success.

 

I agree with Gehring's sentiments to an extent and with the exception of a somewhat small litany of modern comedic performers. (Tina Fey, first and foremost.) In regards to taste, yes, without a doubt, comedians today typically rely on the lewd and the crude. (I must add here, there is absolutely nothing wrong with dirty jokes, I actually celebrate them- the good ones anyway.) However, many times these types of jokes come at the expense of others, which is where many comedians' acts can and sometimes do go awry.

 

I also have to remind myself of the official abandonment of the Production Code in 1968. Of course the MPAA is still in place (even if a film rejects the standard G, PG, PG-13, and R ratings, it can adopt an unrated (UR) or not rated rating- NR), and don't forget the accessibility of premium cable. This creates an open space for freedom in artistic expression. (Thunderous applause.) However, this poses a question: should freedom of expression be traded for quality?

 

In short, no. Never. And the aforementioned question can easily create a discussion on art and subjectivity, amongst other topics. I will insert my argument here - it seems to be rather accurate that films, performing acts, even music, etc were superior decades ago. There were definite restraints (an absolutely ridiculous example- the word "pregnant" could not be uttered within a film during The Production Code, "with child" was an acceptable alternative.) Aside from this absurdity, everything (entertainment-wise) was just better. I don't believe many current entertainers could even compete with their contemporaries from decades past. If we could combine the now apparently unattainable quality of decades past with the level of freedom today, an additional Golden Age would be birthed. And, I, for one would rejoice!

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I have, and I have to say: it really is a show about nothing.  As I pointed out in my post, Seinfeld's appeal, like A&C (which btw, there is such a thing as Abbott and Costello Meet Seinfeld), was to take the nucleus of his stand-up and continually refresh it by means of the misadventures of his co-stars.  It was like the cartoon shows of the late '70s and '80s, but with the moral at the beginning of the show.

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.

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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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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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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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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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