Before Saturday Night Live: Abbott and Costello LIVE on the Colgate Comedy Hour (Video)
Saturday Night Live was a big deal when it premiered because it was above all….L-I-V-E. Just like the bulk of TV shows were in the early 50s. And, no, SNL didn’t invent the ad lib, the bit of business that might go wrong, or the endearing performer who just has “it” when he/she performs live. More than a decade before SNL there was the Colgate Comedy Hour. And there were no better stars of the show with rotating hosts — broadcast live from the El Capitan Theater in L.A. on NBC — than Bud Abbott and Lou Costello.
I’m biased. I don’t really like the Abbott and Costello movies, with the exception of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. I LOVE them on the Colgate Comedy Hour where things could and did go hideously wrong. I especially love watching Lou Costello, an amazing comedy genius who died of heart disease at age 52 in 1959. I love to watch how he delivers a line, his body language — but especially those ad libs.
Here’s a You Tube clip that shows you parts of three routines broadcast LIVE. No sweetening. No canned laughter. 100 percent live laughter. And watch Lou Costello:
FOOTNOTE: Abbott and Costello’s classic, iconic sitcom which was syndicated and ran from 1952 – 1954 to me represents their best non-live library of work. Far better than the movies. During the first season, they made sure to film their classic routines and their adaptations of burlesque routines so they would have something to pass onto their children by owning them. During the second season, they used some directors who did Three Stooges and other shorts.
Jerry Seinfeld has said this is the show that inspired Seinfeld: a show with no real plot (about nothing), but comedy bits, about two actors (in this case unemployed) with their crazy neighbors including one or two who they didn’t like.
You can buy the complete series on Amazon. And note: I am NOT talking about “nostalgia”: this is comedy gold, for those who love comedy, or who study it, or who perform it or want to perform it. FOOTNOTE: Costello owned the show and Abbott worked for him and, true to their comedy team’s dreams, the two families own these shows which are still available on state-of-the-art remastered DVDs and even seen on a cable channel.
In fact, I’d argue it’s more important for young people who aren’t aware of the team to watch this to see them at their height and watch their comedy technique: