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Why the Three Stooges Are a HIT with Me


In the book, One Fine Stooge (2006), written by Steve Cox and Jim Terry, the authors had this to say about the legacy of the Three Stooges:

The single most important factor that sets the Three Stooges apart from any other movie comedy team is their unequaled longevity. It’s debatable, but you can’t deny them their advantage: a stretch in the spotlight that burned their image into the American popular culture, possibly forever. It was accomplished flicker by flicker, drip by drip, administered in a healthy dose in theaters, then in live performances, then on television and back to the big screen. This unique Stooge equation, in which the team paralleled and then transcended the movie medium – they entered with the talkies, and forty years later they vanished with the advent of home video – puts them in a mighty position. They’ve become mythical figures that the ages now respect – an earned dimension to their legacy.

It takes a stooge to know a stooge

I grew up watching the Three Stooges in those two-reel short subjects - all 190 of them produced between 1934 and 1959, which became a major part of my young life after school when local TV stations showed them. Many of my friends and relatives, particularly the boys, seemed to watch them too. A Stooge happy bunch we definitely were.

Virtually all of these “Stoogephiles,” including me, would often imitate the Stooges, throwing open hands or pointed fingers at each other’s face, often attacking each other out of the blue, a veritable Stooge-fest at any given moment. Most of us preferred to impersonate Jerome “Curly” Howard, seemingly everyone’s favorite - Nyuk! Nyuk! Nyuk! Why soitenly! – even though Curly usually received the most punishment. Everyone seemed to love Curly’s idiotic facial expressions, silly gestures and amusing sounds.

Occasionally we’d connect with our imitative hits, starting an argument or fight. Hey, stuff happens when you play the Stooges!

Some of us preferred to impersonate the testy bully, Harry “Moe” Howard, perhaps because he usually did the hitting. He’d cry, “I’ll murder you!” or “Get out of here!” or "Spread out!" and then twist your ears, bonk you on the head or smash your nose. Of course, Moe got as much punishment as he dished out, a situation which everybody loved.

Few of us chose Larry Fine as a favorite, perhaps because Moe always seemed to be tearing his hair out by the handfuls, as Larry howled in pain. But Larry could play the violin all right. He was the artist of the trio, you know. Every comedy trio has to have at least one. Remember Harpo Marx? Incidentally, the left side of Larry’s face was permanently calloused because he had been slapped so many times.

Sometimes the Stooges got hurt

Shockingly, all of the original Stooges got hurt while doing stunts, some of which were dangerous and could have poked out an eye or ended a career. In the aforementioned book, Larry Fine recalled this about job-related injuries:

Our comedy speaks for itself. You have to see it to believe it. We didn’t pull any punches. I say “we.” Moe didn’t pull any punches. When he hit, he hit. What you see is what we got. I mean it. Many times, we didn’t even use sound effects. We never meant to get hurt, but working rough like we were, we couldn’t help it. Of course, coming into motion pictures from the stage as we did, we knew nothing about stuntmen and doubles. For the first two or three years we did our own stunts, until one day we made a football picture, Three Little Pigskins.

The Stooges convinced the director they couldn’t play tackle football, so he got some stunt doubles, all of whom went to the hospital with broken bones. Nevertheless, the Stooges continued to do some of their own stunts. In the short entitled, Heavenly Daze, Larry and Moe play two crooks who hope to sell a fountain pen that writes under whip cream. As a mixer whips the cream, in which a fountain pen had been placed, the fountain pen suddenly flies toward Larry’s face, striking him in the forehead - by design, of course. Unfortunately for Larry, the pen actually impaled him in the skull, drawing blood!

Then there was Samuel “Shemp” Howard, the oldest stooge actually, born way back in 1895. That long ago! (All of the Stooges were born around 1900.) People liked it when Shemp was frightened or very excited, because he’d go “heep, heep, heep, heep!” Also, Shemp had a built-in prop - his hair was always very long and oily, so Moe could easily grab a hunk of it and yank Shemp to some destination, the sound effects making a tearing sound, adding to the hilarity.

Few favored that bald, roly-poly wimp, Joe Besser, who replaced Shemp after he had a heart attack and died in 1955. Besser wasn’t half as funny as Curly or Shemp, and he didn’t like to be hit. Who ever heard of a Stooge who didn’t like to be hit? (Fortunately, Besser made only 17 shorts.)

I’ll never forget one Saturday afternoon many years ago, when my friends and I went to see the Three Stooges’ movie, Have Rocket, Will Travel. (By this point, the Stooges were no longer making shorts, just movies and public appearances.) At the box office, a line comprised of hundreds of young Stooge enthusiasts stretched around the block. Finally I got in, but I had to share a seat with a friend. Everybody thought the original Curly was in the movie. Having died in 1952, Curly Howard was seemingly back from the grave! In addition to Moe Howard and Larry Fine, this movie starred Curly-Joe DeRita, the latest Curly, if you will, and a replacement for Joe Besser who had quit the act. Everybody loved the movie, naturally, particularly when the giant tarantula fired laser beams at the Stooges.

I particularly enjoyed when the Stooges showed terror. They’d all exclaim “nyaaa!” and then scamper away from the wild Indians, cops, gangsters or whatever, yelling, moaning and groaning with fright. The Stooges were particularly good at fleeing when they did their own stunts - that is, until the late 1950s. Seeing stuntmen take pratfalls isn’t as funny as watching the real thing, don’t you agree?

The Stooges were definitely at their best throwing pies (pastries, mud packs or whatever else was handy actually), because you wanted to see that pie land in the face of some pompous aristocrat, who would strain to keep his dignity while whipped cream dripped from his face. Naturally, these stuffy types would return volleys of whatever was being thrown at them, generating comedic bliss for Stooge fans.

The Stooges’ comedic shtick was in the grand tradition of such comedy teams as Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello and the Marx Brothers. At their best, the Three Stooges were just as zany as those giants of early twentieth century American comedy. In fact, the mania of Stooge fans may last the longest.

Although the last Stooge, Curly-Joe DeRita, died back in 1993, the Three Stooges are still around in some form or another. Their numerous shorts, as well as movies and cartoons can be seen on DVDs (including Sony high-definition), as well as on cable TV. Of course, entire videos of their short comedies can be seen on YouTube. You can also find them in video games and, if you look hard enough, comics and novelty records as well. In 2000, Mel Gibson, a big Stooge fan, produced a made-for-TV movie entitled, The Three Stooges.

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Curly Howard

Curly Howard

Moe Howard, ready to slap ya head.

Moe Howard, ready to slap ya head.

Shemp Howard

Shemp Howard

Larry Fine

Larry Fine

 Curley-Joe  DeRita (left) the last Stooge to pass on

Curley-Joe DeRita (left) the last Stooge to pass on

Hollywood Walk of Fame

Hollywood Walk of Fame

That's it, Miley, now go for the eyes. Doink!

That's it, Miley, now go for the eyes. Doink!

The following is a review of the latest Three Stooges movie and much more

Produced, written and directed by the Farrelly brothers, the Three Stooges movie released in 2012 pays homage to those lovable Stooges, perhaps the greatest artists of slapstick. The movie provides numerous laughs and repeated references to the Stooges’ signature shtick, though it certainly could have been much better.

The third and final part of the movie is by far the best, providing a hilarious finale worthy of many stooge adventures; unfortunately, this movie needed a great pie fight at the end. The stooges were known for throwing pies at pompous faces, weren’t they? So this flick should have had such a pastry-flinging melee! Be that as it may, many people think the movie is a comedy classic. How about you?

* * *

In the early years of our Stooge craze, my two male cousins and I developed a kind of Stooge lexicon, containing words to describe the “hits” the Stooges used when fighting among themselves or fending off bad guys or arrogant officials. These words were onomatopoetic in nature, and the following is an outline:

1. The doot is perhaps the quintessential Stooge noun. Invariably Moe would take his left fist and grab someone by the nose. Then he would take his right fist and smash it into the left fist, making a glorious honking sound upon impact with the nose. At times, my cousins and I tried this with each other, and the joy at doing such is something akin to chugging a can of Dr. Pepper. Doot can also be used as a verb, as in the sentence, “He dooted that guy’s snazzola.”

2. Perhaps equally big was the slap. We didn’t invent this word, of course. Everybody knows what a slap to the face is, but the Stooges made it an art form, complete with resounding sound effects that made the blow even funnier.

3. The sound a slap makes as it collides with someone’s face is turr. When we wanted to tell someone we’d like to slap their head, we’d utter this word while making a slapping motion with a hand. Turr can also be used to accentuate an exclamation, such as in the sentence, “You like him, but I don’t – turr!”

4. Doink is the sound made when someone takes the forefinger and middle finger of one hand and then plunges these fingers in someone’s eyes. Wow, that would hurt! We never tried this on someone’s eyes, understandably. Moreover, we never used this word as a verb. But you can - go ahead. Furthermore, these days, you could flash the peace sign, still considered hip (pop star Miley Cyrus is always using it) and then immediately go for the eyes. Do it, start a fad. Moe Howard would love it!

5. When angered, Moe liked to reach for Curly or Larry’s ears and then give them a lusty twist, causing great pain for the recipient. This blow was called a kank. Naturally, you can kank someone’s ears as well.

6. Conceivably more of an insult than a blow, Moe liked to take his forefinger and clip someone’s nose, so their head would abruptly tilt back. This was called a tweak or plink, either of which can also be used as a verb, as in the warning: “Watch out, or I’ll tweak your nose!”

7. I’m not sure I can remember the Stooges actually doing this last hit, but here goes. Instead of twisting someone’s ears while doing a kank, you can pull the ears away from the head as far as you can and then suddenly let them snap back into place, performing what’s called a shhuuppuut. Make sure you try this with someone who has big floppy ears!

That’s it. Don’t try these hits at home. On second thought, why wouldn’t you?

The Three Stooges, though long gone, will continue to give us plenty of belly laughs well into the future, because, if nothing else, they were great slapstick comedians, and everybody wants to see someone get hit in the face with a pie every now and then, don’t they?

© 2009 Kelley Marks


Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on April 16, 2018:

Thanks for the comment, Deborah Minter. We certainly need the Stooges these days, don't we?...Fortunately they can be seen on YouTube. Later!

Deborah Minter from U.S, California on April 14, 2018:

The three stooges are truly immortal! The world is a better place, because they made everyone laugh.

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on June 19, 2011:

Get this, I watched the Stooges last night for two hours on a local cable station. I still laugh until tears come to my eyes. Anyway, Curly is also my favorite. I think most people like him the best. Later!

Horse Feathers from Indiana USA on June 18, 2011:

I love the trio and still catch them. There on on IFC right now.131 on dish.

I remember seeing Moe on Dick Cavett not to long before he passed.

Curly was, and is, my favorite!

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on September 28, 2010:

Thank you very much for the compliment, epigramman. A man who's good with epigrams? Gotta love it! Anyway, the Three Stooges were excellent at what they did best - make people laugh until they cry. Turr! Later!

epigramman on September 28, 2010:

...see - there you go again tackling a very weighty subjective issue such as comedy - a genre like music and food and art is which is very subjective in nature and in its taste ........ I agree with you on this one - The Three Stooges were classic and in a low brow way - are very funny - some others would disagree and think they're silly and obnoxious and loud.

I went to the cinema once where MONTY PTYHON LIVE at the HOLLYWOOD BOWL was playing - and the opening film - a Three Stooges short received more laughs than the main feature - tears were rolling down my cheeks and I thought I had peed my pants.

Maybe you should write another provocative hub like your rock list of the WORST comedy acts of all time.

Either way I like your spirit and nerve and like you say it's always good to challenge yourself - and others.

I will be back - your hubs are eclectic, fun and exciting.

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on January 19, 2010:

How dare they block the Stooges in the UK!!! Thanks for using the word "doink"! My heart waxes into Stoogemania. Later!

Shinkicker from Scotland on January 03, 2010:

It was a golden age for comedy. Loved the videos. Well! 2 of them anyway, Sony have blocked the other 2 in the UK , DOINK!!

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on December 18, 2009:

Although I'm not certain the movie is being made, I can't wait to see it. It would definitely be one to review as well. Bonk! Later!

bearclawmedia from Mining Planet Earth on December 17, 2009:

You're a god, a stooge man, is a man of wonderment. A true Renaissance Man. I would love a review from this author about the new movie. For starters, my view is that this unique style of stick does not need a feature length story. Does it?

Kirk on December 09, 2009:

Great writing and remembering cousin. The Stooges are the best!

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on December 03, 2009:

Yes, Curly will always be the best. Thanks for your attention, Art West. Later!

Art West from Indiana on December 03, 2009:

Great Hub!

As an adult I began to appreciate Larry much more. Curly is still the best though.

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on November 25, 2009:

Thanks for the compliment, Immartin! They showed those shorts on TV back in the 1960s and '70s. But Spike was showing them as recently as the early 2000s. They'll be around for a long, long time. Later!

lmmartin from Alberta and Florida on November 25, 2009:

You're bringing out all the memories -- when the movie was a quarter, your candy a dime and the chairs in the theatre were soft and comfy. Yes, I remember the Stooge days, very well indeed. I never did see them on television, though. Wonder why? Maybe they didn't come to Canadian television till later on. I enjoyed reading this and remembering. Thanks, Kozmo

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