Dr. Rich Edwards

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

86 posts in this topic

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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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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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.

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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.

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.

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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!!!"

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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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"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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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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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.

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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.


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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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!

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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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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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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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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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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.

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

 

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

For me personally, the bar is set very, very high with 'Who's On First.' Who of us who have taken a turn in acting or stand-up hasn't tried to replicate that routine?  How many sitcom's have we seen where comedy writers have paid homage to this amazingly fine-tuned banter? It's stood the test of time - 70+ years later.  The back story on Wikipedia is worth checking out:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Who%27s_on_First%3F

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Extra, How about Grace and Allen for verbal slapstick?

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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?

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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