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History of The Three Stooges

VO: Rebecca Brayton
This legendary comedic trio has a long and storied history, and started out very differently than the group we know and love today. In fact, the troupe was begun by a comic named Ted Healy, and his friends, brothers Moe and Shemp Howard. In the beginning, the schtick had him attempt to sing and tell jokes, before being constantly interrupted by his bungling and noisy assistants, to which he verbally and physically abused. Afterwards, the act underwent several cast changes, to become best known for featuring Larry, Curly and Moe. Join as we explore the history of The Three Stooges.

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History of The Three Stooges

These three guys slapped their way to the top! Welcome to as we explore the History of The Three Stooges.

This trio has a long and storied history, and started out very differently than the group we know and love today. Formed in 1922, they began as an unruly American Vaudeville comedy troupe that focused on short slapstick performances. During that time, they went by several names, including “Ted Healy and his Southern Gentlemen.”

The troupe’s original members included its creator Ted Healy, and his friends, brothers Moe and Shemp Howard. The schtick had Healy attempting to sing and tell jokes, but he was constantly interrupted by his bungling and noisy assistants. He usually responded with verbal and physical abuse to hilarious results.

The group delighted audiences with their ad-libbed and violent stage routines. They were eventually joined by comedian Larry Fine, who replaced Shemp in 1925 after he decided to pursue his own comedy career. However, Shemp temporarily returned once they started performing to sold-out crowds. This is when he appeared alongside Moe and Larry in the Rube Goldberg comedy film “Soup to Nuts.”

Afterwards, younger brother Jerome replaced him under the nickname “Curly.” To differentiate himself from his cast mates, he shaved his head and added his own zany style into the mix. Incredibly, this addition perfected the formula: Moe served as the irritable ringleader, Larry was its mop-haired middleman, and Curly was the bald-headed dimwit.

This already recognizable trio expanded their audience when they were hired by MGM Studios. Their trademark eye gouging, shin kicking, head knocking and Curly’s signature chuckle all remained.

In 1934, the gang decided they didn’t want to play second banana to Healy, and parted ways with him.

Unfortunately, Curly died of a heart attack in 1952, following an earlier stroke that left him unable to work. This caused Shemp to rejoin the team to help them produce 77 more film shorts, until his own untimely death from a heart attack in 1955.

Following this, they cast comedian Joe Besser, before he was replaced with another Curly: this time comedian Joe DeRita. The group then returned to the formula that worked best, and launched a major comeback by transitioning to television, with the help of “Curly Joe.”

The Three Stooges shorts aired regularly from 1958 onwards, and because of this their antics they became a favorite for children and parents to enjoy together. Incredibly, they even gained an entirely new following with their TV re-runs in the subsequent decades.

Due to this boost in popularity, the Three Stooges starred in a string of successful full-length comedies aimed at the kiddie-matinee market. These included such classics as 1959’s “Have Rocket, Will Travel,” 1962’s “The Three Stooges Meet Hercules” and “The Three Stooges in Orbit.”

Despite failing with the launch of a color TV pilot in 1960 called “The Three Stooges Scrapbook,” they became one of the highest paid live acts in America. They retooled their approach to TV in 1965 and launched the successful program “The New Three Stooges.” This consisted of live introductions, conclusions and short comedy skits that bookended animated segments. While children loved it, longtime fans dismissed the show as too tame.

In 1969, they were green-lit for another pilot. The plan for the travelogue sitcom “Kook’s Tour” was for it to be shot on location around the world, but sadly production halted when Larry suffered a debilitating stroke that ended his career. Ultimately, he passed away in 1975, and that same year Moe also died from lung cancer.

When the Stooges era came to an end, the act was recognized for its contributions to comedy, despite the fact they violated every rule: their characters lacked depth, weren’t subtle and always put the gags ahead of the plot.

Several decades later, Hollywood brought The Three Stooges back to the silver screen. In 2012, actors Sean Hayes, Will Sasso and Chris Diamantopoulos took on the famous roles, and brought the Stooges to a new generation.

The Three Stooges may never have been media darlings during their original fifty-year run, but they always made people laugh. Today, they are regarded as one of the wildest and funniest comedy trios of all time.

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