Skip to main content

History of Stage and Screen: Top 5 Comedy Teams of All Time

Ms. Inglish has 30 years experience in medicine, psychology, STEM instruction, history, and aerospace education for USAF Civil Air Patrol.

Hand Bill for Ed Gallagher and Al Shean

Hand Bill for Ed Gallagher and Al Shean

Vaudeville and the UK Music Hall

Mr. Gallagher and Mr. Shean

This former vaudeville act, also known as a "double" at the time, appeared in some of the black and white films of the 1930s and 1940s.

I first saw them late one night in an entertaining movie and kept their act in the back of my mind, because I found them humorous and because I had seen the musical Minnie's Boys and learned about the vaudeville act's connection with the future Marx Brothers comedy team.

Within a few weeks of seeing the film with Gallagher and Shean, I read one of the many good books about Groucho Marx that includes many of his letters and memos from a lifetime career. It was there that what I'd learned was confirmed - that Mr. Shean was Groucho's uncle, his mother's brother (I'd thought the hair looked familiar).

Dr. Demento has played recordings of the singing and spoken word number Mr. Gallagher And Mr. Shean over the years as an example of best comedy acts and has made it available on CD collections from his radio show.

These gentlemen are like Abbott and Costello, but with music and a bit more wit. Their work is thoroughly enjoyable. Here is a sample of their act:

.

Mr. Shean-

Oh Mister Gallagher, Mister Gallagher
When you get home you'll get a great surprise
When your ship is drawing near
it will make you shed a tear
to see the lights of New York shining in the sky

Mr. Gallagher-

Oh Mr Shean, Mr Shean
I have made that trip so I know just what you mean
But there's one that shines so bright
it's the brightest one in sight

Mr. Shean -

Statue of Liberty, Mr Gallagher?

Mr. Gallagher -

Coney Island, Mr. Shean!

Occasionally on Youtube

Groucho & Jackie Gleason do Gallagher and Shean (Groucho's Uncle Al) -- Jackie Gleason Show with Groucho Marx. Return to 1967 Saturday night 7:30 to 8:30 pm eastern time for The Jackie Gleason Show. This sketch was performed October 14, 1967.

Scroll to Continue
top-5-comedy-teams-of-all-time

The Marx Brothers

In the musical "Minnie's Boys", we learn that the comedian Mr. Shean was their uncle, their mother Minnie's brother.

The rest of Al Shean's family was also funny, including the Marx Brothers: Groucho, Harpo, Chico, Gummo, and Zeppo; all sons of Minnie (Al's sister), who pushed them into show business.

If you ever get the chance to see the musical Minnie's Boys, you'll see the history of their characters unfold onstage. I was pleased to see it performed live several years ago.

Radio, film, books, TV shows - the Marx Brothers were everywhere. Visit their tribute website: MARX BROTHERS.

Minnie's Boys Act I Finale:

Minnie's Boys on Broadway

VIDEO CREDIT: WALTER WILLISON & FRIENDS - YouTube -- In memory of Stephen Brockway, January 8, 1973 -- June 11, 2012. Stephen Brockway [Chico], James Donegan [Zeppo], Gary Littman [Julie], and Jamison Stern [Harpo] bring down the house with "Where Was I?", music by Larry Grossman and lyrics by Hal Hackady

Early Laurel and Hardy

Early Laurel and Hardy

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy

Stanley Laurel was from England and was a good friend of Jerry Lewis in his later years. Oliver Hardy was American.

Laurel and Hardy

Stanley Laurel and Oliver Hardy worked in vaudeville and in early film. Today, many people take on the persona of Stanley in comedy clubs and on stage and particularly in a one-man show once frequently performed by Brent Spiner (Data of Star Trek®).

World famous science fiction author Ray Bradbury has also included Laurel and Hardy in some of his short stories, including The Laurel and Hardy Love Affair --

In this story a young couple visit the long staircare in California down which a piano chased the comedy team as they tried to move it upstairs in a famous film sequence. The ghosts of Stan and Ollie seemed to both haunt and bless the couple - she playing Stan and he, Oliver - until she should could no longer commit to the relationship. Years later and both married with a child, their families pass each other on the Champ D'Elyse in Paris. As they pass, she tousles the top of her hair and he flutters his tie while no word is spoken.

In another sci-fi tale, a sort of hologram of the comedy team travel from world to world, spreading laughter. To be remembered through science fiction is a particular honor.

"The Music Box" (piano) 1932 and today

If you have the chance, see the 2019 film "Stan and Ollie", starring Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly. The actors recreate many of the original duo's classic film sketches so well that I thought I was watching the original comedians. The film features the agonizing obstacles they faced together to save their friendship as well as the act.

The Lumberjack Song by Monty Python members.

The Lumberjack Song by Monty Python members.

Royal Canadian Farce

Britain's Monty Python

This ensemble filmed Monty Python's Flying Circus for TV in Britain and America in the 1970s and went on to make several hilarious films thereafter.

This comedy team's skits are classics and their albums are heard on the Dr. Demento Show and on CD.

Many of this comedy team met at upper class universities in the UK and went on together to film:

  • And Now For Something Completely Different
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail
  • Monty Python's Life of Brian
  • Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl
  • Monty Python's The Meaning of Life

Carol Burnett Show Members

Tim Conway and Harvey Korman

There is no one else like the team of Conway and Korman and unfortunately, Harvey died a few years ago, while Tim suffers from dementia in the late 2010s. Late night reruns keep their comedy alive.

Tim (original name Tom) Conway was discovered by Steve Allen on a local Cleveland show and went on to entertain audiences in McHale's Navy and as an accident-prone ensign. he joined The Carol Burnet Show and perfected such talent as falling up a flight of stairs in slow motion and playing a midget.

Harvey Korman was showcased on the hilarious Danny Kaye Show in the 1960s, worked on The Carol Burnett Show and Tim Conway's TV comedy shows, and made films with Mel Brooks, including Blazing Saddles. Mr. Brooks had played The 1000 year Old Man on the old Syd Ceasar Show and the Steve Allen Tonight Show.

Both comedians won several Emmy Awards and other honors, and Mr. Korman was recognized as well for portraying Bud Abbott in a drama about comedians.

© 2008 Patty Inglish MS

Comments

Randall Vinson from SanDiego on May 13, 2019:

the stan and ollie movie is great

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on July 24, 2015:

Thanks for writing a comment to correct that information. Your father is one of my favorite actors.

Christopher Korman on July 24, 2015:

Harvey Korman wasn't in the producers he was in High Anxiety,Dracula Dead and Loving it,High Anxiety,History of the World and Blazzing Saddles.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on May 05, 2013:

I agree with you, Bob! I'd better make a second list. Lots of people, some of my neighbors even, watch reruns of the Andy Griffith Show every day in order to see those two. If I remember correctly, they both played on the stage in No Time for Sergeants - I bet that one was hilarious.

Bob on May 05, 2013:

Honorable mention in my book would go to Andy Griffith and Don Knotts of Mayberry fame.

AMG on January 03, 2012:

My father alwayse remember two actors, one is tall with big beard and other one is short and the the short guy is alwayes putting the big guy in troubles, but neither me or my father remember the names of the two actors

Any one does?

Ron Eadie on October 24, 2011:

My fondest days as a boy was watching "Amos & Andy" and martin & lewis.Also dont forget there was a great double as the ugly sisters in panto in glasgow.Who else but Stanley Baxter & ronnie Corbet.it would be a shame not to mentoin our favourite brits comic duo,The two Ronnies.

chspublish from Ireland on January 04, 2011:

I love the list and it's great to visit the comedy again through the videos.

Becky from Oklahoma on December 29, 2010:

I love the old comedy teams, oh the memories :)i remember watching The Carol Burnette show when I was young. My children and I watch the re-runs and it's still as funny and light-hearted as ever. Thanks for a great Hub.

Oldfordman on August 23, 2010:

One team that I haven't seen mentioned was, I think it Bert wheely and Robert

woolsey. I might have the names wrong. They were around early 30's.

jstankevicz from Cave Creek on June 14, 2010:

Can't quarrel with your choices, but want to mention some of the greats that were on old time radio: Fibber McGee and Molly, Abbott and Costello, Lum 'n Abner, George Burns and Gracey Allen ...

iawl on May 24, 2010:

Steptoe and son?

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on March 31, 2010:

I look forward to you writing a Three Stooges Hub.

R. Sharamatew on March 31, 2010:

Any list without the 3 Stooges is silly.

gergames on August 30, 2009:

Although not often thought of as a comedy team, I think Bob Denver & Alan Hale made a fantastic team. Definatly Burns & Allen. As far as Monty Python & Marx brothers, didn't care for them, Benny Hill's offbeat slapstick was funnier then them. I argee with the writer above on Red Green. Ger

expectus from Land Downunder on June 11, 2009:

great hub:) a huge fan of stan laurel and oliver hardy might have to go pop in an old vhs hoooraaay

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on July 19, 2008:

These are really good laughs, and uplifting as well!

Yesterday, the school of music at the university gave away older casdette tapes - I chose a set of tapes from the old Bob & Ray radio show of the 1940s-1950s (one of them is the dad of Chris Elliot) and a set of Jack Paar show tapes. They are great!

GJCody from Pittsburgh on June 18, 2008:

What a great hub. I got many laughs and really brought back some memories. Why can't we have more of this type of movies. Just for the fun of it. Thanks for taking me back to the times I used to sit infront of the TV and watch for the old comedy movies. It was an easier time ...a time when we did not have to worry if there was a news allert about some crisis in the world. There is certainly something to be said about those times. Great hub!

My best to you.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on June 17, 2008:

I have never heard Lum and Abner shows and will defintely go to that site, William, although I have heard people mention them as a comedy team.

Does anyone remember Bob & Dave? I saw them only once in a cameo on a 1980s sitcom. One of their sons is Chris Elliott, who has appeared on the Letterman show several times and in films.

tranndee - I have watched a lot of old films and learned about them that way! In addition, some old cartoons re-run on TV contain parodied comedy teams of the 1920s - 1940s. It's fascinating.

tranndee on June 17, 2008:

Great hub and I've enjoyed reading everyone's comments and additions to your list. Sadly, I must be new school because I don't a third of those mentionned (LOL) but I have to check them out. Great clips on the hub. I hadn't seen SPAM for a long time and having a good laugh.

William F Torpey from South Valley Stream, N.Y. on June 16, 2008:

It wasn't exactly one of my favorites, Patty, but I think Lum and Abner deserve honorable mention. It's unlikely that many of your readers know them, but they can listen to their old radio shows at this site: http://www.freeotrshows.com/otr/l/Lum_And_Abner.ht...

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on June 16, 2008:

In The Doghouse - thanks for spreading around the good humor!

DJ - After I've seen the life-story movie and listened to the interviews and documentaries with Stooges and their families, I still laugh at the Stooges, but the abuse they suffered hangs a black could over it for me. What I REALLY like is that Moe Howard, a Jew, was the first to parody Adolph Hitler on screen. That was both funny AND poetic justice. 

Compu - I've still heard of Two Renees, so it must be on late night cable - or maybe YouTube. lol 

desert blondie - I like the Smothers Brothers as well.

DJ Funktual from One Nation Under a Groove on June 16, 2008:

WHAT ABOUT Larry, Curly Moe and Shemp? They were a huge comedic force.

desert blondie from Palm trees, swimming pools, lots of sand, lots of sunscreen on June 16, 2008:

Would the Smothers Brothers count?...comedy was the main focus, the music was just part of their "schtick" like Steve Martin's arrow-through-his-head. Thanks, Torpey, for adding George Burns and Gracie Allen. Life stopped at our house for Carol Burnett Show, so loved your inclusion of Harvey Korman and Tim Conway...even as a kid, We'd all laugh so hard it wasn't hard to imagine "older ladies" suffering incontinence! Fun hub....fun reminders!

Tony Sky from London UK on June 16, 2008:

Oops lol.

I meant the two Ronnies, Ohh, and Morcombe and Wise!, These are the only real comedy duos i think the UK has and created!,

In The Doghouse from California on June 15, 2008:

Patty,

BTW- Thumbs up, Dugg and shouted, Mixxed and shared... it was that good!

In The Doghouse from California on June 15, 2008:

Patty,

What a wonderful collection of comedy. I can fondly remember my mother-in-law, who was considerably older than I "belly laughing" to the comedy skit by Laurel and Hardy called the Piano. Likewise, my own mother was in tears over the antics of Tim Conway and Harvey Korman on the Carol Burnett Show. These acts were clean, yet funny. This is timeless comedy at its best. Thanks.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on June 15, 2008:

I have just remembered the ensemble cast of The Red Green Show from Canada. Some of their skits were pretty funny as well. Their fund raising shows for public TV were the most funny.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on June 15, 2008:

DJ - that reminds me of all the greats at Second City TV and their friends on the late night. Their DVDs always get high bids on eBay. How about the folk music parody film they did? - I loved it. I remember John Candy doing "Street Beef" with Johnnie Larue, interviewing people at 3AM. lol

William, I liked the TV Amos and Andy and heard the old tapes on radio in the 1960s. I liked the young man that played their almost-attorney. He was great fun.

Compu! -

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on June 15, 2008:

DJ - that reminds me of all the greats at Second City TV and their friends on the late night. Their DVDs always get high bids on eBay. How about the folk music parody film they did? - I loved it. I remember John Candy doing "Street Beef" with Johnnie Larue, interviewing people at 3AM. lol

William, I liked the TV Amos and Andy and heard the old tapes on radio in the 1960s. I liked the young man that played their almost-attorney. He was great fun.

Compu! - I've heard of the two Renees but have not seen them yet.

kat - Who's on First? is certainly a marvel!

You know who else was funny? - DeForest Kelley and Jimmy Doohan together on Star Trek, especially in The Voyage Home.

DJ Funktual from One Nation Under a Groove on June 15, 2008:

Wow. great stuff! I loved the archive stuff. March of the Wooden Soldiers was a childhood favorite. Tenacious D is a greta comedy team too. but not in this class I'm afraid. HOWEVER

I do believe the inclusion of the Monte Python crew should open the doors for another troupe that is FUNNIER than at least one of your teams and that is the mockumentary films by Christopher Guest, Catherine O'Hara, Euguene Levy, Parker Posey, Fred Willard and the others

Tony Sky from London UK on June 15, 2008:

Brilliant duos here Patty and very funny guys in there own right!

i have to agree that Abbot and Costello were as funny as Laural and Hardy, and here in the UK, we used to have the two Rennie's who were classic comedians..We now have Ant n Dec who could do really well as a twosome! very funny but still young!..Monty Python also is hillarios too!!.

I wondered how Bing Crosby and William would have faired as a duo!! lol

:)

William F Torpey from South Valley Stream, N.Y. on June 15, 2008:

I'm glad you mentioned two more of my favorite comedy teams, Fibber McGee & Molly and Jack Benny & Rochester. But that just brought to mind another great comedy team that I'm afraid many people these days have never heard: Amos & Andy. While people today look upon that show with racial overtones, I always looked at Andy and the Kingfish as lovable characters. That radio show was the most popular of them all -- and the TV show was great, too.

Kat07 from Tampa on June 14, 2008:

Patty, I completely agree with you - Martin/Dean and Abbott/Costello are such classics with some fantastic, original routines. I always appreciated the sound effects used in the Abbott/Costello acts!!! Bing and Bob got hits on each other in movies that they didn't even co-star!

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on June 14, 2008:

Thank you, William. I liked Bob Hope very much and saw him several times when he came to Ohio to visit relatives - he'd do the state fair as well. The road pictures are very entertaining. I particularly like the old tapes of Fibber McGee and Molly very much as well.

Oh! - Jack Benny and Rochester. How could I misplace those two?!?

William F Torpey from South Valley Stream, N.Y. on June 14, 2008:

A wonderful hub, Patty. Your selections are excellent, and I'm very happy to see Mr. Gallagher and Mr. Shean on the list. I must say, however, that if I were doing this hub you might find Bing Crosby and Bob Hope at the top of the list -- a great comedy team as reflected in their seven "road" pictures as well as their running feud on their radio shows and elsewhere. I might also have included George Burns and Gracie Allen. I didn't see too much of Monty Python, but I always loved Laurel & Hardy and the Marx Brothers. Tim Conway and Harvey Korman were very funny. Thanks very much for doing this hub, and for doing such a great job (as you always do.)

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on June 14, 2008:

That's one reason I enjoy YouTube! I particularly miss Groucho. Thanks Helen.

Patty

Dr. Helen Borel from New York City on June 14, 2008:

Great Comedy History, Patty Inglish...thanx so much for this trip down Memory Lane. I think most of them are all gone by now, except Harvey Korman's side-kick. Sad to realize that many of those who made us laugh can no longer do so. -Helen (Creativita)

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on June 14, 2008:

There are probably at least 5 more that I could name - Abbott and Costello (Does Sean Hannity remind anyone else of Lou Costello? - I liked Lou best.); The Three Stooges - except much of their life history was sad; Martin & Lewis, except Dean was much funnier alone on his own show; Syd Ceasar & Mel Brooks; Schreiber and Burns; Jackie Gleason and Art Carnie; John Belushi and Dan Akroyd as the Blues Brothers.

Another one that is not well known is Isaac Air Freight.

jeffshp on June 14, 2008:

great job!

SirDent on June 14, 2008:

This is a nice list of the top comedian teams. I like them all especially Tim Conway and Harvey Korman. I think you should do an honorable mention for some top teams that didn't make the top 5. Abbot and Costello were also a great comedy team. Of course there were others also more modern age.

Related Articles