Three Stooges FAQ: Everything Left to Know about the Eye-Poking, Face-Slapping, Head-Thumping Geniuses
by David J. Hogan
408 pages, Illustrated
Book Review by Kam Williams
“The foundation of the legendary comedy act known as the Three Stooges… is the work the team did from 1934-1957. In little 15 to 18-minute films… Moe, Larry, Curly, Shemp and Joe created the body of work that has ensured their immortality—to the dismay of moms everywhere…
This book explores the boys’ personas and comic technique… They were aggressive, physical comics from vaudeville whose humor was based on personal and bodily insult… They’d squash each other, and be squashed by other people…
So, why are they funny? On the one hand, we laugh because the Stooges embody many of our worst instincts, such as the desire for petty revenge… On the other hand, we love the boys because… despite the failings of personality that were built into every script, we knew that the Stooges were good.”
-Excerpted from the Introduction (pages xi-xii)
Time was when part of the rite of passage to manhood involved an addiction to the Three Stooges. There’s something about the comedy team’s uniquely-male brand of slapstick humor which escaped most girls while simultaneously being simply irresistible to prepubescent boys.
Although the Farrelly Brothers will be reviving the franchise with a big screen production next spring, it’s hard to think of anybody playing Moe, Larry and Curly besides Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Curly Howard themselves. For, you even felt a bit of a letdown whenever Curly was replaced by either Shemp Howard or Joe Besser.
If you ever wondered who exactly were the Three Stooges, and how they came to fame, Three Stooges FAQ is the only companion you’ll ever need. Illustrated with lots of photos and movie posters, this encyclopedic opus answers every question you ever wanted ask and more about them and their company of regular co-stars.
Much of the material unearthed by author David J. Hogan is nothing short of fascinating, such as the interesting tidbit that siblings Moe and Shemp started out as minstrels, first appearing on stage in blackface in New York City’s Mystic Theater in 1916, before performing on the vaudeville circuit for a half-dozen years. Or how about the fact that Moe retired from showbiz in 1927 to sell distressed merchandise after the birth of his daughter?
Among the second bananas featured here is Dudley Dickerson, a black actor who, we learn, ended up spending the last decade of his life as a garbage man after enjoying an enduring, if not financially rewarding, career “playing innumerable chauffeurs, porters, waiters, red caps, and cooks from 1934 until his last film in 1959.” Fleshing out the stereotypes he was asked to execute, Dudley managed to maintain his dignity in his episodes opposite the Stooges, whether shining shoes or having the bejesus scared out of him by a ghostlike Curly.
Still, the real reason to take in this enlightening tome is for pleasure of taking a nostalgic walk down Memory Lane while reminiscing about Moe, Larry and Curly’s pratfalls and classic lines like, “I’ll murder you!” “I’m warning you!” “Pick two fingers!” Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk!” and “I’m sorry, Moe!”