Bud Abbott and Lou Costello: A Team with Great Chemistry

Topics: Abbott and Costello, Double act, Lou Costello Pages: 6 (1888 words) Published: March 2, 2007
Picture a short, round, confused man, standing next to someone tall, slick, and intellectual, and you have a duo that brought laughter to numerous audiences. Together Bud Abbott and Lou Costello formed a team with great chemistry; by using their natural abilities and deep backgrounds they produced a successful career that carried on throughout three decades. Steve Allen agrees, "Only a very talented team like Abbott & Costello could have survived the transition from burlesque and vaudeville to radio to films to television to night clubs, over a period of twenty-two years" (qtd. in Costello xii).

Obviously from the beginning of Abbott and Costello's careers, these two comics were indeed talented. Before Costello, Abbott had previously worked with funnymen Harry Steppe and Harry Evanson. "With both Steppe and Evanson, Bud had the uncommon knack of making them seem funnier than they were. . . . [Furthermore,] everyone in burlesque agreed Bud Abbott would go far, if he could only find the right comic to team up with" (Thomas 37). The same problem occurred with the early years of Lou Costello's career. When Bud first saw Lou perform he thought to himself, "Joe Lyons [Costello's partner] simply wasn't doing it right. But the Costello kid was all right. Damn good, in fact, even without a strong straight man" (Thomas 50). Finally, in 1935, two years after they first met, Abbott and Costello officially decided to work together; they would later perform together for the first time in 1936 (Furmanek 18). Abbott and Costello were known as a double act or comedy duo, in which one comedian is considered the straight man and the other is called the comic or funny man. The straight man (Bud Abbott) was known to be intelligent and reasonable, in contrast the comic (Lou Costello) was commonly seen as a dumb and an unfortunate character ("Double Act"). Brooks Atkinson, in his Times piece describes: Abbott is the overbearing mastermind whose feverish, impatient guidance of the conversation produces the crisis. Costello is the short, fat he-who-gets-slapped. He is a moon-faced zany with wide, credulous eyes, a high voice, and puffy hands that struggle in futile gestures. Both men work themselves into a state of excitement that is wonderful to behold. (qtd. by Thomas 73) What produced this duo's classic humor was the uncanny ability to play off each other's roles and differences, as Abbott would use his classy, intelligent role to belittle the fat, dim-witted Costello. In this comedic duo, Abbott and Costello presented a contrast of physical features and appearance. Lou Costello was a short and chubby guy, while Abbott was a tall, skinny man who always dressed as if from a higher class. Thomas illustrates Abbott's style: The hair slicked back over his high forehead. The smiling eyes and winning grin. Straw hat and striped pants, dark jacket, and vest, silk hankie folded casually in the breast pocket, silk carnation in the lapel. The tie knotted tightly around the starched collar, jeweled links on the French cuffs, jeweled ring on the pinkie. Feet in polished black-and-whites planted confidently apart. There is the impression that what he wore underneath was all silk. (Thomas 37) With such a stature, Abbott not only had a better physical appeal than Costello but also dressed as if he was of more importance. Furthermore, this form of attire gave Bud Abbott the impression that he was more mature and an older (which he actually was, older than Costello by eleven years) man (Furmanek 15). Differentiating from Abbott, Costello appeared to be a young man with a higher pitched voice and little kid personality. Along with the immature appearance, Costello was cast into the character with a lesser intellect, the dumber partner. However the roles they play seem to correlate with their childhood lives.

As a child, Bud was exposed to show life and business because his parents were both a part of the circus and later...
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