Creator: Abbott and Costello
Bud Abbott (left) and Lou Costello (right)
Bud Abbott and Lou Costello were a Comedy Duo
who worked together from 1935 to 1957, starting out in burlesque
theatre and expanding into radio, television and films. They're best known for their signature routine, in which Abbott attempts to tell Costello about a baseball team whose players have confusing nicknames like "Who" and "What"
. ("Who's on first?
In 1940 they appeared together in a supporting role in the film One Night in the Tropics
, and stole the show. The following year, they had their first star vehicle, Buck Privates
. They went on to make over 30 films, remaining top-10 box office draws for the next decade. They also starred in The Abbott and Costello Show
, a weekly sitcom-cum-sketch show that aired on radio from 1942-49 and on syndicated TV from 1952-54.
A list of their films:
Not to be confused
- One Night in the Tropics (1940)
- Buck Privates (1941)
- In the Navy (1941)
- Hold That Ghost (1941)
- Keep 'Em Flying (1941)
- Ride 'Em Cowboy (1942)
- Pardon My Sarong (1942)
- Who Done It? (1942)
- Rio Rita (1942)
- It Ain't Hay (1943)
- Hit the Ice (1943)
- In Society (1944)
- Lost in a Harem (1944)
- Abbott and Costello in Hollywood (1945)
- Here Come the Co-Eds (1945)
- The Naughty Nineties (1945)
- Little Giant (1946)
- The Time of Their Lives (1946)
- Buck Privates Come Home (1947)
- The Wistful Widow of Wagon Gap (1947)
- Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
- Mexican Hayride (1948)
- The Noose Hangs High (1948)
- Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff (1949)
- Africa Screams (1949)
- Abbott and Costello in the Foreign Legion (1950)
- Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951)
- Comin' Round the Mountain (1951)
- Lost in Alaska (1952)
- Jack and the Beanstalk (1952)
- Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd (1952)
- Abbott and Costello Go to Mars (1953)
- Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1953)
- Abbott and Costello Meet the Keystone Kops (1955)
- Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955)
- Dance with Me Henry (1956)
with Tony Abbott and Peter Costello, a pair of Australian politicians
who served as ministers under Prime Minister John Howard at the same time.
Abbott and Costello works with their own trope pages:
Other Abbott and Costello works provide examples of:
- Abhorrent Admirer: Moonbeam in Ride 'Em Cowboy, and the widow in The Wistful Widow of Wagon Gap.
- Accidental Aiming Skills: Oliver's (Lou's) final shot at the basket in Here Come the Co-Eds.
- Accidental Proposal: In Ride 'Em Cowboy, Willoughby (Lou) accidentally shoots an arrow into an Indian maiden's teepee. Tribal custom says this is a proposal of marriage and Lou and Bud spend much of the rest of the film running away from the bride-to-be and her tribe.
- Adorkable: Often used in their movies: Costello's goofy, bumbling, buffoonish charm generally makes the women he meets fall for how adorable he is - despite being a goof Costello always gets the girl in situations where the two are involved in romance.
- Adults Dressed as Children: Joe Besser as Stinky the Spoiled Brat, who would get into hilarious spats with the equally childish Costello.
- All Amazons Want Hercules: In Abbott and Costello Go To Mars, Lou falls in love with the Amazonian Queen of Venus, a love she reciprocates... until his inability to keep his hands off of her subjects, and his cohorts' foolish attempt at staging a palace revolt, gets them all shipped back to Earth.
- It didn't help that the Queen showed her subjects holograms of the previous King, an attractive hunk; the ladies immediately lost interest in the dumpy Lou.
- Animated Adaptation:
- Abbott and Costello, made by Hanna-Barbera in 1966. Abbott voiced himself; Stan Irwin stood in for the late Costello.
- And, unofficially, the Looney Tunes characters Babbit and Catstello, who started out as mice (in Bob Clampett's A Tale of Two Kitties) before being redesigned as cats (in Frank Tashlin's A Tale of Two Mice and Robert McKimson's The Mouse-Merized Cat).
- Bad Boss: Abbott's first character in Little Giant.
- Berserk Button / Never Say That Again: The "Slowly I turned..." routine was used by Abbott and Costello several times: in the films Lost In a Harem with the trigger word "Pokomoko", and In Society with the trigger phrase "Susquehanna Hat Company", as well as in The Abbott and Costello Show on television, using the more traditional "Niagara Falls".
- Boke and Tsukkomi Routine
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: This exchange in It Ain't Hay:
Abbott: Go answer the door. It might be Warner.
Costello: It won't do no good. We're all signed up with Universal.
- But You Were There, and You, and You: Jack and the Beanstalk has Lou's character dreaming that he's Jack, with the other characters corresponding to people he knows in real life.
- Butt Monkey: Costello most of the time. Abbott takes this role in The Time Of Their Lives.
- The fate of Sgt. Collins in Buck Privates Come Home.
- Cannot Spit It Out: Whenever Costello sees something that makes him flustered, he becomes hilariously tongue-tied and unable to explain it to Abbott.
- Cassandra Truth: Played with in most of the horror spoofs - the monster or ghost (and in one case, Indian chief) terrorizes Lou, but only when Bud isn't around to see it. Naturally, Bud never believes Lou.
- Catch Phrase: "Heeeeeey, Abb-ott!"
- Celestial Bureaucracy / Yank the Dog's Chain: The end of The Time of Their Lives
- Chain of Corrections: Several of their routines fit this trope, none more famous than "Who's on First?." Played to perfection, the routine saw Abbott list the names of players on a baseball team to Costello, Costello constantly misinterpret the answers as non-responsive, Abbott correct him repeatedly and Costello becoming even more befuddled and confused to the point where, in the end he throws up his hands and says "I don't give a damn!" – unwittingly identifying the shortstop.
- Chairman of the Brawl: In Comin' Round the Mountain, Wilbert warns Devil Dan Winfield that he'll "get the chair" when he tries to kill Wilbert. Devil Dan dismisses this, stating that every judge on the local circuit was a Winfield, only to be hit with a chair by Wilbert's companion.
- Cloud Cuckoolander: The "Pokomoko" guy in Lost in a Harem.
- Crazy Jealous Guy: Dr. Jekyll in Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Made all the more disturbing by the fact that the object of his affections is his niece.
- The Danza: In One Night in the Tropics (as well as many of their later works), they skipped the intermediaries and just played characters named "Bud Abbott" and "Lou Costello".
- In Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy, their characters were called "Peter Patterson" and "Freddie Franklin", respectively—at least according to the credits, which was the only place those names were used.
- Derailed for Details: The "Jonah and the Whale" sketch
- Dirty Coward: Costello was often this in films, especially when dealing with the Universal monsters. Abbott usually upbraided him for this, telling him to "Be brave like me!". Of course moments later the monster would return and Abbott would practically trample Costello on his way out the door.
- Dirty Old Man: Dr. Jekyll, who wants to force his young niece to marry him.
- Disney Death: Several of their films include a routine in which Abbott believes Costello has been killed and has a Heel Realization, lamenting how he treated his friend, while Costello listens and cries along with him. Once Abbott sees that he's all right, he instantly goes back to his old self and slaps Costello for getting him so worried.
- The Ditz: Costello
- Dumb Is Good: Abbott is clever and sly and Costello is usually dumb and happy or at least naive and happy-go-lucky.
- Elevator Floor Announcement: In an episode of their radio show.
- The Exit Is That Way
- Extreme Doormat: Costello, although he does have occasional The Dog Bites Back moments when he stands up to Abbott for bullying and taking advantage of him.
- Fat and Skinny: Abbott is the skinny, clever Straight Man; Costello is the chubby dimwit.
- Fun with Foreign Languages: In Lost In Alaska, Costello sees some Eskimos communicating in sign language and makes a few random hand gestures of his own. The Eskimo chief starts laughing, telling Costello, "You just told a funny joke!" Later, when Costello meets an attractive Eskimo lady, he tries to impress her by creating the same hand gestures he used before. She slaps him in the face; apparently it was that kind of joke.
- The Gay Nineties: The Naughty Nineties
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Now with its own page.
- Ghostly Goals: In The Time Of Their Lives, Lou and Melody, a pair of ghosts from the American Revolution, are trying to prove themselves innocent of the treachery they were unjustly cursed for. That is, when Lou isn't tormenting his old enemy's descendant, Dr. Cuthbert Greenway.
- Glamorous Wartime Singer: The Andrews Sisters (as themselves) in Buck Privates and In the Navy
- Great White Hunter: Parodied in Africa Screams
- Handy Cuffs: One sketch involves one of them getting handcuffed with his hands in front when he points out that he can still swing his hands around. He then asks his captor to show where the cuffs need to go; the captor puts his hands behind his back, gets cuffed, and the good guy escapes.
- Hero Antagonist: The drill sergeant in Buck Privates and Buck Privates Come Home.
- Hey, It's That Guy!: Happens quite a bit within their films.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners
- Hollywood Mirage: in Abbott and Costello Join the Foreign Legion
- How Would You Like to Die?: In Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer
- Hurricane of Puns - the basis of most of their humor.
- If It Tastes Bad, It Must Be Good for You:
Abbott: You should really go on a diet. You know what a diet is, don't you?
Costello: Sure, that's where you can eat all you want of everything you don't like.
- I'll Take Two Beers Too: Inverted in this bit from The Abbott and Costello Show:
Abbott: Go ahead, just order something small.
Costello: I'll have a small steak.
- It Was Here, I Swear: A standard bit, that appears in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein and Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer among others
- Insane Troll Logic: The basis of the sketch where Costello proves that 7 x 13 = 28!.
- Jerkass: Abbott frequently is one to Costello.
- Joisey: Lou was very proud of his hometown of Paterson, New Jersey, and managed to get it mentioned in a great deal of episodes of The Abbott And Costello Show
- Kitchen Sink Included: In Lost in Alaska, while throwing things at the bad guys to keep them from advancing, Abbott says they've thrown everything but the kitchen sink. Guess what Costello does.
Abbott: Oh, well–-we can fix that.
(Pulls the sink out of the wall, breaks it over Costello’s head.)
- Lady Land: Venus, as depicted in Abbott and Costello Go To Mars
- Large Ham: Lou Costello, especially on radio.
- Legion of Lost Souls: Abbott and Costello Join the Foreign Legion
- Literal-Minded: Costello.
- Man Child: Costello generally acts as one.
- Mistaken for an Imposter: Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy.
- Mistaken for Terrorist: Bud and Lou in Buck Privates Come Home when demonstrating how the model of their friend's midget racer works to a bank manager. Lou revs it up backwards and it starts backfiring, making it look like he's firing a machine gun from outside the office.
- Motor Mouth: The reporter in Mexican Hayride who talks over Costello constantly and then tells him "Next time a reporter asks you for an interview, don't talk so much!"
- Non Indicative Name: Abbott and Costello Go To Mars, in which Abbott and Costello go to Venus (though their original plan was to go to Mars).
- Also, Abbott and Costello Meet The Killer, Boris Karloff, in which the killer is not Boris Karloff.
- Perhaps also, Here Come The Co-Eds, in which the school in question is an all-girls school and so technically the girls there are not "co-eds."
- Not-So-Harmless Villain: Costello's not the sharpest tool in the shed, but he's not quite as stupid as he looks either. Depending on the Writer, he sometimes has scenes where he skillfully outwits people who think he's just a moron - Whodunit in particular has him do this several times during the climax.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Very rarely, Costello is portrayed or merely implied as having this. Or more like he acts like a moron but he can be pretty quick when he wants to be.
- An Odd Place to Sleep: In Buck Privates Come Home, Herbie (Lou) finds it too hot to sleep inside the apartment, he rigs up a makeshift hammock on the clothes line that runs between the buildings.
- The Operators Must Be Crazy: The episode "Who Done It" has a skit about a particularly bizarre and abusive operator.
- Poisoned Chalice Switcheroo: In a routine involving a stolen necklace in one film and a spiked drink in a couple others.
- The Pratfall: Used regularly.
- Precision F-Strike: The punchline to the "Who's on First" sketch is that the shortstop is named "I don't give a darn," a big enough deal at the time that they had to change it to "I don't care" when the routine was used in the film The Naughty Nineties.
- Quick Change: Several variations.
- Reaching Between the Lines: Lou keeps trying to make an important call but is obstructed by the operator who keeps telling him, "The line is busy". Eventually Lou gets so frustrated that he squirts a soda siphon down the mouthpiece and the operator gets squirted in the face.
- Red Herring: In Abbott and Costello Meet The Killer, Boris Karloff, the Big Bad is actually the manager of the hotel where the film takes place, not Boris Karloff's character.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni
- Reflexive Response: Used in Hold That Ghost
- Rule of Pool: Played with in Hit the Ice
- Say My Name: HEEEEY ABBBOOOOOTTTTT!
- Substituted with Abbott's various character names in the movies.
- Self-Deprecation / Take That, Us: In Who Done It? the duo win a radio, and they turn it on, only to hear their infamous "Who's on First?" gag. They immediately turn it off because they don't find it funny.
- Self Offense: in Abbott and Costello Join the Foreign Legion and Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
- Sequel: Buck Privates Come Home is, indeed, one of these to Buck Privates.
- Shotgun Wedding: In Ride 'Em Cowboy, the Indians suggest forcing Costello into a "bow-and-arrow wedding".
- The Show Must Go On: On the radio show Lou and Bud worked on, one day around the time they were working on Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein Lou came in for show late, very quiet, and went through his routines flawlessly but without speaking to anyone outside of the job, which was very unusual for him. Then at the end he said to his very young son, "That one's for you." He then explained to his fellow performers and the listeners at home that his son had drowned earlier that day, but not before Lou promised him that "Tonight you'll hear Dad on the radio." Lou kept his promise.
- Signs of Disrepair: vote for townSEND pHELPs in Who Done It?
- Slapstick: A staple of their routines.
- Straight Man: Abbott
- Straight Man and Wise Guy: Abbott and Costello
- Tempting Fate: From Hit The Ice: "If I ever fall in love with another girl, I hope they hang me". Cue Costello seeing a pretty girl and the mail hook of a train catching him by the neck.
- Tongue Tied: Several films have Costello needed to impart some important information, usually that the movie's villain is nearby. However, while he mimes speaking the words, he's so scared that he literally cannot make any kind of audible sound.
- Took a Level in Jerkass: Abbott's selfishness and cruelty to Costello is taken Up to Eleven in Africa Screams, where is is nearly driven insane by greed upon discovering diamonds in the African jungle. He ends up being a victim of Laser-Guided Karma at the end when a friendly gorilla gives Costello the diamonds and makes him filthy rich, and Abbott ends up working as his elevator operator.
- Two-Person Love Triangle: in the romantic subplot in Jack and the Beanstalk
- The Villain Sucks Song: Costello sings one in Buck Privates, although it's more of a "The Army Sucks Song". Of course, the drill sergeant is right behind him.
- Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: At his worst, Abbott is a manipulative and selfish Jerk Ass.
- Villain with Good Publicity: Dr. Jekyll in Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Onscreen, this was played straight. Offscreen, though, the "Best Buds" part was questionable.
- The reason they have so few scenes together in Little Giant and The Time of Their Lives is because they were so estranged at that point, that was the only way they would agree to appear in the same picture.
- Though their relationship was strained in their later years, there were a few moments of They Really Do Love Each Other, if you knew where to look. Abbott volunteered at Costello's charity as an attempt to bury the hatchet and, when Costello died of a heart attack, Abbott backed out of a revival project with Candy Candido playing Costello's role, claiming that there was no one who could truly replace Lou.
- Weak-Willed: In Abbott and Costello meet the Invisible Man, a psychologist tries to hypnotize Lou Costello. Lou proves to be completely immune, but the psychologist accidentally hypnotizes himself. Lou's efforts to explain how this happened lead to him putting half the local police force under as well. Then Lou wakes him up, and managed to accidentally hypnotizes him again mere seconds later.
- Who's on First?: In many of their routines, of which the trope namer is only the most famous.
- With Friends Like These...
- You Kill It, You Bought It: Parodied in The Wistful Widow of Wagon Gap.
References in other works:
"I don't care
who's on first!
"Oh, that's our shortstop."