The Great Comedians: Lou Costello
When people ask me, as a professional entertainer, who my favorite comedian or entertainer of all time is, they’re surprised by my reply: it’s Lou Costello, the chubby half of the classic Abbott & Costello comedy team.
They’re also surprised to hear me say I’m not talking about Costello as he appeared in the team’s films — but the Costello I watch (and study) on DVDs of the team’s filmed Abbott & Costello Show, a nutty situation comedy that inspired Jerry Seinfeld to create his show. And, especially, the Lou Costello as seen on DVDs in the old Colgate Comedy Hour shows where he and his parter performed live, a zillion things went wrong, and you wondered how Costello could keep the pace up without having a heart attack.
In fact, he died at age 52 of heart disease in 1959. But for students of comedy and aspiring comedians, he left a body of work that can still be studied and enjoyed.
Here’s one of the classic routines the team performed in burlesque, filmed and adapted for their TV show (so they could copyright and own it) — and one where Costello shines.
If you’re a young reader who is studying comedy and never really seen him, note here:
(1) His timing on his key lines.
(2) How he reacts to everything going on around him.
(3) His glances and comments to the audience and his enormous likability.
(4) The appearance of his partner Abbott (with the mustache) and, at the end, the appearance of the most unloved of the Three Stooges’ “Curley replacements,” Joe Besser as “Stinky,” an obnoxious brat (played by a grown man in ridiculous early 20th century kids clothing). Besser’s creation of the bratty kid is a classic.
This show comes from the collection noted below of remastered half hour Abbott & Costello Shows from the first of its two seasons.