October 2 is the birthday of Bud Abbott, our favorite member of the comedy team of Abbott and Costello. As we have written here a few times, we are fans of the radio and television work of this beloved team, and almost certainly would have loved them in live performance. We also have written approvingly about a certain aspect of their comedy films. But we have been pretty unsparing and harsh in our criticism of the movies of Abbott and Costello in posts like this and this, and our book Chain of Fools, mostly we feel as an antidote to overpraise for makework, indifferent studio product. Yet people we respect are their advocates and thus we look forward to the upcoming November 29 release of The Annotated Abbott and Costello: A Complete Viewer’s Guide to the Comedy Team and Their 38 Films, by Matthew Coniam and Nick Santa Mara.
Coniam is one of the triumvirate who produce the Marx Brothers Council Podcast along with Noah Diamond and Bob Gassel, and he may be best known (around here anyway) for his 2015 book The Annotated Marx Brothers. His takes on the Marx Brothers films are intriguing to me, for they are far from conventional; he appreciates aspects others don’t and vice versa, and it’s mind expanding to learn from someone like that. He’s not in the “silo”, so to speak. I’ve just bought his most recent book Mr. Crippen, Cora, and the Body in the Basement, for as we indicated by our own post on the topic, it’s a true crime story that intrigues us, one with a music hall/vaudeville angle, and we understand that Coniam has a characteristically unconventional take on it. He has also written books about Jane Austen (whom we also love and will write about soon hopefully), the craze for Egyptian aesthetics in late 19th/20th century pop culture, and one on the solo career of Groucho Marx. whose birthday it also is, so we plug that book as well.
Nick Santa Maria, the co-author of the new A & C book, is also an actor and performer who specializes in classic comedy (he, like Coniam, was on the bill with me on Noah Diamond’s recent musical salute to the Marxes) so I look forward to being enlightened by the pair about what there is to like about the movies of America’s favorite comedy team of the 1940s (asked and answered, you may reply based on my last sentence, but I’ll never concede that the public is always right. The public also once lined up to watch slaves get eaten by lions).
We were especially excited that the forward to the book was penned by none other than John Landis, a comedy director we greatly respect as we wrote here (and a great horror director too, as we wrote here, which you may wish to explore, this being the season of all things scary). Speaking of which, Coniam also wrote this book on Dracula.
Get your copy of the Annotated Abbott and Costello here. The late November release we suspect is timed to inspire Christmas presents for certain dads!
P.S. It may have been a mistake using the Royal We so much in this post. In comedies, that often earns a pie in the face.