Cook'd and Bomb'd

Forums => Comedy Chat => Topic started by: Barry Admin on May 13, 2022, 12:13:47 AM

Title: Who's on First
Post by: Barry Admin on May 13, 2022, 12:13:47 AM
I'm completely fascinated by this bit at the moment and would love to learn more about it. A friend brought it to mind with a gif of this scene from Winnie the Pooh:


It has the same kind of misunderstanding and wordplay, particularly near the end.

So that got me to thinking about Who's on First. This is seemingly the earliest filmed version:


And I really like this later version as it has an audience:


As I say, I'd love to know more about the history of the bit, and also if there are any known antedecents to it, or whether it's just considered a product of music halls and such.
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: Dex Sawash on May 13, 2022, 12:53:13 AM

tomorrow
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: letsgobrian on May 13, 2022, 01:40:54 AM
Long had a soft spot for the Woodstock Slappy version from Animaniacs, definitely helped by being one of the TMS animated sketches.


I remember the Slovin & Allen version from their Comedy Central special being funnier than I'm now finding it in 2022.

https://streamable.com/tmn55t (https://streamable.com/tmn55t)
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: Petey Pate on May 13, 2022, 10:16:55 AM
Quote from: letsgobrian on May 13, 2022, 01:40:54 AMLong had a soft spot for the Woodstock Slappy version from Animaniacs, definitely helped by being one of the TMS animated sketches.


That's very similar to the version of the routine performed by The Credibility Gap in the early 1970s, using band names such as The Who and Yes. Harry Shearer plays a rock musician here before Spinal Tap.


The routine is not really that well know in the UK is it? Presumably because the baseball connection and Abbott and Costello not being TV mainstays like Laurel and Hardy. That said, I'm sure that there have been Anglicised versions of it, and it's not as if there aren't equally famous British comedy bits based on misunderstanding and wordplay (Four Candles comes immediately to mind).
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: wrec on May 13, 2022, 10:26:07 AM
I definitely saw it as a kid - not sure if it was in some kind of clip show or what. And there was a lot of old American comedy on Irish TV in the 80s. But I've  referenced it, online and off, to people I'd assume would know it, only to be met with bewilderment.
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: The Culture Bunker on May 13, 2022, 10:26:16 AM
I think my first "exposure" to the sketch was the Skinner/Chalmers reference to it in the Simpsons, an it went totally over my head not only from having no knowledge of the original skit but also knowing nothing about baseball positions.

The Police Squad! "who shot Twice?" is perhaps my favourite spin on the idea, if that counts.
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: BeardFaceMan on May 13, 2022, 10:48:11 AM

Is the version that always springs to mind when I hear this.
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: gilbertharding on May 13, 2022, 11:14:21 AM
As an English person born in 1969, I can confidently say the first time I ever heard of this 'bit' was the first time Rain Man was broadcast on tv. If I'd seen it at the cinema, then it would have been then.

Perhaps older British people than me would have heard about the Abbott & Costello version, but there can't have been many of them...
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: notjosh on May 13, 2022, 11:23:21 AM
This one from Airplane II was shared (INAPPROPRIATELY) in the Zucker Bros thread.


Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: Barry Admin on May 13, 2022, 11:38:27 AM
Wow it's really interesting to see that people have such different experiences of this famous bit. I can't even remember when I first saw or heard of it tbh.

I definitely watched Abbott and Coatello whenever I could as a kid. Wasn't so much into the horror films really, I think. I'd be intrigued to know if their TV show was shown over here?

Quote from: wikiThe key to the routine is Costello's mounting frustration set against Abbott's unyielding formality.

That's wiki's analysis of Who's on First, and it says it was based on "other earlier burlesque wordplay routines", which I'm really keen to find out more about.

I love the sense of rhythm - just the sheer speed and passion of Costello's New Jersey delivery is wonderful.
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: JaDanketies on May 13, 2022, 11:41:48 AM
Quote from: The Culture Bunker on May 13, 2022, 10:26:16 AMI think my first "exposure" to the sketch was the Skinner/Chalmers reference to it in the Simpsons

"Not the pronoun, but rather a player with the unlikely name of "Who" is on first."

I think I got the joke from that little skit, but I think I've seen a longer version of it too. The Simpsons also had an Iranian one; Krusty says: "Hussein's on First, Ayatollah's on second and..."  I can imagine there's a good full-length version of this joke out there but finding the Simpsons quote was challenging enough
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: Minneapolis Fuckhat on May 13, 2022, 11:51:42 AM
Someone did a deep dive of the origins of this a few years ago but, usefully, I can't remember who.
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: Better Midlands on May 13, 2022, 11:59:01 AM
The first time I heard of 'Who's On First?' was in Rain Man

Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: Gurke and Hare on May 13, 2022, 12:18:00 PM
Quote from: notjosh on May 13, 2022, 11:23:21 AMThis one from Airplane II was shared (INAPPROPRIATELY) in the Zucker Bros thread.

Also:

Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: Claude the Racecar Driving Rockstar Super Sleuth on May 13, 2022, 12:35:25 PM
Quote from: The Culture Bunker on May 13, 2022, 10:26:16 AMThe Police Squad! "who shot Twice?" is perhaps my favourite spin on the idea, if that counts.
That was the first example I thought of. Here it is:

Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: Ignatius_S on May 13, 2022, 12:43:13 PM
Quote from: Barry Admin on May 13, 2022, 11:38:27 AM...That's wiki's analysis of Who's on First, and it says it was based on "other earlier burlesque wordplay routines", which I'm really keen to find out more about.

I love the sense of rhythm - just the sheer speed and passion of Costello's New Jersey delivery is wonderful.

It's a fascinating routine, both for the construction and its cultural impact; I got so interested that I did a lot of research into it.

In a nutshell, in American burlesque, there were a number of standard comedy routines that lots of performers did. People did the same sketches, but the difference is how they did them - i.e. know you tell the joke - different comedians would add their own touches. When Phil Silvers made his name as one of the top comedians in burlesque (and David Everitt's excellent biography of Nat Hiken has a lot of information about this), he always had a straight man but that straight man would change in every city. Essentially, Silvers would go to another city, pick up another comedian who would work as a straight man. They would do stock sketches, but the art was how Silvers come up with such great lines and ad-libbed material - no need to rehearse, just let Silvers do his thing. On USO tours, Silvers did a routine with Sinatra where he was giving the tips on how to be a good singer and one can easily imagine how Silvers would just make up new things or deliver them slightly different each time.  However, Silvers' deserved reputation for my an incredibly creative comedian who could just improvise and ad-lib did go against him as writers in some shows he was in, just wrote things like 'Phil to fill in ten minutes' for his funny spots.

There were lots of variation on the theme in Who's on First? and by the 1930s, there was what was considered 'the baseball scene' being performed - who actually wrote it, nobody knows. However, it's best to see the routine, like so much in burlesque, as a framework that comedians worked to, rather than a fixed script. (Burlesque didn't do scripts.) When Abbott & Costello performed their version on The Kate Smith Variety Show (although this was hugely popular and long-running, only a few episodes are in existence) to get acclaim. It made their names as national stars, but to a lot in the comedy industry, that name was mud - it was an incredibly unpopular move.

One issue was that it meant that comedians could no longer do the baseball routine because sp many people already knew it - and knew it as Abbott & Costello's sketch. Another issue was that, to all intents and purposes, the basic sketch like so much in burlesque, was in the public domain but A&C was symbolically claiming ownership by the performing it on radio and then claiming it legally by obtaining copyright. From various things I've read, this really make a lot of people in the business view the pair incredibly negative.

This is a decent and pretty comprehensive look at the A&C's routine and the history of the routine together with the nature of comedy in American burlesque: https://www.abbottandcostellofanclub.com/whos-on-first/
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: David Pielingtonburygrot on May 13, 2022, 12:45:28 PM
Fox News unintentional twattishness:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9uhbAWNpcaI&ab_channel=MovieClipsandMashups
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: boinks on May 13, 2022, 12:46:55 PM
This more basic but still enjoyable scene from The Monkees tv show (Peter interviewed by a computer) reminds me of it too:
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: Ignatius_S on May 13, 2022, 12:52:22 PM
Quote from: Barry Admin on May 13, 2022, 11:38:27 AMWow it's really interesting to see that people have such different experiences of this famous bit. I can't even remember when I first saw or heard of it tbh.

I definitely watched Abbott and Coatello whenever I could as a kid. Wasn't so much into the horror films really, I think. I'd be intrigued to know if their TV show was shown over here?

I don't think their television show was shown over here - it would have been possible to listen to their radio ones via American Forces radio stations; exposure to US comedy this way was very influential on British comedy, including the likes of Bob Monkhouse and Dennis Godwin who effectively plagiarised it (but they wouldn't haven't alone by a long shot).

The TV show makes heavy use of burlesque routines, which is one reason why it's worth watching. But depending how much likes A&C means mileage will vary...
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: Barry Admin on May 13, 2022, 12:56:20 PM
@Ignatius_S superb post! Exactly the sort of info I was after regarding the history of the bit, thank you.
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: Twilkes on May 13, 2022, 01:03:06 PM
Jerry Seinfeld did a half hour TV show on it back in 2012 but it's not available anywhere online from what I've found. It may just be focused on the A&C routine though, not any prehistory.
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: FredNurke on May 13, 2022, 01:14:32 PM
Arguably goes all the way back to the Odyssey, with Odysseus claiming to be called "No-one", leading to the blinded Cyclops shouting out "No-one has wounded me!" and his mates all shouting back "Good for you!" and so on.
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: Barry Admin on May 13, 2022, 01:17:49 PM
Quote from: Ignatius_S on May 13, 2022, 12:43:13 PMhttps://www.abbottandcostellofanclub.com/whos-on-first/

Jesus Christ this is fucking brilliant, thanks again. I'm this far in:

QuoteIn "The Rogers Bros. in Panama," Gus was a character named "Hugo Kisser," while Max was named "A. Gustave Windt." Variety's critic gushed, "It is simply a shrieking delight to hear Gus tell his brother his name is 'You-go-kiss her' and have Max ask 'Who?' with many repetitions. It's screamingly ridiculous, and so original. Then Max says he is 'A Gust of Wind.' It is no use talking; they do know comedy on Broadway."

...and I just wanna know more more more and don't want it to end. I really love this kind of wordplay when it's well done, the "Airplane!" scene above is one that always lives with me.

I'm dying to know more about burlesque comedy now, this has been fascinating.
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: Barry Admin on May 13, 2022, 01:23:48 PM
Oh my gawd:

Quote from: that articleThe "Nobody" idea wasn't original, either. It goes back nearly three thousand years to The Odyssey, where the Greek hero Odysseus tells the man-eating Cyclops Polyphemus that his name is "Nobody." Later, when Odysseus and his men drive a red-hot staff into its eye, Polyphemus bellows, "Help! Nobody's killing me! Nobody's killing me!" None of the other Cyclopes bother to come to his aid. (Similarly, in 12th century Welsh folklore, King Arthur slayed the three sisters of the giant Cribwr by introducing himself as "Hot Soup" to the first sister; "Warm Porridge" to the second; and "Piece of Bread" to the third. When the first sister cried out for help against "Hot Soup," Cribwr answered, "Silly girl, let it cool." When his second sister sought help against "Warm Porridge," Cribwr answered the same way. And, when the third sister cried out that "Piece of Bread" was choking her, Cribwr answered, "Silly girl, take a smaller piece.")
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: Ferris on May 13, 2022, 01:24:17 PM
THAT'S WHAT I'M ASKIN' YA!!
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: notjosh on May 13, 2022, 01:25:45 PM
Quote from: boinks on May 13, 2022, 12:46:55 PMThis more basic but still enjoyable scene from The Monkees tv show (Peter interviewed by a computer) reminds me of it too:

Shades of Harry Speakup (https://youtu.be/Cr2171o39HM?t=35) in that.
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: Ballad of Ballard Berkley on May 13, 2022, 01:27:36 PM
Abbott & Costello's films were on TV a lot in the '80s and early '90s. They were regulars in BBC Two's 6pm classic comedy slot (alongside the likes of Laurel & Hardy, Jerry Lewis, Norman Wisdom and Will Hay). Also, Channel 4 aired The Abbott & Costello Show in a similar early evening slot. The Paramount Comedy Channel showed it in the mid-'90s too, albeit in a late-night slot (which made it feel more special). Thanks to those broadcasts, I built up quite a collection of their stuff on VHS!

As for Who's On First, that early '50s version shared by Neil above is phenomenal. The way they play off the studio audience's growing hysteria is just so joyous to behold. Two comedy maestros in their absolute element.
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: Ferris on May 13, 2022, 01:40:11 PM
Quote from: Ignatius_S on May 13, 2022, 12:43:13 PMIt's a fascinating routine, both for the construction and its cultural impact; I got so interested that I did a lot of research into it.

In a nutshell, in American burlesque, there were a number of standard comedy routines that lots of performers did. People did the same sketches, but the difference is how they did them - i.e. know you tell the joke - different comedians would add their own touches. When Phil Silvers made his name as one of the top comedians in burlesque (and David Everitt's excellent biography of Nat Hiken has a lot of information about this), he always had a straight man but that straight man would change in every city. Essentially, Silvers would go to another city, pick up another comedian who would work as a straight man. They would do stock sketches, but the art was how Silvers come up with such great lines and ad-libbed material - no need to rehearse, just let Silvers do his thing. On USO tours, Silvers did a routine with Sinatra where he was giving the tips on how to be a good singer and one can easily imagine how Silvers would just make up new things or deliver them slightly different each time.  However, Silvers' deserved reputation for my an incredibly creative comedian who could just improvise and ad-lib did go against him as writers in some shows he was in, just wrote things like 'Phil to fill in ten minutes' for his funny spots.

There were lots of variation on the theme in Who's on First? and by the 1930s, there was what was considered 'the baseball scene' being performed - who actually wrote it, nobody knows. However, it's best to see the routine, like so much in burlesque, as a framework that comedians worked to, rather than a fixed script. (Burlesque didn't do scripts.) When Abbott & Costello performed their version on The Kate Smith Variety Show (although this was hugely popular and long-running, only a few episodes are in existence) to get acclaim. It made their names as national stars, but to a lot in the comedy industry, that name was mud - it was an incredibly unpopular move.

One issue was that it meant that comedians could no longer do the baseball routine because sp many people already knew it - and knew it as Abbott & Costello's sketch. Another issue was that, to all intents and purposes, the basic sketch like so much in burlesque, was in the public domain but A&C was symbolically claiming ownership by the performing it on radio and then claiming it legally by obtaining copyright. From various things I've read, this really make a lot of people in the business view the pair incredibly negative.

This is a decent and pretty comprehensive look at the A&C's routine and the history of the routine together with the nature of comedy in American burlesque: https://www.abbottandcostellofanclub.com/whos-on-first/

I didn't know there was such a communal pool of material (and the scourge of someone doing the shared gags on telly and removing them from the pool for everyone else) - reminds me of '70s club comics who would all pick gags out of a hat before they went on (with the headliner getting first choice).

Edit: just watched the audeince version posted by Barry and I'd sort of forgotten the physical comedy. It's quite hard to bonk yourself on the head with a baseball bat in a way that is funny, and genuine-seeming, but also not fairly painful. This is experience talking.
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: Kelvin on May 13, 2022, 01:42:27 PM
I'm unable to find a copy online, but bizarrely my introduction to this bit was in a comic at the back of the Turok: Dinosaur Hunter videogame manual for N64. In it, Turok is forced to fight for his life in a Gladiator pit, and for reasons I can't remember he manages to win his freedom by bamboozling the tyrant chief by reciting the Whose on First routine. Always stuck with me, and I still associate it first and foremost with the game for that reason. 
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: Ballad of Ballard Berkley on May 13, 2022, 01:44:02 PM
Quote from: Ignatius_S on May 13, 2022, 12:43:13 PMWhen Phil Silvers made his name as one of the top comedians in burlesque (and David Everitt's excellent biography of Nat Hiken has a lot of information about this), he always had a straight man but that straight man would change in every city. Essentially, Silvers would go to another city, pick up another comedian who would work as a straight man. They would do stock sketches, but the art was how Silvers come up with such great lines and ad-libbed material - no need to rehearse, just let Silvers do his thing. On USO tours, Silvers did a routine with Sinatra where he was giving the tips on how to be a good singer and one can easily imagine how Silvers would just make up new things or deliver them slightly different each time.  However, Silvers' deserved reputation for my an incredibly creative comedian who could just improvise and ad-lib did go against him as writers in some shows he was in, just wrote things like 'Phil to fill in ten minutes' for his funny spots.

Fascinating stuff as always, Ignatius. I love finding out more about this particular era of comedy.
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: Sonny_Jim on May 13, 2022, 01:45:35 PM
Kids in the hall doing 'What if the straight man was too straight'

Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: Petey Pate on May 13, 2022, 03:10:09 PM
Quote from: Ballad of Ballard Berkley on May 13, 2022, 01:27:36 PMAbbott & Costello's films were on TV a lot in the '80s and early '90s. They were regulars in BBC Two's 6pm classic comedy slot (alongside the likes of Laurel & Hardy, Jerry Lewis, Norman Wisdom and Will Hay). Also, Channel 4 aired The Abbott & Costello Show in a similar early evening slot. The Paramount Comedy Channel showed it in the mid-'90s too, albeit in a late-night slot (which made it feel more special). Thanks to those broadcasts, I built up quite a collection of their stuff on VHS!

Ah I wasn't aware that Abbott and Costello were shown regularly on British TV as late as the 90s. I definitely recall seeing Laurel and Hardy shorts on the BBC, even in the noughties, and from my experience they seem to be household names in a way that A&C aren't.

My first exposure to Abbott and Costello was via them being caricatured in old Warner Bros cartoons, there were even recurring characters based on them, either depicted as cats or mice. This short also has the distinction of being the first appearance of Tweety.

Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: Famous Mortimer on May 13, 2022, 03:24:13 PM
I have a very vague memory of some show (hosted by Rolf Harris?) which showed the routine alongside other old clips, probably 80s or 90s.
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: letsgobrian on May 13, 2022, 03:37:07 PM
Talking of Seinfeld and Who's on First, this version of the sketch from The Tonight Show would be great if Jimmy Fallon could memorise lines and not have to be transfixed to his cue cards like a rabbit in headlights.

Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: retsuza on May 13, 2022, 03:43:43 PM
This take on it from Chris and Jack is pretty good


Worth checking out their old videos if you want some very funny and sometimes just somewhat funny comedy sketches,
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: Glebe on May 13, 2022, 03:47:18 PM
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: Barry Admin on May 13, 2022, 03:57:54 PM
Quote from: letsgobrian on May 13, 2022, 03:37:07 PMTalking of Seinfeld and Who's on First, this version of the sketch from The Tonight Show would be great if Jimmy Fallon could memorise lines and not have to be transfixed to his cue cards like a rabbit in headlights.

Watched that earlier - it's linked at the end of the article Ingatius_S posted, alone with a sadly now-removed Steve Allen video.

Anyway yeah, the whole thing is fucking awful, and serves only to highlight the exceptional pacing and rhythm that A&C had spent so long perfecting. As much as I love Seinfeld, the applause for Jerry turning up goes on much, much too long, which again is to the detriment of the bit in terms of pacing.
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: Ferris on May 13, 2022, 04:04:57 PM
Seinfeld not bothering to take off his massive Rolex either.
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: Captain Z on May 13, 2022, 04:30:33 PM
So who or what is the best version of this?
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: wrec on May 13, 2022, 05:00:12 PM
Quote from: David Pielingtonburygrot on May 13, 2022, 12:45:28 PMFox News unintentional twattishness:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9uhbAWNpcaI&ab_channel=MovieClipsandMashups

Nah this is definitely a deliberate attempt that kind of routine, just done really badly.
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: EOLAN on May 13, 2022, 05:04:25 PM
Quote from: Captain Z on May 13, 2022, 04:30:33 PMSo who or what is the best version of this?

I don't know.


Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: JaDanketies on May 13, 2022, 05:11:38 PM
Quote from: Captain Z on May 13, 2022, 04:30:33 PMSo who or what is the best version of this?

that's right.
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: Ferris on May 13, 2022, 05:12:01 PM
Quote from: Captain Z on May 13, 2022, 04:30:33 PMSo who or what is the best version of this?

Exactly.
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: Barry Admin on May 13, 2022, 05:18:04 PM
Quote from: Captain Z on May 13, 2022, 04:30:33 PMSo who or what is the best version of this?

Enjoyed the responses to this :-)

The 8 minute version in the OP is super as you hear the audience reaction and they really rip the arse out of the whole conceit.

The article @Ignatius_S linked to recommends this as the definitive version though, and it is very, very good. Costello's mounting frustration is particularly great in this one:

Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: Video Game Fan 2000 on May 13, 2022, 06:15:59 PM
nm
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: Ballad of Ballard Berkley on May 13, 2022, 07:02:05 PM
Can't remember which episode of Seinfeld this occurs in, but there's a nice, knowing moment where an exasperated Jerry says to George, "What is this, an Abbott and Costello routine?!"

Seinfeld has always said that he and Alexander modelled their crosstalk rhythms and cadences on Abbott & Costello. They've come closer than most in capturing that dynamic.

Here's Seinfeld, Larry Charles and Larry Miller talking about how much of an influence they've had on their work.


De Niro and Keitel were also directly influenced by Bud and Lou during some of their semi-improvised scenes in Mean Streets, and they do a pretty good job. Two performers with natural chemistry bouncing off each other.

But Pesci is the true Scorsese repertory company heir to Lou Costello, isn't he? They're both from Newark, New Jersey. They sound almost exactly alike. That rapid delivery, the sheer explosive energy of it all.

Long post, sorry. But I love Abbott & Costello, hence my uncurbed enthusiasm for this thread.
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: letsgobrian on May 13, 2022, 11:43:47 PM
Quote from: Ballad of Ballard Berkley on May 13, 2022, 07:02:05 PMCan't remember which episode of Seinfeld this occurs in, but there's a nice, knowing moment where an exasperated Jerry says to George, "What is this, an Abbott and Costello routine?!"

Season 3's "The Tape".

Jerry: Does she know?
George: No!
Jerry: How did it happen?
George: I can't say.
Jerry: Well, why can't you say it?
George: Because I promised her.
Jerry: I thought you just said she doesn't know?
George: She doesn't.
Jerry: So how can you promise her?
George: Because she asked me to.
Jerry: What is this, an Abbott and Costello routine?
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: bakabaka on May 14, 2022, 06:45:17 AM
Quote from: Barry Admin on May 13, 2022, 01:17:49 PMI'm dying to know more about burlesque comedy now, this has been fascinating.
Archive.org has quite a few recordings of early Vaudeville/burlesque acts from as far back as the 1880s. I did a show on them back in the day but found it hard work as a sizeable proportion were basically just racism as comedy. If you find punching an Irish or Chinese person in the face funny, then you're in for a treat. The only other problem is that the wordplay ones suffer from being 100 year old recordings - hopefully they've updated them with better quality recordings in the last 10 years.
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: notjosh on May 14, 2022, 06:53:54 AM
Starting to think I should watch some more Abbott and Costello. Which of their films is the best showcase of their act?
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: Ballad of Ballard Berkley on May 14, 2022, 08:07:08 AM
Quote from: notjosh on May 14, 2022, 06:53:54 AMStarting to think I should watch some more Abbott and Costello. Which of their films is the best showcase of their act?

Who Done It?, In Society and Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein. Also, The Abbott & Costello Show is a fantastic compendium of all their greatest routines.
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: David Pielingtonburygrot on May 14, 2022, 05:11:00 PM
A mini version of this joke unintentionally occured with my kid and her mate only half an hour ago:

"Are you watching Eurovision tonight?"

"What do you mean - am i watching my revision tonight?!"

Actually went back and forth like that for quite a while, but disappointingly lacked Abbot and Costello's structure and timing.
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: lauraxsynthesis on May 14, 2022, 07:00:57 PM
I liked A&C as a child but that sketch probably wouldn't have made an impression on me but for the fact that when it came on my dad mentioned it was a classic.

My fave update is Rob Newman noting in 2005 that the President of China was called Hu Jintao and the  Prime Minister was called Wen Jiabao.

34 minutes in:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2DCwafIntj0

ABBOTT: Hu is Prime minister of China?

COSTELLO: No, Wen is Prime Minister

ABBOTT: Who's President that's what I'm asking?

COSTELLO: That's what I told you.

ABBOTT: Wen

COSTELLO: No that's the Prime Minister

ABBOTT: I know that, I wanna know who's the President?

COSTELLO: He's the guy.

ABBOTT: Who's the guy?

COSTELLO: That's the guy I'm telling you  about.

ABBOTT: Don't start that again.

Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: gilbertharding on May 14, 2022, 11:09:16 PM
The reason the bit never caught on here has nothing to do with how often A&C films were shown on TV, and loads to do with the fact it's about baseball. Of course it could have been rewritten to suit some other national past time, and probably was, but 'who's on first' just wouldn't have meant anything.
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: Ballad of Ballard Berkley on May 14, 2022, 11:15:02 PM
You don't need to know a single thing about baseball to enjoy that routine. They could be talking about any team sport, the specific rules of the game itself are irrelevant.
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: non capisco on May 15, 2022, 12:00:22 AM
Nothing to add but have loved the fuck out of this thread. The comedy obsessive side of CaB at its down a specific rabbit hole best.
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: Ballad of Ballard Berkley on May 15, 2022, 12:18:05 AM
Quote from: letsgobrian on May 13, 2022, 11:43:47 PMSeason 3's "The Tape".

Jerry: Does she know?
George: No!
Jerry: How did it happen?
George: I can't say.
Jerry: Well, why can't you say it?
George: Because I promised her.
Jerry: I thought you just said she doesn't know?
George: She doesn't.
Jerry: So how can you promise her?
George: Because she asked me to.
Jerry: What is this, an Abbott and Costello routine?

Ah yes, thank you!
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: wrec on May 16, 2022, 12:07:01 PM
Quote from: Ballad of Ballard Berkley on May 13, 2022, 07:02:05 PMHere's Seinfeld, Larry Charles and Larry Miller talking about how much of an influence they've had on their work.


This is excellent. Very easy to find the sketches they refer to on YouTube also.
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: Blumf on May 16, 2022, 01:54:51 PM
Here's a recent version of the idea, involving The Three Stooges and spoilers for the current Doctor Strange film:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5dNlxNuABtA
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: Vonscharpling on May 16, 2022, 02:37:49 PM
There was a version I saw on the comedy central website probably more than ten years ago and I just can't seem to find it anywhere.

It was a clip that was presumably taken from a live to a theatre audience sketch show featuring two American guys that I don't *think* were that famous. And they performed the routine but with the real names of baseball players "I'm asking YOU emiliano Rodriguez is on first"

Does anyone have any idea what I might be thinking of?
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: Brundle-Fly on May 16, 2022, 06:15:13 PM
Quote from: Ballad of Ballard Berkley on May 14, 2022, 08:07:08 AMAbbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein.

Funny, and surprisingly scary. As a kid, I also liked Abbott & Costello Go To Mars (1953) from what I remember. It is of specific interest for the comedy enthusiast, because it features Harry Shearer, no less!

Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: Ballad of Ballard Berkley on May 16, 2022, 06:48:30 PM
Quote from: Brundle-Fly on May 16, 2022, 06:15:13 PMAs a kid, I also liked Abbott & Costello Go To Mars (1953) from what I remember. It is of specific interest for the comedy enthusiast, because it features Harry Shearer, no less!


On a vaguely similar tip, here's a 12-year-old Kurt Russell kicking Elvis in the shin.


Russell later went on to play The King in John Carpenter's 1979 biopic.
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: ramsobot on May 16, 2022, 07:01:12 PM
Quote from: Vonscharpling on May 16, 2022, 02:37:49 PMThere was a version I saw on the comedy central website probably more than ten years ago and I just can't seem to find it anywhere.

It was a clip that was presumably taken from a live to a theatre audience sketch show featuring two American guys that I don't *think* were that famous. And they performed the routine but with the real names of baseball players "I'm asking YOU emiliano Rodriguez is on first"

Does anyone have any idea what I might be thinking of?

That was the Slovin and Allen routine referenced above. Here's a link. (https://streamable.com/tmn55t)

I used to have a live recording of them doing their Tito Martinez "Who's On First?" and then transitioning into French for no reason.
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: Brundle-Fly on May 17, 2022, 04:03:31 PM
Quote from: Ballad of Ballard Berkley on May 16, 2022, 06:48:30 PMOn a vaguely similar tip, here's a 12-year-old Kurt Russell kicking Elvis in the shin.

"Adults.They're all nutz!"
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: Darles Chickens on May 29, 2022, 10:06:34 AM
That Police Squad sketch is the pinnacle of the genre for me; beautifully written and acted, never fails to amuse me and I must have seen it a hundred times.  The Abbot and Costello sketch goes on a bit, but it's nice to see the genesis of this kind of heavy wordplay skit.

On the other hand, here's an example of how not to do it.

(https://www.worldofspectrum.org//pub/sinclair/games-inlays/d/DoctorWhat.jpg)

It sounds like it was hurriedly written by a 12 year old, thinking they were being clever.  Maybe it was.
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: zomgmouse on June 02, 2022, 04:25:26 AM
Chuckle Brothers doing a sort of version of this from about 2m55s https://youtu.be/JUS4hU2IOIE
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: zomgmouse on June 02, 2022, 10:10:37 AM
and one in a Garfield cartoon: https://youtu.be/eaajj_Tzzdc

(namechecks Abbott & Costello)
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: Sonny_Jim on June 02, 2022, 11:47:34 AM
The amount of work the sound effects guy did on that first short is absolutely minimal.  It's like he listened to the first three tracks on HB01 (https://archive.org/details/HB01SFX/01+1+Cartoon+Fred's+Flintmobile+Auto+Take+Off.mp3) and went 'yeah fuck it, that'll do'.
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: famethrowa on June 02, 2022, 02:03:58 PM
Quote from: Darles Chickens on May 29, 2022, 10:06:34 AM(https://www.worldofspectrum.org//pub/sinclair/games-inlays/d/DoctorWhat.jpg)


Love that Doctor Whati
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: Famous Mortimer on June 13, 2022, 06:42:52 PM
(https://live.staticflickr.com/65535/52143836858_14ce2a61af_z.jpg)

Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: Ferris on June 14, 2022, 03:59:08 PM
Thought I'd mentioned this already, but the Dodgers had a Taiwanese minor league prospect by the name of Chin-Lung Hu who made a few appearances in the majors and hit at least one single.

I remember Vin Scully (I think?) getting terribly excited about loudly announcing "Hu's on first".

Can't find the clip on youtube, annoyingly.
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: letsgobrian on June 14, 2022, 07:10:38 PM
Quote from: Ferris on June 14, 2022, 03:59:08 PMThought I'd mentioned this already, but the Dodgers had a Taiwanese minor league prospect by the name of Chin-Lung Hu who made a few appearances in the majors and hit at least one single.

I remember Vin Scully (I think?) getting terribly excited about loudly announcing "Hu's on first".

Can't find the clip on youtube, annoyingly.

Here's a phone-pointed-at-the-TV clip of it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWei5rfeSPA
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: A Hat Like That on June 15, 2022, 02:15:10 PM
Quote from: zomgmouse on June 02, 2022, 04:25:26 AMChuckle Brothers doing a sort of version of this from about 2m55s https://youtu.be/JUS4hU2IOIE

Well, I enjoyed that.

Also, isn't that their older brother, Jimmy, who was part of his own comedy brother-based duo? The other brother, Brian, likely plays the character mentioned in the monologue at the end of the sketch. Same catchphrase.
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: Brundle-Fly on June 15, 2022, 05:20:58 PM
More back and forth comedy.

Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: Ignatius_S on June 30, 2022, 06:44:15 PM
Quote from: Barry Admin on May 13, 2022, 01:17:49 PMJesus Christ this is fucking brilliant, thanks again. I'm this far in:

...and I just wanna know more more more and don't want it to end. I really love this kind of wordplay when it's well done, the "Airplane!" scene above is one that always lives with me....

Many belated thanks for starting the thread; it's great to see so much discussion. I had meant to respond sooner but hadn't be able to.

Really glad that you liked that article - there's some irony as it was one of the last things I found about it but provides by the far the best  overview.  However, it was fun finding various bits and pieces about the routine and its history, and it was all useful when assessing this article.

Quote from: Barry Admin on May 13, 2022, 01:17:49 PMI'm dying to know more about burlesque comedy now, this has been fascinating.

Slowly I Turned is one significant routine that's definitely worth looking at - many versions have been recorded and it's a classic example of the way that a burlesque comedy routine can be performed differently by different performers. There are many variations on the theme and sure that people can think of examples. It also highlights one of the problems with looking at burlesque comedy - often, 'vaudeville' will be misleadingly referred to instead. Wikipedia is incredibly bad for this. For instance, the entry for Joey Faye (more on him in a bit) one of the people who lay claim to originating Slowly I Turned, has no mention of burlesque, just vaudeville - although he did work in vaudeville, he had far more experience in burlesque and when he died, this was reflected in his obituaries.

My gut feeling is that this is for a number of reasons - e.g. burlesque had nothing to do with comedy or when it did, the comedy was lousy and the good stuff was in vaudeville;  a belief that vaudeville and burlesque can be used interchangeably and general misunderstandings about burlesque comedy.  An elderly Faye appeared in a show with a modern performer in the 1990s, who was involved in burlesque comedy recreations and who said people looked confused when he said he performed in burlesque (but isn't that just strippers?) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQX9tJFBk0w - around the 20 minute mark, Faye is asked about how he got his ideas and like his response of 'there was general thievery all round' and makes an interesting claim that Mary Chase's Harvey was inspired by a burlesque skit. Leslie Zemeckis, who directed a documentary about burlesque in the first half of the twentieth century, Behind the Burly Q and followed the up with a book of the same name (which I have but haven't got round to reading yet), said in one interview that when she started the project, hadn't appreciated just how important  the comedy was or how big some of the burlesque houses were.

Although there are crossovers and similarities between vaudeville and burlesque, there are significant differences. For example, American burlesque comedy started at the beginning of the 1840s and replicated Victorian burlesque and other European burlesque, sending up serious plays and operas (and the well to do who patronised them); Lynda Thompson in the tail-end of the 1870s was another significant British influence. So by the time Abbott & Costello first performed Who's on First? on the radio, burlesque comedy in America was approaching in its centenary and was in its dying days. Whereas, American vaudeville - although in some ways also imported from Europe - really originated from variety shows held in saloons during the 1860s, which is a couple of decades earlier than vaudeville is normally said to have started in the US (as suggested elsewhere in the thread).

Burlesque was for the working people; vaudeville aimed more at the middle and upper-classes. The former was a lot more affordable and comedian Joe Cook (https://lakehopatconghistory.com/lake-hopatcongs-brightest-star/) as quoted in James Curtis' biography of WC Fields stated, it "was at one time the swellest entertainment you could find. It was a mixture, at a lower price, of most of the good qualities of musical comedy, plus the good qualities of vaudeville."  That said, there were upmarket presentations and as Curtis comments,  Ziegfeld's Follies of 1907 was a revue "that dressed burlesque up in jewels and evening wear and took New York by storm." The famous chorus line was pure burlesque and many of the top talents employed, such as Fields and Will Rogers had grafted hard in burlesque.Vaudeville was dominated by a small amount of powerful booking agencies/individuals, very unlike burlesque.

But I digress....

Turning back to Slowly I Turned, a decent summary is in Wikipedia (albeit referring it to a vaudeville routine):

QuoteThe routine features a man [usually a man but not exclusively] recounting the day he took his revenge on his enemy – and becoming so engrossed in his own tale that he attacks the innocent listener to whom he is speaking. The attacker comes to his senses, only to go berserk again when the listener says something that triggers the old memory again.

Typically, the routine has two characters meeting for the first time, with one of them becoming highly agitated over the utterance of particular words. Names and cities (such as Niagara Falls) have been used as the trigger, which then sends the unbalanced person into a dissociative state; the implication is that the words have an unpleasant association in the character's past. While the other character merely acts bewildered, the crazed character relives the incident, uttering the words, "Slowly I turned ... step by step ... inch by inch...," as he approaches the stunned onlooker.

Reacting as if this stranger is the object of his rage, the angry character begins hitting or strangling him, until the screams of the victim shake him out of his dissociative state. The character then apologizes, admitting his irrational reaction to the mention of those certain words. This follows with the victim innocently repeating the words, sparking the insane reaction all over again. This pattern is repeated in various forms, sometimes with the entrance of a third actor, uninformed as to the situation. This third person predictably ends up mentioning the words and setting off the manic character, but with the twist that the second character, not this new third person, is still the recipient of the violence.

Some examples of versions:


I would say that there are variations of this theme when someone hasn't committed revenge but is engrossed in recollecting something. For instance, one of the Pink Panther films, where Lom's Dreyfus is relaying to his psychiatrist about his recurring thoughts about Clouseau (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6PmscnoB0c). Another is in the first Road to... film where Jerry Colonna becomes so indignant when someone questions whether he has seen Bing Crosby's character that he begins to acting out that physical treatment that was metered out to him.

Going back to Faye, he worked as second banana to Phil Silvers in two hit Broadway shows - one of which was, very appropriately, Top Banana. The musical is about an egotistical comedian of a hit show, whose ratings are flagging. Silvers came up with the idea for it and based the comedian, for some unknown reason, on his good friend Milton Berle. (Interestingly, Berle, Silvers and Martha Rae were three brilliant comedians whose careers all had a huge boost when Nat Hiken wrote for them. Berle has been trying to crack radio for over a decade but only managed this when Hiken took over and led to a quick move to TV. Rae had been somewhat hampered by issues like one film studio trying to launch her as a glamour girl (although not quite a crazy idea as it might appear) and her tendency to get a reaction from the audience by any means, which could go against her and which Hiken tempered and when he produced/wrote her show, it rivalled Lucille Ball's. Silvers had for the first time someone that could really deliver the lines he deserved). In Top Banana, someone asks Silvers what a top banana means and he explains that it's the leading comedian in a burlesque show and the term originates from a burlesque skit, which they demonstrate - this is from the film version https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cNw7uyesCII and in that muddy clip, Joey Faye plays Pinky and Herbie Faye (no relation) is on the left playing Moe. Herbie had worked with Silvers in burlesque in the 1920s and memorably played Private Fender in The Phil Silvers Show (there's one episode where Bilko addresses him with something like 'You, Fender, who I've known the longest' which I like to think as a reference to that); Joey guest starred in Bilko as Harry Speakup's partner in the episode mentioned elsewhere in the thread). The soundtrack version is easier to make out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ly2-0CyDBm0&list=RDly2-0CyDBm0. Naturally, the banana routine is one that Abbot & Costello performed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=arJoNK1rm28. Berle later also starred in a production of Top Banana and would also perform the titular song on The Muppet Show with Fozzie Bear - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oxeieMPOg0Q.

From what I've read, in the States, people were looking back with nostalgia at burlesque from the 1940s and even before. In various media, such as radio,  that's something I would say is in evidence. Although I'm not entirely sure, I think this was play in the Barbara Stanwyck film, Lady of Burlesque (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7HQ1BTsOy1k), adapted from a novel, The G-String Murders by iconic burlesque performer, Gypsy Rose Lee. Ostensibly about a murderer strangling showgirls with their own g-strings, the murder-mystery element often takes a rear seat to the stage performances and life behind the scenes - when I first caught it on TV, it was the latter that I was taken with. (I was also interested to learn that one of Stanwyck's first gigs was being a chorus girl in Ziegfeld's Follies. I've read claims that Irving Klaw's Teaserama was playing to nostalgia, which I have to raise my eyebrows at but it does enable us to experience the jaw-droppingly incompetent comedy stylings of Joe E Ross and Dave Starr - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9BQShOPAv2w. It's incredible to think that Nat Hiken saw Ross' nightclub act around this time and thought 'I could use him... ' and cast him as Ritzik in The Phil Silvers Show, but then again, Hiken saw the potential of his rugged mug and gravelly mug. From the sublime to the ridiculous...
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: Ballad of Ballard Berkley on July 01, 2022, 07:35:50 PM
A magnificent post, Ignatius.
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: bakabaka on July 01, 2022, 08:21:07 PM
Interesting that Slowly I Turned uses violence as the punchline. When I did a CaB Radio show about US burlesque from the 1890s I got rather upset that there was so much racist violence in it, and a large number of the recordings on archive.org use beating the shit out of the Irish/Chinese/German straight man as the punchline. And these were the most famous and successful comedians of the day recording their best material.

Despite what would appear to be a blindingly obvious origin for the word 'punchline (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Punch_line)', it was first coined in the 1920's and with no reference to the popular comedy beatings of the generation before.

[Just to give a slight contextual contrast to the word play comedy that this thread is celebrating.]
Title: Re: Who's on First
Post by: kngen on July 02, 2022, 01:56:02 AM
Was watching Silver Streak for the first time in years (decades even), when it took a pleasing diversion into this territory, so had to share it here. It seems like a clumsy attempt at that kind of wordplay at first, but the payoff makes it all worth it.

Apologies for terrible clip quality - looks like it's been filmed off an old CRT TV.


Spoiler alert
Also, whoever uploaded it cut it off before the sheriff's reaction - 'Dead - so that makes four?', which is unfortunate, to say the least.
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