I figured out today that I’ve been watching the Three Stooges shorts for sixty years. WGN used to show them during the hours between getting home from school and dinnertime. That was, they showed them until a group of mothers got together and decided that it was “too violent” and that we would soon be slapping each other across the face, poking each other’s eyes out, hitting each other over the head with various tools and blunt objects, and, of course, hitting each other with pies. None of which actually happened, because we weren’t stupid enough to do any of those things.
(Okay, maybe one of us hit a classmate with a slice of pie. From his description of why he did it, the kid had it coming and it was unfortunate that the only kind of pie the cafeteria had left was blueberry and not lemon meringue or banana cream. Still, he says it was the best 25 cents he ever spent.)
Anyway, the exploits of Moe, Larry, Curly, Shemp, and Joe were pulled off the air in favor of The Flinstones and reruns of The Mickey Mouse Club (where the boys could watch Annette Funicello, the only legitimate Disney Princess, and feel the early rumblings of puberty). The rights to the Three Stooges shorts were picked up by WFLD, who started showing them at 10 PM, when the adults could see them and the kids (presumably in bed by then) could not. They became a cult classic and inspired the local Jump ‘n’ The Saddle Band to write “The Curly Shuffle.”
Within the past couple of years, MeTV has obtained the rights to show The Three Stooges shorts, which they do Saturdays from 6-8 PM Eastern time (check local listings). And while I’ve seen the shorts umpteen times over the last 60 years, I still find them hilarious, maybe at times for different reasons than originally…
I discovered that Larry was hilarious. He was usually the guy taking the brunt of Moe’s punishment, but as I watch the episodes, I realize he dished it out as well as he took it. He was especially good in pie fights.
I also developed an appreciation for Shemp. Shemp had left the Stooges before they started making films, but rejoined in 1947 when Curly, Moe’s and Shemp’s youngest brother, had a second stroke that made it impossible for him to continue. Both he and Moe were in their 50’s by this time and, while there was still plenty of physical comedy, the scripts were better and physical comedy was used less. Of course, in Brideless Groom, Shemp’s first short with Moe and Larry, there was still plenty…
Finally, I started to appreciate the contributions that other actors made. Vernon Dent, Bud Jamison, Kenneth MacDonald, Emil Sitka (the Justice of the Peace in the previous short), Christine McIntyre (who played Miss Hopkins in the short), Dudley Dickerson, and Connie Cezon, to name just a few, added their own comedic talent to the films and made them that much better. (Lucille Ball even makes an appearance in at least one of the shorts.)
What else can I say? Sixty years later, I’m still a fan.