Dr. Rich Edwards

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

86 posts in this topic

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

 

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

 

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

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

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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?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Here's the link to cartoon short on YouTube:

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

Here's the link to cartoon short on YouTube:

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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