Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Shemp

Ivan G. Shreve at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear finally settles a debate that has obsessed at least five generations of American. Curly or Shemp?

Now Curly was funny sometimes, no doubt. But Shemp was nuanced (for a Stooge) and actually reflected the misery of their adventures. There was a bit of a Christ in Shemp, a long suffering that neither Mo nor Curly understood. And Larry was even more hopeless than those two. At least they instituted mayhem. Most of the time Larry just did what Mo did. But Shemp...I remember that as a kid he always made me sad the way Laurel and Hardy made me sad. Nothing ever worked out, the way it didn't wrk out for so many people in my working class neighborhood. Shemp understood that life wasn't supposed to be this way but he had no idea how to change it.

But Ivan makes the case better than I do:

(Talking about a Stooge DVD he'd just fished out of his mailbox) "... I haven’t checked out the inner contents yet, but I was intrigued by something on the cover: a picture of “Shemp” accompanied by the words “Includes Shemp Howard.”

What the hell is that supposed to mean? Is it some sort of warning or admonition? “Caution: This product may contain Shemp…” I detect a distinct pro-Curly bias here, and, really folks, it’s time to set the record straight. Shemp was funnier than Curly. Period. End of report. I know it’s going to take a while to grasp this concept—you’re even going to go through the full gamut of K├╝bler-Ross (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance)—but it’ll be much easier if you just deal with it and move on. Many of the Stooges’ best comedies are in this collection, all of them featuring Shemp: Fright Night (1947), Out West (1947), Hold That Lion (1947), Brideless Groom (1947), Squareheads of the Round Table (1948), The Hot Scots (1948), Heavenly Daze (1948) and Crime on Their Hands (1948). (Volume 6 will be even better, for it will feature such gems as Who Done It? [1949], Fuelin’ Around [1949], Vagabond Loafers [1949], Punchy Cowpunchers [1950], Dopey Dicks [1950], Studio Stoops [1950], Three Arabian Nuts [1951], Scrambled Brains [1951] and Pest Man Wins [1951].)."

7 comments:

Fred Blosser said...

Al Collins once offered an observation -- maybe in MYSTERY SCENE? -- about Shemp's face constituting a roadmap of human misery.

Dave Zeltserman said...

Shemp was one of the original stooges who was replaced by brother Jerome (Curly) when he couldn't stand the abuse Ted Healy was heaping on them. No question that Shemp was a competent commedienne, but he was no Curly. As far as timing and physical comedy goes, Curly was one of the all-time greats, maybe not at WC Fields level, but not too far below that.

Tom Piccirilli said...

Curly could take an ass-kicking like a golden age private eye. If Moe wasn't beating the hell out of him then he was taking walks off of ten foot high ladders.

Richard Moore said...

I love Shemp. He had many nice roles as a Universal contract player before he rejoined the Stooges. My favorite was in W.C. Fields' The Bank Dick when he played the bartender at the Black Pussy Cat Cafe.

Charlie Stella said...

This was an easy one for me. Shemp was too thin. Curly was fat. I felt his pain. I still feel it.

AND (little known fact) ... he was the first break dancer (that little spin move on the floor--a perfect circle when you think about it).

Nyock, nyock, nyock ...

David Cranmer said...

I like Shemp but Curly gets my vote.

Terry Beatty said...

Shemp rules.