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Sunday, April 22, 2012

[Insert Stooge sound effect here]

I'm not exactly a girly girl, never have been. I'm not sure if it's biological, or just the fact that the things that society tells girls to like are lame. Romantic comedies? Lame. Boy bands? Lame. Lifetime, Television for Women? This is an entire channel of made-for-TV movies about kidnappings and breast cancer. Why? Why? Who finds this entertaining?
There is one thing in this world, that inexorably distinguishes me from men, one thing that makes me know I was born to be a woman. The Three Stooges. I will never be man enough for The Three Stooges
On NPR's Fresh Air, I learned that the Three Stooges began when Larry Fine (Louis Fienberg), Moe Howard (Moses Horowitz), and Shemp Howard (Samuel Horowitz), three well-known vaudeville performers, appeared together in 1930 in the film Soup to Nuts as "Ted Healy and his Southern Gentlemen." After that film, Shemp went off to do his own thing, leaving his younger brother Curly Howard (Jerome Horowitz) to fill out the trio. 
According to The Intellectual Devotional, it wasn't until 1934 that Columbia studios signed Larry, Curly, and Moe to create a series of 20-minute shorts that the Stooges really hit the big time. They made their pie-throwing, prat-falling shtick pay off until 1947, when Curly had a career-ending stroke. It was then that Shemp rejoined the group, and remained until his death eight years later. After that, Joe Besser filled the role of Shemp, followed by Curly Joe (Joseph Wardell).

Writing this post, I suddenly realized that I had no idea why vaudeville is called vaudeville. As it turns out, nobody's quite sure, so I don't feel too bad. Wikipedia has several possible etymologies, but the one I find most convincing is that it comes from voix de ville, meaning "songs of the town" or "voice of the city."
When I wrote the word pratfall above, it occurred to me to wonder from whence that term came. The Online Etymology Dictionary tells me that the term comes from around 1939 from prat, meaning bottom, and fall meaning, well, fall. So to pratfall, literally speaking is to fall on one's ass. Something I have done unintentionally in almost every play I've ever been in.
The shtick I mentioned before comes from the Yiddish shtik, for piece or slice, from Middle High German stücke, for piece or play. This word is unrelated to slapstick.
Slapstick is a reference to an object made up of two sticks that slap together when they hit something, making the slapping sound effect that characterized this type of routine.
Slapstick comedy is not to be confused with the Marvel superhero Slapstick, who has the power of "cartoon physics." This is not, sadly, even remotely the stupidest superhero Marvel has ever forced upon us. 
By the way, stooge, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, used to be a word for a stage assistant, and didn't come to mean lackey until after The Stooges hit it big.


Bersercules said...

But a lackey is a "person who does menial work" so a stooge was a lackey and now isn't.

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