I just received a piece of “occupant” mail that tried to entice me to sign-up for a satellite TV service that would provide me with more channels than I could ever use! Although very tempting, the flyer became recycle bin fodder very quickly. I couldn’t convince myself (or my wife for that matter), that I needed access to the Fly Fisherman channel or the Omelet Maker channel or the Composting channel or any other boutique channel that was being offered. I get grief from my wife for watching TV now, can you imagine what she would say if I would spend more and more time watching in an attempt to get my money’s worth? If there were a 3 Stooges/Our Gang/Vintage Popeye Channel, perhaps I would have been more tempted to subscribe to the service. Sadly, no such channel was offered.
Back in the 50’s and 60’s, choices in channels and programing were basically limited to the big 3 ½, ABC – CBS – NBC and a half point to the viewer supported PBS. I will forever remember Sunday afternoons when we would gather at my Aunt Mary and Uncle Lou’s home after church to sit and watch an hour’s worth of 3 Stooges Episodes. We would religiously tune in WTAE, Channel 4 and howl at the continuing misadventures of Moe, Larry and Curly.
My cousins and I weren’t alone in our enjoyment of the Stooges. My Uncle Lou (Goldman) was the instigator of this Sunday afternoon tradition. As we would watch the Stooges each Sunday, he would howl, cough, and snort with laughter. Clinging to his HUGE brown and tan coffee cup, he had a habit for repeating the insults the Stooges hurled while watching.
The part I will never forget is how disgusted my Aunt Mary was when we were watching. I’m sure that the words “knuckleheads and morons” came to mind whenever she saw us watching the Stooges. My wife is no different than my Aunt Mary. She just cannot understand what I think is so funny about the trio. I’m sure there will be no way that I’ll be able to convince her to see the new 3 Stooges Movie that recently premiered.
Post-Gazette film critic emeritus Barry Paris, reviewed the new Stooges movie on after its premier on Friday, April 13, 2012. I wrote to Mr. Paris and received permission to post his review for your enjoyment and enlightenment.
An Appreciation: ‘The Three Stooges,’ Eternally Moronic
By Barry Paris / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The cyclical nature of Stooge-mania is not unlike that associated with biblical plagues, locust invasions and the reliable return of Halley’s comet.
They were Ted Healy’s comets, originally. But were they the greatest film comedy team? The Marx Brothers, Laurel & Hardy, and Abbott & Costello would beg to differ. Yet for legions of sophomoric and sophomoronic fans, the ultimate wits — dim or half — will ever be Moe, Larry and Curly.
The new “Three Stooges” movie, which opened Friday on lucky April 13, is co-directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly’s contemporary take on the time-tested boneheads’ iconic-ironic formula, re-creating those puerile personas in a (slightly) modernized situation with a fresh set of latter-day Stooges who look and sound amazingly like the originals.
Seems that baby Moe, Larry and Curly have been left on the doorstep of a convent orphanage — “newborn angels from heaven,” say the nuns, until one of them, Sister Mary-Mengele (Larry David), gets eye-poked by Moe and goes sailing head over habit. The boys grow up nyuk-nyuk-nyuking and woo-woo-wooing to immaturity, becoming the home’s inept maintenance men and meeting femme fatale-tamale Lydia (“Modern Family’s” Sofia Vergara) who gets them involved in a murder plot and — oh, never mind …
Have I told you lately about the Apotheosis of My Childhood? Thanks for asking. It was Jan. 3, 1959 — the day the Three Stooges came to the late great Holiday House in Monroeville for their first live appearance since vaudeville days. For a 10-year-old in the Eisenhower administration, this was equivalent to the resurfacing of Amelia Earhart and an audience with the pope, combined. My cousins and I, in our best clip-on ties, strained to get autographs from three snarly old men, barely tolerating us and our flashbulb-popping Kodaks. In the spirit of the occasion, we’d drop the just-used hot ones down each other’s backs — for guaranteed howls. Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk…
No wonder the Stooges’ influence generated such universal parental disapproval. We were always hearing horror stories about kids who poked each other’s eyes out, but we concluded that anyone dumb enough to actually “pick two” — without putting his hand on his nose sideways — deserved to be blinded.
No less a figure than Moe himself addressed that contentious subject, when asked by a Post-Gazette reporter at Kennywood. “The eye thing is out [of the act] now,” he growled, since meddlesome groups like the Pittsburgh Jaycettes were petitioning to ban the Stooges from TV. Moe had no doubt who was to blame: “Women!” he fumed, unrepentant. “Why don’t they stay home and criticize their children?”
Stooge History 101: Ted Healy discovered the Howard brothers (Moses and Samuel Horwitz, aka Moe and Shemp) during a 1922 show in Brooklyn; “Porcupine” Larry Fine (1902-1975) joined the act in 1925. Billed as “Ted Healy and His Stooges,” the trio served as foils to Healy’s jokes. When Shemp (1895-1955) left to go solo, Moe (1897-1975) enlisted youngest brother Jerry (1903-1952), a comic dancer and conductor on the vaudeville circuit. They would make 190 short comedies for Columbia over 25 years. In 1946, Curly’s stroke on the set of “Half-Wits Holiday” ended his career and prompted a string of substitute Curlies, including Joe Besser (whose contract stipulated he could never be slapped by Moe — what a wimp!).
Greatest hits among the legendary shorts:
“You Natzy Spy,” filmed a year before America entered World War II, in which Moe does his immortal Hitler send-up and Curly plays fat Field Marshal Herring.
“We Want Our Mummy,” set in the Egyptian tomb of King Rooten Tooten and Queen Hotsie-Totsie. When not floor-spinning in a circle, Curly — the Rudolf Nureyev of slapstick — takes his memorable dip in a desert-mirage ocean of sand.
“A-Plumbing We Will Go” (with the racist, bug-eyed servant refrain, “Feet, do yo’ stuff!”), “Boobs in Arms,” “They Stooge to Conga” — the list is endless.
Back to the future-present incarnation: The three new stooges — Chris Diamantopolous as Moe, Will Sasso as Curly and Sean Hayes (Jack on “Will & Grace”) as Larry — are not quite household names but have excellent chemistry, from the excerpts I’ve seen. Give the Farrelly Bros. (“Dumb & Dumber,” “There’s Something About Mary”) high marks for verisimilitude — of the signature gags and all-important sound effects and “boinks!” from the two-reelers that punctuate the slapstick. This effort had the real potential to bomb but doesn’t because it sticks to basics.
Basic what? Basic absurd repetition and predictability. Like Clarabelle sneaking up behind Buffalo Bob with a seltzer bottle on “Howdy Doody,” with the peanut gallery going bananas, trying to warn him. (“Huh? What is it, kids?” — but he never turns around.) Basic bonking.
Which raises the age-old Gender Debate: Why do men find the Stooges so riotously funny, while precious few women do (my cousins Carole and Lynn being glorious exceptions)? It’s because the Stooges do everything mothers tell boys not to do: run with sharp objects, poke people in the eyes, bash each other with shovels. They represent vicarious male rebellion, full of stupid noises, pratfalls, bad puns — a delicious juvenile “cultural regression” that never goes out of style.
The Farrellys’ homage is surprisingly enjoyable. If it corrupts — I mean, inspires — a new generation to Stooge awareness, who am I (or other geriatric Stooge purists) to object? Whilst we wax rhapsodic, they wax moronic into eternity. The last Stoogefest at the Syria Mosque in 1991 drew 6,000 people. Then and now, all you can say is — “Spread out!”
Post-Gazette film critic emeritus Barry Paris: firstname.lastname@example.org.
First Published 2012-04-15 04:17:10
As much as Mr. Paris had some particular favorites among the original 3 Stooges shorts, I too had some standouts that I remember. So sit back, grab a cup of coffee like my Uncle Lou and enjoy the following clips:
Gents without Cents
Violent is the Word for Curly – Swinging the Alphabet