Thursday, July 10, 2014

Obsessive Compulsions: Who's on First?

Bud Abbott and Lou Costello are responsible for at least three "Firsts" in my life that I can recall. They were the first comedians that I can remember laughing at as a child, and they were the stars of the first horror movie I ever saw - Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein.

My first memorable laughs and my first memorable scares. That ain't bad.

I loved Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein. Still do. And I was thrilled when I discovered that Abbott and Costello had their own show and I could watch repeats of it Every Single Day. Which is where I discovered my third "First".

"Who's on First?"

It's a great bit. I'm still in awe of it. I almost forget that these were two seasoned pros that had honed and polished the skit for years on the vaudeville and burlesque circuit before it got anywhere near me.

Here it is in all it's punning glory.

It's such a strong bit that it's been borrowed and tinkered with, ripped apart and put back together again differently so many times over the years. And even when I hear a lesser riff, I still laugh.

Here's Morris Day and Jerome Benton in Purple Rain. Say the password, onionhead!

EDIT 22/07/14: And that clip from Purple Rain has already been removed from YouTube. So here is the scene in question from an undated draft of the script by Albert Magnoli and William Blinn. (Sadly, it lacks the glorious usage of the insult "onionhead" and instead has something quite...different.)

Morris: ...we ought to have like, a signal.

Jerome: A password.

Morris: Okay. What's the password?

Jerome: You got it.

Morris: Got what?

Jerome: The password.

Morris: The password is what?

Jerome: Exactly.

Morris: The password is exactly?

Jerome: No, it's--

Morris: -- Hold it now.  Slow down. The babe walks in and you see her.

Jerome: I see her.

Morris: You come get me.

Jerome: I come get you.

Morris: And I'll probably have a couple little sexies on the stand-by, and we don't want to upset them, do we? So you just glide by me and say...what?

Jerome: Okay.

Morris: The password is okay?

Jerome: Far as I'm concerned.

Morris: Dammit!  Say the password.

Jerome: What.

Morris: Say the password, sperm breath!

Jerome: The password is what.

Morris: (frustrated) That's what I'm asking you!

Jerome: (more frustrated) It's the password!

Morris: The password is it?

Jerome: (exasperated) Ahhhhh! The password is what!

Morris: It!  You just said so!

Jerome: The password isn't it!  The password is--

Morris: -- What?

Jerome: Got it!

Morris: I got it?

Jerome: Right.

Morris: It or right?
Jerome: (perplexed) What??

And here's Chris Tucker having a crack at it in Rush Hour 3:

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