This is Your Life, Lou Costello
Today is Lou Costello’s birthday. Readers of Chain of Fools and this blog know I’m not the hugest Costello fan. I find his personality abrasive and don’t see that he brings any native ability, discipline or craft to what he does. But there’s always a qualification, and I probably should have qualified my anti-Costello rants in the book more. For example, I enjoy the Abbot and Costello television program, where television’s tight budgets and time restrictions reigned in Costello’s usual over-indulgence. He’s also funny on radio and was probably best of all in live performance.
This leaves the movies of Abbott and Costello, which I consider, yes, pretty irredeemable. The best that can be said about any of them is “They have their moments”. And this is the abhorrent, low standard we seem to set for all comedies nowadays. But you know what? The best movies of Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd, the Marx Brothers, Preston Sturges, etc are composed ENTIRELY of such moments from beginning to end with no filler in between, and that is my standard. One watches Abbott and Costello movies because one is eleven years old and it is raining so one can’t go outside, and there is nothing on the other two channels. In fact there are so many things I would rather do than watch an Abbott and Costello movie. Weed the garden. Wax the car. Do my taxes. Go to the dentist. The list goes on.
Funnily enough, though, I kind of like the real Costello’s personality in the few clips I’ve seen or heard that capture him out of character. Here’s one, when he was a guest on Ralph Edwards’ This is Your Life in 1956, 3 years before he died of a heart attack, which I wouldn’t wish on even Lou Costello:
To find out more about the variety arts past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
And don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc