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Three Stoog

December 23, 2016

Over the past couple years I’ve been collecting little factoids about the 3 stooges to share with coworkers. Here is the result of that labor:

There were 7 “official” stooges. The least well known was Emil Sitka. He starred in dozens of 3 Stooges shorts and is one of the only actors to have worked with all 6 stooges. Sitka was called the Fourth Stooge and was slated to replace Larry until Moe’s health deteriorated and the plans had to be scrapped.
The first set of stooges were Moe, Shemp, and Larry. Moe and Shemp were Vaudville actors working for friend Ted Healy. Healy created the act “Ted Healy and his Stooges” which went on to work broadway and create a feature length film before moving to the short films they are best known for.
Moses, Jerome, and Samuel Horwitz were brothers who shared the showbiz spotlight as Stooges. They are better known by their stage names Moe, Curly, and Shemp Howard.
With both Moe and Shemp working in Ted Healy’s Vaudville show, they needed a third member. Moe and Shemp were both goofballs, so they wanted a straight man to set up the jokes. Healy found a balding violin player with a bad haircut walking down the street. The offer was $100 a week to join the act and forget the violing. Larry Fine famously accepted saying “For $100 a week I’ll forget anything!”
The career of Lucille Ball, of “I Love Lucy” fame, was launched by the 3 Stooges. Her first significant role was Daisy Simms in the 3 Stooges short “3 Little Pigskins.” This was not just one of her first speaking parts, it was also her first real taste of comedy on the silver screen.
By 1946 Curly could no longer perform. He had been suffering strokes and was unable to act. His brother, Shemp, returned to the act to take his place. Curly later made a cameo in “Hold That Lion,” making it the only film appearance of all 4 original stooges at the same time.
In 1955, Shemp died suddenly of a heart attack. Columbia pictures still demanded they finish 4 more shorts to fulfill their contract. Using stock footage and a stand in actor in heavy makeup, they completed the 4 shorts. This became known as using a “Fake Shemp.” Notable examples of Fake Shemps are The Crow, and more recently, Furious 7.
After Shemp passed away, he was briefly replaced by fellow vaudvillian Joe Besser. Besser was already well known for working with Abbot & Costello and was a long time friend of Shemp. After working with the Stooges, Besser went on to act in the Joey Bishop Show, Batman, and for Hannah Barbera cartoons.
Joe Besser’s time as a stooge was brief. Columbia ended their short movie department making Moe and Larry consider retirement. Fortunately for the act, Television had just arrived on the scene and new episodes were ordered for TV audiences. Besser was no longer available so the group added “Curly” Joe DeRita as the new 3rd Stooge.
Curly produced the most Short films out of any 3rd stooge. The numbers are: Curly 97, Shemp 77, Joe Besser 16
Even though Curly starred in the most shorts compared to the other 3rd stooges, his final replacement went on to do far more productions. Curly Joe DeRita appeard in 156 cartoon episodes as well as 41 new live action segments to be played with the cartoon.
Shemp’s temporary replacement, the “fake shemp”, was Joe Palma. Palma is not normally considered to be an official stooge. If he were, he would be the first out of 3 replacements for Curly named “Joe”
The 3 Stooges cameo’d in a Rat pack Movie 4 for Texas with Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.
The 3 Stooges released 41 music albums.
Shemp starred in a knock off short called “The Knife of the Party.” He had recently left the 3 stooges for a solo career and was cast as the “lead stooge” in the act’s only film.
During his Solo Career, Shemp worked with John Wayne in a movie named Pittsburgh.
The best known Three Stooges song is “Swinging the Alphabet.” It was written to help kids learn the alphabet.
The song “Swinging to Alphabet” is a simple word game. You sing the consonants one at a time with all of the vowel sounds. Example: B-A, Bay. B-E, Bee. B-I, bicky bi, B-O Bo, Bicky-Bi-Bo, B-U Boo, Bicky-Bi-Bo-Boo. Pro Tip: Sing the J verse around Jay.
In 1987 a video game about the 3 Stooges was made and ported to the NES.
The 3 Stooges Video game has the player attempt to earn money to save a failing orphanage. This plot was recyled in the 2012 3 Stooges movie.
A two handed poke-in-the-eye is not blockable by a N’yuck N’yuck N’yuck
The Stooges used many theme songs, but the most common were Three Blind Mice and Listen to the Mockingbird.
At the time the Stooges worked with Dean Martin in 4 for Texas, he had a variety show on TV. Because Martin couldn’t change his shaggy appearance that he needed to make Westerns, he simply kept wearing his cowboy hat on TV and sang country music instead of his usual lounge music.
In 1934 the Stooges made a short called “Men in Black” where they play as medical students. The title is a spoof on the 1934 Clark Gable film “Men in White”
As a funny coincidence, in 1998 Fox produced a move called “Men in White” to spoof on the feature film “Men in Black.” There is no relation to the 3 Stooges or Gable films.
The 1934 short “Men in Black” started the joke “Calling Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine, Dr. Howard.” This joke is repeated many times in features films such as Conspiracy Theory.
Although almost all of their short films are in black and white. Their very first Short Film was in Color.
The Curly Shuffle was Curly’s signature move where he would lie on his side and run in a circle. Curly would often break from the scene and do the Curly Shuffle when he forgot his lines.
The Curly Shuffle was the title of a novelty song released in 1983. The song was a Homage to the 3 Stooges and included a mention of Curly’s replacements.
Curly was a trained ballroom dancer and singer. Curly would often incorporate exaggerating songs and dances in his act. Although these dances became signature moves, like the Curly Shuffle, they were inside jokes about dancing and singing.
When Larry was first hired, he was told to forget his violin. Despite his famous line “For $100, I’ll forget anything,” Larry could be seen in many shorts playing his violin. Typically he would play while the other two Stooges danced during scenes where a song and dance would have been rude.
Larry’s arm was accidentally burned by acid when he was a child. He took up the violin and became a boxer in order to rehabilitate his arm.
Larry’s wild hair was an accident. When Ted Healy approached him to become a stooge, Larry’s hair was wet and uncombed. It dried into the curled, half bald afro that helped make him famous.
3 Stooges founder Ted Healy may have been killed by Albert R. Broccoli, famous producer of the James Bond films. The two were in a fist fight hours before Healy died suddenly while recovering from the fight at a friend’s apartment.
In 2000, Michael Chiklis played Curly in a made for TV biography of the 3 Stooges.
Comedian Hugh Herbert first invented the phrase “woo woo woo.” Curly was one of many comedians who borrowed the phrase. Today it is one of Curly’s best known catch phrases.
Comedian Lou Costello borrowed part of his act from Curly. A notable example is Curly’s catch phrase “Ha-ba-ba-ba-ba” when he got scared.
One of Curly’s gags was to bark like a dog. It was Shemp who later perfected it and turned it into a signature catch phrase.
The trio would often answer the phone by singing “Hello. Hello. Hello.” and then greeting eachother. This gag is often repeated and appears in shows like Animaniacs and Full House. It gave rise to similar jokes like: “Doctor. Doctor. Doctor.” in Spies Like Us.
The phrase “Moe! Larry! Cheese!” comes from a routine where Curly would become violent after hearing “Pop Goes The Weasel.” He could only be calmed by eating cheese.
Bela Lugosi’s son, Bela G. Lugosi Jr., represented the Fine and DeRita families in a lawsuit against the Howards for royalties.
In the late 90’s Leslie Nielsen hosted a Stooges show on AMC entitled “New Yuck University of Knuckleheads” or “N.Y.U.C.K.” for short.
Moe ran most of the business aspects of the stooges throughout their career. Eventually he founded Comedy 3 Productions to take care of the business needs for him.
During the 3 Stooge’s famous food fight scenes, they would run out of food within the first few minutes of filming. To continue filming they would simply scoop the pies and cakes back into the pie pans and throw them again.
The original Vaudeville act did not have sound effects. The 3 Stooges would have to slap eachother hard enough for the audience to hear.
Although never a Stooge, one of the regulars to perform with Moe and Shemp Howard was fellow Vaudeville actor Fred Sandborn. He would play along side the duo in various acts before their film career started.
Laurel and Hardy’s were angry that they were featured on the show This Is Your Life. It would be their only television appearance. This has nothing to do with the 3 stooges but I’ve always thought it was really interesting.
Ted Healy continued to appear in some shorts until the group parted ways.
The 3 Stooges parted ways with Ted Healy due to his drinking problem.
Bela Lugosi Jr. also worked for Comedy 3 Productions to help with the business aspects of the 3 Stooges.
One of Moe’s most common gags was to wake up to the sound of Curly snoring. He would bonk him on the head and yell “wake up and go to sleep.”
Curly’s snoring was a running gag. It was a very whiney and annoying sound. When Shemp took over the gag he would bark, almost like a sleeping dog.
Barking is often attributed to Curly as a way to provoke people at inappropriate times, but he used this gag very little. It was Shemp who mastered the barking gag and had many scenes where he behaved like a dog for a laugh.
The stooges made wartime patriotic shorts including “You Nazty Spy”, their 44th short.
Due to a similar appearance, Moe would disguise himself as Hitler to escape in wartime episodes.
You Natzy Spy was released in 1940, a time when the US was still nuetral in WWII. It was the first US Movie to make fun of Hitler.
The 3 Stooges short Hello Pop was lost in a vault fire. It was the only 3 stooges Short ever to be lost.
The lost short Hello Pop was found in an Australian movie collection and restored in 2013.
The Australian collectors who saved “Hello Pop” acquired it in the late 50’s by paying garbage truck drivers to give them films from the theaters instead of taking them to the dump.
The term Knuckle Head refers to a mechanicale coupling and was invented in the mid to late 1800’s.
Moe’s bowl cut was an accidental result of cutting his own hair as a child. He kept the hair cut for his act.
Moe cut his own hair because his mother wouldn’t let him get a haircut. He had long hair as a child and hated it.
When Moe first cut his hair into a bowl cut he thought he would be in trouble. He hid from his parents for hours and they thought he ran away.
“I had beautiful wavy hair and a waxed mustache” is a famous quote from Curly in an interview. He said this while recalling how much he hated shaving off his mustache in order to join the Stooges.
The Three Stooges got their star on the Hollywood Walk of fame in 1983.
Curly’s wavy hair can be seen on screen. During his cameo on “Hold That Lion” enough time had passed that he regrew most of his former locks.
The short ‘Men in Black’ was nominated for an academy award.
The only Stooge who attended the addition of a 3 Stooges star on the Hollywood walk of fame was short time stooge Joe Besser.
Shemp invented the eye poke at a poker game. No pun intended.
In an interview, Moe claimed that he laughed so hard that he fell through a glass window the first time he saw a poke in the eye.
3 Stooges’ fellow Comedien Lou Costello had to take a year off from comedy. On the day of his radio show marking his return, his young son died in a tragic accident. Costello went on the air anyway because he knew how much his son wanted to finally hear him on the radio.
In the Short “All Gummed Up” the Stooges accidentally make a youth restoring syrum at a pharmacy and are asked to make it again, having no idea the ingredients. It’s humor is lost today because the days of phramacists mixing sodas and tonics are long gone.
Joe DeRita was made to look like Curly being the only replacement with the signature buzz cut. Even his cartoon was made to resemble Curly.
The 3 Stooges made More short films than Abbot and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, and the Marx Bros. combined.
Number of films:3 Stooges – 190 (For columnbia alone) ; Laurel and Hardy – 106 ; Abbot and Costello – 38 ; Marx Bros. – 29
The Stooges were paid about $7,000 to split between the 3 of them for every short. Their average pay was $448 a week.
The Stooges were paid the same throughout their time making shorts (about $448 a week). By comparison Clark Gable made $4,000 a week during the 30’s and Joan Crawford made $500,000 for 3 films in the 40’s.
“Disorder in the Court,” the trio’s 15th short, is the first short in which Curly changes his spelling from “Curley” to “Curly”
The short Disorder in the Court passed into public Domain in the 1960’s. It is one of 4 shorts to be public domain due to expiration of copyright.
The most famous routine in Disorder in the Court was the “Take off your hat!, Raise your right hand!” skit where Curly would have too many items in his hands to swear an oath before taking the stand. It was taken from another comedian almost exactly.
Jules White was the head of the Columbia short films division. While heading up the department he continued to direct. White went on to direct many 3 Stooges shorts.
The last short the Stooges made was “Sappy Bull Fighters.” It starred Joe Besser as Shemp’s replacement.
Typically only the 190 Shorts that the 3 Stooges made for Columbia are considered when counting Stooge appearances. Most fans discount their movies, cameos, television shows, and music when counting their material. This is why Ted Healy is not normally considered a part of the act.
Joe Palma, the “fake shemp” made an appearance in “Sappy Bull Fighters” as a worker at the bull ring.
“Sappy Bull Fighters” is the shortest running Short that the 3 Stooges made.
“A Pain in the Pullman” is the longest running Short that the 3 Stooges produced. It runs at 19 minutes and 46 seconds. The shortest was 15 minutes and 12 seconds.
In the short Heavenly Daze the Stooges invent a pen that can write under whipped cream. This was a gag about ballpoint pens. At the time they could not write upside down, so marketers would make novelty pens that they claimed could write upside down, under water, or in space!
The Fisher Space Pen, a pen that could write under water, upside down, and in space, was invented in 17 years after the short “Heavenly Daze.” By this time the Stooges reused the plot about a pen that could write under whipped cream in the short “Bedlam in Paradise”
In the short “Bedlam in Paradise” the special effects department messed up a stunt and Larry was accidentally stabbed in the forehead by a fountain pen.
After Larry was accidentally stabbed by a pen in “Bedlam in Paradise” Moe blamed director Jules White and reportadly chased him around the studio.
And one last fake fact written for April Fools…

By the early 70’s, Moe had a difficult time keeping the act together. Curly and Shemp had already passed away and Larry was in failing health. Determined to continue in show business, Moe had to make radical changes to the act. In an ironic twist, Moe faked his own death, put on make up to look younger, and invented the public persona Andy Kaufman. Under this stage name Moe continued to make memberable television appearances on shows like Saturday Night Live and Taxi.

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