A lot of ink has been spilled covering the lives of history’s most influential figures, but how much of the forest is lost for the trees? In Charles River Editors’ American Legends series, readers can get caught up to speed on the lives of America’s most important men and women in the time it takes to finish a commute, while learning interesting facts long forgotten or never known.
There has been no shortage of comedy acts in American history, but the most famous and popular of them all is The Three Stooges, an act that has become synonymous with slapstick. Bring up their name to any American or even ask about slapstick comedy, and invariably, certain images will come to mind, most of which came from the comedy shorts featuring three bumbling but likeable fools getting into all sorts of trouble due to their inability to think or behave properly.
The Three Stooges had several lineups over the decades, but two of them are most closely associated with the act. Two of the Howard brothers, Moe and Shemp, had their origins in 1920s vaudeville along with Larry Fine, but after Shemp quit, he was replaced by his younger brother Curly. Moe, Larry and Curly quickly became a hit in comedy shorts on screen, and even as other similar acts like Abbot and Costello went on to make full length films, the Stooges continued to star in shorts, producing the iconic scenes that everyone associates with them, from Larry asking what he did wrong to Moe trying to hit Curly and Curly’s efforts to block him.