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Film: The Three Stooges
aka: Three Stooges
The brain trust.
"Well, they're these kinda funny looking guys... who like to hit each other."
Jerry, Seinfeld

The Three Stooges are best known for the dozens of short subjects they turned out through Columbia Pictures starting in the 1930s. In fact, with 190 short films, not including their features and numerous cameo or guest appearances dating back to 1930, this trio had the longest film series in Hollywood history.

Though there were several members over the years, people nowadays are most likely to be familiar with the iconic lineup of Moe Howard, the bully-like leader; Larry Fine, the frizzy-haired sort-of straight man, and Jerome "Curly" Howard (Moe's younger brother), the bald, oddball guy with the weird mannerisms and verbalizations.

Like many Hollywood successes, the Stooges came about their success largely through serendipity. The Stooges started out as second bananas to former vaudeville comic Ted Healy, and were not originally credited as Stooges. The original line-up consisted of Moe, Larry and Shemp Howard, Moe's elder brother. After making one film with Healy, 1930's Soup to Nuts, Shemp launched a solo career as a comic and character actor. Jerome (who had no prior acting experience) was recruited, dubbed Curly despite (or perhaps because) of his shaved head, and the trio continued to appear in films with Healy.

In 1934, Columbia offered them their first picture deal and Moe promptly seized the opportunity to make the big time without their notoriously drunk and abusive employer. Their first film, Women Haters, was moderately successful; their second, Punch Drunks, was moreso; and the third Men in Black, was nominated for an Oscar and the group found its niche appearing in a half dozen or so short films (16-20 minutes) a year.

Curly was forced to retire in 1947 after suffering a stroke, and Shemp Howard (who was reluctant to rejoin, as he had a successful solo career, but realized that Moe and Larry would have nothing without the Stooges) rejoined the act, changing the dynamic and triggering an ongoing "Curly vs. Shemp" debate that presaged the similar Joel vs. Mike debates of more recent vintage. After Shemp died in 1955, a bizarre set of Stooges shorts were created in order to complete the trio's current contract, making use of a body double and stock footage to make it appear that the now-deceased Shemp had participated, a technique later dubbed the Fake Shemp in his honor by director Sam Raimi. In 1956, Joe Besser, already a well-established comedy star, joined the group for their last shorts with Columbia (the short-film format was retired in 1959), and "Curly Joe" DeRita would sign on for their "post-shorts" career.

The Stooges continued to make popular feature films and TV appearances until 1970 when Larry Fine suffered a stroke during production of a TV pilot called Kook's Tour. In the early 1970s, longtime Stooges supporting actor Emil Sitka (best known to most Stooges fans for the line "Hold hands, you lovebirds!") was promoted to "Third Stooge", but Moe died in 1975 before any more movies were made, ending the era of the original Three Stooges.

The Three Stooges are one of the few rare comedy acts of the black-and-white era that continue to attract fans and remain so firmly embedded in the popular culture that a fifteen second silent cameo depicting them as airport firefighters still provides one of the biggest laughs in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World decades after their heyday. Their popularity is such that video games have been made about them all the way up to the Game Boy Advance era. And while their broad slapstick has been often derided by critics, it's also a key reason why they're popular even in nations where English isn't spoken. They also had two animated adaptations: a syndicated series in 1965, with live-action wraparounds between cartoons, and The Robonic Stooges, a segment of Hanna-Barbera's Skatebirds. Unfortunately, neither of these truly took advantage of The Stooges' already cartoon-like nature.

That's the short version of it. Wikipedia has practically a small book on the team, their history and their impact. Nyuk nyuk nyuk.

Trope-wise, it is hard to do slapstick without referencing the Stooges. They did it all. Wait. Here is the throw-down: If you can come up with a slapstick bit that was not done by the Stooges, the Wiki will award you a delicious, fresh-baked custard pie.note  Notably, the Groin Attack trope is not on this page. This could be an oversight or deliberate, due to Hays Code enforcement. The movie definitely has a Groin Attack, but it's not the original Stooges...

Don't bring any lame one-foot-in-a-wastecan, guy-turns-with-ladder-and-bonks-another-guy-in-the-eye stuff. We have no pies for that.

A movie was released on April 13, 2012. It was directed by the Farrelly Brothers, appropriately enough. Described on the DVD as a love letter to the Stooges, the film recreates many of the trio's tropes, and adds a few more.

Has a recap page in progress.

Trope Namer for Three Stooges Shout-Out.

The Three Stooges provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Absurdly Ineffective Barricade: The shorts used this in a couple of varieties, including the door opening outwards and the villains coming in behind them, sometimes handing them things to put on the barricade.
  • Accidental Athlete: One of their early shorts.
  • Acrofatic: Curly could move pretty quick for a chubby guy.
  • Adults Dressed as Children: Current Trope Illustrator, from All the World's a Stooge — they do this twice in the film.
    • Inverted in the 2012 movie when the Stooges as children dress up to be adopted.
  • A Handful for an Eye: In "Studio Stoops", done to a henchman by Shemp with ashtray sand after getting grabbed and asked, "Who're you?". His reply? "I'm the sandman."
  • All Just a Dream: Most of "I Can Hardly Wait", though the audience is shown that it's Curly's dream when it starts in a Thought Bubble. "Heavenly Daze", and its stock footage reworking, "Bedlam in Paradise", are examples featuring Shemp.
  • Amusing Injuries
  • Anti-Sneeze Finger: Used a few times.
  • Artistic License – Music: According to the short "Idle Roomers", a trombone sounds like a whole band.
  • Ascended Extra: The Stooges themselves.
  • Aside Glance: Shemp's trademark.
  • Attractive Bent-Gender: Should the Stooges be Disguised in Drag, someone will find them attractive.
    • Reaffirmed in the 2012 film.
  • Baby Carriage: The Stooges knocked over one while running from some authority figures in Grips, Grunts and Groans. There WAS a baby in it, and it was played for laughs.
  • Badly Battered Babysitter: In episodes where the three are babysitting. You definitely do not want these three guys anywhere near your children.
    • Sister Mary-Mengele in the 2012 film.
  • Bad to the Last Drop: In one skit where they're running a diner, Moe mistakenly drinks paint instead of coffee- then when he tastes the coffee decides the paint was better.
  • Bald of Awesome: Curly and Curly-Joe (arguably also applies to Larry, especially in the 2012 film)
  • Balloonacy
    • In an odd variation of this trope, Moe becomes a balloon in one episode. In Dizzy Pilots, Moe falls into a tub of tar, and to get the tar off of him, Larry and Curly cut a hole in his clothes and begin filling it up with gas. Hilarity Ensues as Moe begins to float away when Larry and Curly aren't looking, and they spend the next sizable chunk of the episode trying to get Moe down. He eventually floats through an opening in the ceiling and into the sky. Hearing Moe cry during the ordeal makes this a candidate for Crowning Moment of Funny.
    • Played straight in the 2012 movie, when a little girl gets lifted by a bunch of balloons. When a bullet pops them and she falls onto a big cake, she says "That was awesome!!!".
  • BANG Flag Gun: Used on occasion.
  • Bears Are Bad News: In the short Idiots Deluxe, the stooges have to contend with a bear which wanders into their cabin as they're camping. Hilarity Ensues, as just about everything they try backfires on them.
    • Referenced in the 2012 film, only with a lion.
  • Berserk Button
    • Curly has 4 of them, each of which turns him into a wrecking machine.
      • Hearing the song "Pop Goes the Weasel" in Punch Drunks. When the music stopped, so did he.
      • Seeing a mouse in Horses' Collars. The only way to stop him was to stuff cheese into his mouth.
      • Smelling a perfume fragrance called "Wild Hyacinth" in Grips, Grunts and Groans. In this short, the only way to stop him was to tickle his feet.
      • The sight of tassels in Tassels in the Air.
    • Mentioning "Niagara Falls" can also push Moe and Larry's button.
    • The Wolf Man in "Idle Roomers" was fairly peaceful until he heard music, causing him to go berserk.
  • Black Comedy: Happens occasionally, such as in An Ache in Every Stake when Moe tells Larry to fill a cake with gas to make it look bigger. Larry misinterprets the command, "Take the gas pipe," to mean he himself should suck on the gas pipe. Moe, naturally, gets annoyed and ends his scolding with, "I'll kill you later. Personally!" Larry actually looks scared; he believes Moe might actually do it!
  • Bloodless Carnage: Particularly the scene in "They Stooge to Conga", in which Curly pierces Moe's scalp, ear, and eye with a climbing spike, and somehow Moe is relatively unscathed.
    • Also many occasions in the 2012 film, including when Mac is hit by the bus and run over by a street cleaner, though he later shows a little blood after he's mauled by the lion.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Played with in "Three Pests in a Mess". Curly hits a bolt action rifle against the wall and it fires. He hits the rifle against the wall a second time and it fires again. Bolt action rifles only fire one shot at a time; one must use the bolt to eject the empty cartridge and load in another bullet.
  • The Boxing Episode: "Punch Drunks".
  • Breakingthe Fourth Wall: In the short "So Long, Mr. Chumps" there's a scene where Larry and Moe are breaking rocks over Curly's head. As a gag, Larry places a real rock on Curly's head, prompting Curly to address the camera, "Hey, that's a real one! I'm no fool!" Such meta moments were actually rare in the Stooges shorts, but it was left in the final film.
    • A later Shemp-era short has the boys kissing and hugging a trio of women. At one point, Larry pauses, looks directly at the camera and exclaims, "This I like - and I get paid for it, too!"
    • In "Oil's Well that Ends Well," Joe Besser silently mouthes the words "I hate him" after Moe is mean to him.
  • The Bully: Moe
  • The Butler Did It: In the short "If a Body Meets a Body".
  • Butter Face: Curly or Shemp often ended up with one of these while Moe and Larry got attractive women.
  • Butt Monkey: The worst things would usually happen to Curly. Then again, contrary to the public perception of the stooges, Moe often seemed to get the worst of the beatings, mostly due to accidents caused by himself or Larry and Curly's stupidity, and he'd then take it out on them whether it was their fault or not.
  • The Cameo
    • Moe, Larry and Curly Joe appeared in the 1963 film It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. They are on-screen for maybe ten seconds, don't speak or even move, and it's still one of the funniest jokes in the entire movie.
    • Curly himself also appeared post-retirement in the short "Hold That Lion" as a sleeping train passenger who would make dog noises (as Curly would). This would be the only short to include all three of the Howard brothers, Moe, Curly, and Shemp. The scene was also used in "Booty and the Beast".
    • Shemp has a wacky cameo as "Wacky" in Another Thin Man.
    • Larry, Moe and Curley show up in a last minute cameo in 1942 screw-ball comedy My Sister Eileen. The central joke of that film involved two sisters who's basement Manhattan apartment is routinely invaded by all manner of hilariously outlandish pests. The final moments of the films see the Stooges (apparently employed as subway maintenance workers) literally drilling their way into the apartment from below.
    • For reasons unknown the 1960s western film 4 for Texas, which followed a semi-dramatic plot about a man running a riverboat casino and avoiding being killed in the process, stops dead near the end so that Larry, Moe and Curley-Joe can put on a brief routine, after which they disappear from the film as abruptly as they arrived.
  • Car Meets House
    • The climax of The Three Stooges Go Round the World in a Daze
    • Also the ending of Yes We Have No Bonanza.
  • Carrying a Cake: A running gag in "An Ache in Every Stake".
  • Carnival of Killers: The Outlaws Is Coming.
  • Catch Phrase: Most of Curly's dialog, but particularly remembered are his Catch Whinnies.
    • Moe's "Why I oughtta..."
      • "Spread out!"
      • When he and another try to leave a too-small corridor: "Recede."
      • "You're pretty smart for an imbecile!"
      • "Oh, a wise guy, eh?"
      • "Remind me to moider you later."
      • "What's the matter with you?"
      • "I'm surrounded by morons!"
      • "Pick two!" (Two fingers on Moe's extended right hand, picked by Larry or Curly [always the pointer and middle fingers, which would then poke the finger-picker's eyes)
    • Curly's "Sointen'y!"
      • "I'm a victim of coicumstance!"
    • Larry's "Hey, Moe!"
    • And for a supporting character... Emil Sitka's 'Hold hands, you lovebirds!' from The Brideless Groom. Sitka was often invited to weddings to say this.
  • Character Outlives Actor:
    • A variant occurs after Shemp died. Moe and Larry still did four shorts, referring to Shemp - and occasionally "meeting up" with him via archive footage filmed when he was still alive.
    • They also did some new scenes where a stand-in was used for Shemp, making sure (not always successfully) to keep his back to the camera. They had to do it for contract reasons, which had to be heartbreaking for Shemp's younger brother, Moe.
  • Celebrity Paradox: In one short, a butler tells Moe, Larry and Curly that they remind him of the Three Stooges. Curly even takes that as an insult!
  • Close-Call Haircut: In many shorts, gun shots might leave a bald, steaming trail from the front to the back of Moe's or someone else's head, or else blow their hats (or toupees) off.
  • Comic Trio: Goes without saying, but still...
  • Concussions Get You High: Used frequently, by having whoever was hit on the head take on a silly facial expression and slump over to the sound of chirping birds.
  • Cool Old Guy: In Real Life, Moe became this in his later years. Larry as well, to a lesser extent.
  • Courtroom Antics: Disorder in the Court
  • Courtroom Episode: "Disorder in the Court".
  • Cowboy Episode: Several, most of which featured Shemp.
  • Crooked Contractor: In one way or another, the Stooges have a tendency to fall into this trope when solving household problems for hire. Sometimes they're just out of their league, sometimes they're forced into the job, and other times it's Engineered Heroics (see below).
  • Cut a Slice, Take the Rest: Moe and Larry would usually give Curly the short end of the stick. In the short I Can Hardly Wait they even make Curly feel guilty for being so ungrateful for his meager piece of the food when he complains.
    Moe: We each took half a slice of ham and half an egg apiece, and gave you a whole bone and a whole egg shell, and you're squawkin'!!
  • Deadpan Snarker: Larry, when he wasn't acting as goofy as Curly in order to annoy Moe.
  • Dem Bones: Almost every time the Stooges did a "horror" short, they met with either walking and talking skeletons or with cackling, flying skulls (their live parrot or owl inhabitant the cause), or both.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: In "Idiots Deluxe":
    Judge: You face charges of attempt to commit mayhem.
    Curly: You mean murder!
    Larry: Yeah! He tried to kill us, too!
  • Disguised in Drag: Used quite often. Especially blatant in these cases because most of the Stooges not only have very obviously male faces, but are... well, exceptionally ugly, even as men. Also, Curly, the largest Stooge, is the one who most frequently has to do this.
    • In fact, in one episode, Curly dresses up as a female Native American to fool a French hunter, who actually goes so far as to marry this "fat Indian momma" and take him/her to his bedroom. Hilarity ensued, although since this was before Black Comedy Rape, the disguise was revealed before anything truly unfortunate could happen.
    • Moe and Curly disguise themselves as female nurses in the movie in order to sneak into the hospital. Curly even flirts with a male employee, who falls for "her" charms!
    • Whenever the Stooges disguised themselves as children, Larry would dress as a girl.
  • D.I.Y. Disaster: In A Plumbing We Will Go, the boys pose as plumbers; their attempts at plumbing had water coming out of the stove, the light bulbs, telephones, and a very primitive television set.
    • In Goof on the Roof, the stooges trying to set up a television somehow results in their completely ruining the house they'd been renting a room in.
    • Attempting to fix the bell in the 2012 movie.
  • Dodgy Toupee: Cropped up in a few shorts, such as "Disorder in the Court".
  • Dope Slap: Essentially Moe's job. Interestingly, when Moe wasn't around, Larry tended to take his place dishing out Dope Slaps, as he was next in the vague pecking order dynamic the stooges had. Occasionally, Curly or Shemp would hit Larry, again, provided Moe wasn't around. Lampshaded in their dope slap lineups, where Moe would turn to slap Larry, Larry would turn to slap Shemp, and Shemp would turn to slap...nobody, emphasizing his place as the low man.
  • Doorstop Baby: Played straight in "Sock-a-Bye Baby" and subverted in "Mutts to You".
  • Double Take: About once every minute.
  • Downer Ending: A few of the shorts ended with the stooges either getting some comeuppance they didn't really deserve, or even being killed. Subverted in that it always came off as darkly humorous.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Stanley Blystone in "Half-Shot Shooters", Richard Fiske in "Boobs In Arms".
  • Drop the Cow: The shorts had to be strictly two reels and comedy was valued more than plot. So many shorts end with a big bang rather than a bunch of loose ends tying up. This, far from being dissatisfying, is often as funny as the gags themselves!
  • Einstein Hair: Larry
  • The End: Every episode of The Three Stooges had a The End card with Greek Comedy/Tragedy masks.
  • Engineered Heroics: The Stooges flirt with this in Pest Man Wins when they infest a mansion with common household pests in order to exterminate them and get paid.
  • Epic Fail: Simply put, if they gave out awards for spectacular failures, the Stooges would be the undefeated champions.
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys: The Stooges occasionally ran into some helpful, if mischievous, varieties of these critters (one short even featured a monkey named Joe as a key part of their act). Other encounters were decidely less pleasant; see Killer Gorilla.
  • Everything Explodes Ending: Three Little Sew and Sews
  • Extreme Doormat: Larry comes across as the most sensible of the three in most of the shorts but apparently only goes along with what the others do — and puts up with Moe's abuse — because he's just very passive. The fact that Curly and Shemp also put up with Moe's abuse makes them examples of this as well.
  • Extreme Omnivore: Curly, when hungry.
    • At a fancy dinner, he was presented with a crab ("Ooh, a tarantula!") and ate it, shell and all.
    • In A Pain in the Pullman, all three of them eat crab shells, leaving the meat aside. Interestingly, Moe's crab shell is a rock candy fake; he had a dislike of shellfish (either from keeping kosher himself or growing up in a family who did) and didn't even like the smell left on a real crab shell.
  • Eye Poke: Moe's signature move (actually performed by poking the eyebrows).
  • Face Fault: In Men In Black, though, granted, they fall backwards.
  • Fake Band: One of The Stooges' many signature gags. Inverted since the Stooges, notably Larry, were actually musicians.
  • Fake Shemp: The Trope Maker (the actual Trope Namer is director Sam Raimi, who coined the term in regards to the Stooges when he used this trope during filming of Evil Dead).
    • Technically can be applied to the 2012 film since the original actors are impersonated.
  • Fat Idiot: Curly resembles that remark, as does Curly-Joe.
  • Flower Pot Drop: Curly ends up on the receiving end of one in "Nutty but Nice", apparently as a result of someone becoming annoyed with his yodeling. He's reluctant to yodel again afterwards, fearing something bigger might be in store for him.
  • Flowery Insults: Take a shot every time Moe calls one of the other stooges a "chowderhead", "numbskull", "mental midget", "muttonhead", "porcupine", or some other creative insult.
  • Food Fight: They always had an uncanny ability to make a formal party regress into the formerly snobby, cultured rich people partaking in an epic food fight.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Moe is choleric, Larry is melancholic, Shemp is phlegmatic and Curly sanguine.
    • In Real Life, it was otherwise: Moe was melancholic, Larry was sanguine, Curly was phlegmatic, and Shemp was choleric.
  • Freudian Trio: Curly (later Shemp) is the Id, Larry is the Ego, and Moe is the Superego.
  • Gargle Blaster: Seems to be the only type of alchohol available to the stooges.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Way too many to mention, but one from Some More of Samoa was pretty blatant for its day.
    Moe: (about a persimmon tree) You ain't gonna get anywhere with a single tree. Why, this poor thing is pining away for a girlfriend!
    Curly: Or maybe a boyfriend.
    Moe: Quiet.
    • The 1936 short Movie Maniacs has Curley utter this pearl of wisdom: "If at first you don't succeed, keep on suckin' til ya do suc-ceed!" It's not even a double-entendre, though in the 1930s the phrase "to suck" didn't have the same meaning that it does now.
    • In "Three Little Beers", the trio are employed by the Panther Pilsner Company. "Panther piss" was a popular slang term for cheap and horrible beer at the time.
    • This exchange from "Slippery Silks," when Moe answers at the phone at a fashion boutique the trio have stumbled into owning.
    Moe: Hello? Yes, this is Madame de France... [Larry flinches at the name]
    Larry: Wait a minute!
    Moe: [into phone] Pardon me a moment.
    Larry: Put your right hand on your right hip. [Moe does it]
    Curly: Turn your head this way. [Moe does it]
    Larry: Throw your head back. [Moe does it; he is now standing in an extremely fay pose]
    Larry and Curly: [make a limp-wristed gesture] Woooo woo!
    • For a PG film, the 2012 movie managed to sneak a surprising amount of off-color content, including boob jokes, a scantily-clad nun, and a closeup of a lion's testicles.
  • Giggling Villain: Played with. "Malice in the Palace" has the stooges sneak into the palace of the main villain. After they dispatch of the guard, he walks into the room laughing evilly as the stooges hide. One would think he still can't get over nabbing the diamond; cut to a close-up to reveal he's reading the Comics section from a newspaper.
  • Grande Dame: A very common character in the shorts, the stuffy Society lady whose party (for example) is invaded by the Stooges and becomes the venue for a gigantic pie fight. Often played by Symona Boniface, sort of a budget studio Margaret Dumont.
    • Also referenced in the 2012 film, during the party scene.
  • Grievous Bottley Harm
  • Grumpy Bear: Moe
  • Hard Head: A standard gag was to have Moe take a saw or a hammer to Curly's head, only to have his head bend and warp solid steel.
    • Occurs in the 2012 film too.
  • Harpo Does Something Funny: Moe punishes Curly.
    • According to The Other Wiki, writer Jules White would often leave gaps in which Curly could improvise.
  • He-Man Woman Hater: The Stooges belonging to what was pretty much an adult version of the Trope Namer made up the plot of "Women Haters". A similar organization appeared in two Shemp shorts.
  • He Went That Way
  • Hollow Sounding Head: Curly's head is apparently Made of Iron and hollow.
  • Hollywood Healing: All three Stooges had the endurance of a typical cartoon character.
  • Homage: The minor 1984 hit "The Curly Shuffle" is all about watching the Stooges on late night TV.
    • The 2012 film is considered an homage.
  • Horrible Camping Trip: "Idiots Deluxe" and "Guns A Poppin" see Moe taken on vacation to the woods to calm his nerves. Three guesses as to how well that works.
  • Hot Potato
  • How Many Fingers?: A common gag would be Moe asking one of the stooges how many fingers he was holding up, and when they answered "two" he'd poke them in the eyes.
  • I Ate WHAT?: A Running Gag had the characters, whether a stooge or a supporter, to drink brown paint instead of coffee.
  • Ill Girl
    • The stooges help one reunite with her father in Nutty but Nice.
    • Another one shows up in the movie.
  • Impossible Leavening: Done with beer instead of bread. In Beer Barrel Polecats, each of the Stooges add the prescribed amount of yeast to their beer, not knowing that the other two stooges have done (or will do) the same. They end up with enough beer that they have to move it to a bathtub to contain it all.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: Many of Curly's jokes, which invariably earn some abuse from Moe.
    • In the 2012 movie Larry is also punished for this.
  • Ink-Suit Actor: In the 30s up to the 40s, the Stooges cameoed in animated cartoon form, usually from other studios. Warners used them in Porky's Hero Agency and Hollywood Steps Out.
  • In One Ear, Out The Other
  • Instrumental Theme Tune: Most famously, instrumental versions of "Listen to the Mockingbird" and "Three Blind Mice". In both cases, doubles as a Real Song Theme Tune.
  • Invisible Holes: Should one of the Stooges get shot or punctured with needles, expect this to occur.
  • Iron Buttmonkey: Though this applies to Curly most of all, all three Stooges have their moments.
  • Isophagus: Played straight in Disorder in the Court, where Moe accidentally swallows a harmonica and Larry and Curly respond by making him play "Ach Du Lieber Augustine" by pumping his arm and squeezing his stomach.
  • Is There a Doctor in the House?: In the episode From Nurse to Worse, a doctor shouts this frantically while in a hospital surrounded by other doctors, after accidently giving another doctor sleeping gas when he was supposed to give it to Curly, before slowly realizing that he is a doctor.
  • It Was Here, I Swear: Should a short have some sort of paranormal or mystery theme, Curly and Shemp will usually be the first to come across something frightening, which conveniently disappears when Moe gets involved. Moe will eventually witness it himself, however.
  • Jerkass: Moe. And then some.
    • In Pop Goes the Easel, his Jerk Ass attitude gets cranked Up to Eleven when, following a clay fight, Moe demands to know who started it, Larry says "YOU did!", Moe responds by angrily yelling "Oh YEAH?!", and then promptly spins around with his hand extended, slapping Larry, Curly and three or four other guys with one continuous slap.
    • Most of the stooges' antagonists, played by the likes of Bud Jamison, Vernon Dent, Kenneth MacDonald and Richard Fiske are of course also Jerkasses.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Moe's character on-screen would sometimes reveal his heart of gold whenever a woman or a child was somehow in trouble.
    • Referenced in the 2012 film, in spades.
  • Juggling Loaded Guns
    • Disorder in the Court introduces a gun as evidence. Curly is told to try to pull the incredibly rusty trigger, after being told "Never fear, it's not loaded." After one harmless click, he then accidentally shoots off the baliff's toupee when his finger gets stuck in the trigger guard.
    • Any time the Stooges or someone around them insisted a gun wasn't loaded, it was. In "Even as I.O.U." Curly gives a baby a pacifier. When Moe sees that it's a revolver, he reaches in to get it, but is stopped by Larry, who warns that the kid might pull the trigger. Curly insists it isn't loaded, and seeks to prove it...by cocking the hammer and thoughtlessly discharging it in an enclosed space. Pretty much every rule of gun safety is blithely disregarded.
    • In The Movie, a girl is clinging to balloons and floating to the ceiling, and Larry gets the idea to take a shotgun off a wall rack to pop the balloons. Moe takes it from him, chides him for his 'gun safety' and hits him with a buttstroke - causing the gun to go off. It was already loaded on the wall.
  • Just for Pun: Often overlooked by their physical slapstick humor is their witty way with words and puns. Examples can be found in any short- and the movie.
  • Karma Houdini: Quite a few shorts feature the Stooges being hopelessly outfoxed by a much smarter antagonist, assuming said antagonist doesn't disappear from the short altogether. Examples include con artists Blackie and Doyle ("A Ducking They Did Go") and gold digger Mabel ("Corny Casanovas").
  • Kavorka Man: All three. Curly was this off-screen as well.
  • Killer Gorilla: Gorillas were always bad news in Three Stooges shorts, though they often took a liking to Curly or Shemp.
  • Kissgusting: "I'm poisoned!"
  • Knife-Throwing Act: The Three Stooges Go Round the World in a Daze
  • Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Moe is arguably best example ever of this trope. As the "boss" stooge he often rudely bullies Larry and Curly(and Shemp) around for goofing up and considers himself smarter than them but is clearly every bit as dim as they are.
  • Kung-Foley: The Stooges had the most ridiculous and creative foley artists in the history of film. In fact the main reason the television pilot they filmed late in their careers flopped was that it didn't have those ridiculous sound effects. Those noises that went with their unique slapstick were an essential part of their comedy. Without them their classic comedy slapstick is reduced to violence for violence' sake. Remember that "slapstick" doesn't refer to the stick you use to slap someone. It's the stick you use to create the slapping sound.
  • The Law Firm of Pun, Pun, and Wordplay: The aforementioned "Dewey, Cheatham and Howe."
    • The 2012 film had Larry and Curly looking for a lawyer; on the floor of the building they were looking in, they see a variety of punny tenants' names such as "Proba, Keister & Wince, Proctologists" and "Ditcher, Quick and Hyde, Divorce Lawyers", before arriving at the law offices of "Kickem, Harter & Indagroyne".
  • Lethally Stupid: In the real world, the Stooges would be accidental mass murderers. And they would have been dead several times.
  • Literal Ass Kicking: Probably in every short.
  • Made of Iron: A Stooge prerequisite. The Movie takes this up a notch by having Curly survive a chainsaw to the head - after which the chainsaw breaks.
  • Malaproper: The Howard brothers in general were masters of this.
  • Meddlesome Patrolman: Usually played by Bud Jamison, this character was a common foil for the often vagrant Stooges.
  • Mirror-Cracking Ugly: Larry finds himself to be this in "Gypped in the Penthouse".
  • Minor Injury Overreaction: This was a staple of their comedy.
    • How much would being bopped on the nose actually hurt when Moe's got his fist around it to absorb most of the shock? Curly certainly makes it look agonizing.
    • There's also this recurring joke in their shorts:
    Larry: (after receiving an eye poke) I can't see! I can't see!
    Moe: What's the matter?
    Larry: (smugly) I've got my eyes closed. (gets slapped by Moe)
  • The Movie
  • Murphy's Bed: How many times have their bunk beds collapsed? It doesn't help that they always put the heaviest person, Curly, on the top bunk. Curly often steps on Moe's and Larry's heads on the way up to the top. The trio have often had bad luck with beds that fold into the wall as well.
  • Music Soothes the Savage Beast: Inverted in Idle Roomers, which features a Wolf Man who is relatively tame until he hears music. The stooges, mistakenly believing in this trope, decide to play music when confronted by him, activating the Wolf Man's Berserk Button.
  • Nature Versus Nurture: Two professors tested this on the Stooges in Hoi Polloi, long before Trading Places used much the same plot.
  • Never My Fault: Moe would punish Larry and Curly for accidents that were actually Moe's fault.
    • Example: Moe tries to kill a pair of moving pants with a wooden board. On the back swing, he breaks a priceless vase. To Larry: Why didn't you bring me a softer board!?
  • The Neidermeyer: The drill sergeant in Boobs In Arms.
  • No Ending: A lot of the shorts just end suddenly without resolving the plot.
  • Non-Fatal Explosions
  • Not So Above It All: Not only is this the ending to Hoi Polloi, but the audience is often reminded that Moe (the "boss" Stooge) was not really that much smarter or more sensible than Curly.
  • Nuns Are Funny: in the 2012 movie, especially Sister Mary-Mengele played by Larry David (in drag!).
  • Offscreen Crash: Sometimes used straight and sometimes averted.
    • In the movie, averted with regards to Mac being pushed in front of a bus, however the screen test version of the same scene (included on the DVD/Blu-ray) has an off-camera crash.
  • One-Episode Wonder: The failed pilot of the 1949 Three Stooges tv show, which was nixed by Columbia Pictures.
  • One Extra Member: There were actually 6 of them, though only 3 in any given short. (Larry, Moe, Curly, Shemp, Curly Joe, and Joe)
  • Open Heart Dentistry: "Calling Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine, Dr. Howard." Which has become a very common Shout-Out in hospital scenes throughout media.
  • Overly Polite Pals: The Stooges often did an overly-bumbling version of this whenever they wish to attempt to blend in with high society.
  • Pantomime Animal: Done in a few shorts, most notably as a bull in "Cuckoo Cavaliers". Naturally, this became a problem when a real bull showed up.
  • The Password Is Always Swordfish: In one short, when Moe asks Larry to think of a password to enter their room, he deadpans "Open the door!" Cue Moe's standard pretend-to-be-pleased-then-dope-slap-the-idiot routine.
  • Perpetual Poverty: Many shorts started with the Stooges either losing a crappy job or having no job at all. Likely a reflection of the times. This is a main theme in the movie.
  • Pie in the Face: If not the Trope Codifiers, they definitely took this trope and ran with it, several times. Although, as some Stooges historians have noted, not nearly as often as the general public might think. Something like 10 or 12 out of almost 200 shorts actually feature pie-throwing. It wasn't always pie either, sometimes it could be mud, cake, sculpting clay (in an episode where the stooges start a fight at an art school), or any other messy substance. Also, these weren't actual pies, more like whipped cream in a tin.
  • Pig Latin: One of the many running gags.
  • Plank Gag: A favourite of theirs.
  • Power Trio: Curly/Shemp/Joe (Id), Moe (Superego), Larry (Ego)
  • The Pratfall: Curly in particular made regular use of this.
  • Priceless Ming Vase: With an actual vase in "Healthy, Wealthy, and Dumb" and its remake, and a Chinese cabinet in "Slippery Silks".
  • Pro Wrestling Episode: Grips, Grunts and Groans
  • Pungeon Master: Curly, again. He'd usually say this in response to a question Moe asked, and Moe would either just be annoyed and ignore it, or in some cases, slap Curly. Example:
    Curly: (after hearing a roar in a pipe they're trying to fix) Sounds like a bear!
    Moe: How's a bear gonna fit down there?
    Curly: Well, it's bear-y possible!
    (Moe nods like Curly made a good point before realizing he just made another stupid pun and gives him an annoyed look)
  • Punny Name
    • The law firm of Dewey, Cheatem and Howe, (president I. Fleeceum) among others.
    • The map in "You Nazty Spy!" has several, such as the Look Sea and Doublecrossia
    • A map in "Malice in the Palace" has the Giva Dam, which doubles as Getting Crap Past the Radar.
    • Many minor characters have ones related to their profession. For example, the dentist in All The World's A Stooge is named I. Yankum.
    • Pretty much every firm in the 2012 movie as well.
  • Reaching Between the Lines: Moe somehow did this with an eye poke in "False Alarms", and his shaving brush in "I'll Never Heil Again".
  • Right Behind Me: Done often, usually with Moe. Though it wasn't usually Moe overhearing Larry and Curly talking about him, rather, it'd be when they're doing something like squirting a hose in his face or mistaking his hand for a slab of meat and putting it in a sandwich. He'd wait until they noticed before administering a Dope Slap.
  • Rump Roast: Happens in many shorts.
  • Running Gag: More than you could shake a schtick at.
    • However, many so-called "running gags" are actually recurring/recycled gags. One example of a bona fide running gag involves a piece of shtick in which Moe holds his clenched fist out to Curly, asks "See that?" and then either Moe or Curly slaps the fist which arcs Moe's arm around in a circle to bonk Curly on the head. This gag is repeated, with slight variations, in many consecutive shorts from 1934 onwards. However, in the 1936 short "False Alarms", the use of "See that?" becomes the subject of a running gag-breaker. When Moe first tries it, Curly says "We don't have time for that now" as the Stooges have to get away from the approaching fire chief. Then, when Moe tries it a second time, Curly grabs the fist and sticks out his tongue, "Nyah!" (but he still gets bonked). The "See that?" gag becomes less frequent after this film.
  • Saving the Orphanage: The plot for the video game and the 2012 movie.
  • Say My Name: In A Pain in the Pullman:
    "JOHNSONNNNN!!!"
  • Scooby-Dooby Doors: On a few occasions, such as the short "Loose Loot".
  • Scooby Stack: Prone to striking this pose when peering around corners or from behind trees.
  • Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You: In-story, the trio tried two 3-d shorts, Spooks! and Pardon My Backfire. To help enhance the gags, some shots were done at the camera. Which means Moe Is About to Poke Your Eyes!
  • Self-Deprecation: More than once in their shorts, such as this exchange in Crash Goes the Hash.
    A butler: Such levity. You remind me of the Three Stooges.
    Curly: Hey! That's an insult!!
  • Shoehorned First Letter: In the short Sing a Song of Six Pants, the stooges are trying to guess the name of the owner of a suit when they know his initials are TH. They come up with Thomas Hedison and Teddy Hoosevelt.
  • Shot in the Ass: This often happened to them. They reacted to it in about the same way a cartoon character would.
  • The Show Goes Hollywood: "Movie Maniacs".
  • The Show Must Go On: That scene with the crab and Curly? It cut up the inside of his mouth terribly. Another time when hit on the head Curly's scalp split open. They glued it together on the set. When they ran out of pies in a throwing sequence, they scooped the remains off of the floors, loose nails and all. One of Moe's falls onto a Saw Horse broke several ribs.
    • Shemp died? You still have four shorts left to film ...
  • Sick Episode: "Scrambled Brains", "Pardon My Clutch", and "Wham-Bam-Slam!", all of which featured Shemp.
  • Signature Laugh: Curly's "Nyuk-Nyuk-Nyuk".
  • Slapstick: Gee, ya think?
  • Slapstick Knows No Gender: Women weren't on the receiving end of the stooges antics too often, at least until food fights broke out, then everybody was fair game.
    • A notable exception is in I'm a Monkey's Uncle. Moe and Larry have courted (read: bopped) Aggie and Maggie. Shemp is less enthusiastic about Baggie, and she ends up wooing him after a flying tackle. Another tribe comes on them and accuses the boys of stealing the women, and hurls spears; all three land in the rumps. Of Moe, Larry, and Baggie (as she's carrying Shemp).
    • The 2012 film features Sofia Vergara and several female cast members of Jersey Shore engaging in Stooge-like antics.
    • The 1946 short "Rhythm and Weep" featured three sexy dancers as co-stars for the Stooges. A scene was filmed in which the girls dressed as Moe, Larry and Curly and impersonated the Stooges. Unfortunately, this scene was cut from the film and the footage lost; only publicity images of the girls in costume survives.
  • The Smart Guy: Though none of them were really that gifted intellectually, Larry was probably the marginally most intelligent and sensible of the three in most of the shorts, even if he came off somewhat eccentric. Though it usually displayed itself with him being more street than book smart.
    • Moe was at least smart enough to know that one person getting a handle on the situation could make it work... and then push the blame when it didn't.
  • Smelly Skunk: Quite a few times, like when Curly had a cold while they were fox hunting and captured a skunk by mistake. Also in many shorts Curly wears a skunk-fur cap while Moe and Larry are wearing a racoon-fur cap.
    • One turns up in "Cuckoo on a Choo Choo."
  • Snake Oil Salesman: The Stooges become this in Dizzy Doctors.
  • Space Episode: A few during the Joe years.
  • Spanner in the Works: In some shorts the Stooges, through their well-meaning blundering, would disrupt criminal activities. "Three Dumb Clucks" has the Stooges, while working to prevent their father from divorcing their mother and marrying a Gold Digger, halt an attempt on the old man's life from the Gold Digger conspiritors.
  • Stage Name: All of them. Moses Harry Horwitz became Moe Howard, Jerome Lester Horwitz became Curly Howard, Samuel Horwitz became Shemp Howard, and Louis Feinberg became Larry Fine.
  • Stand-In Portrait: A rare three-dimensional example, seen in The Hot Scots as well as other shorts.
  • Sticky Situation: The Stooges use glue to sabotage the guns of the Carnival of Killers in The Outlaws Is Coming.
  • Stock Footage
    • Many later shorts recycle material from earlier ones. Only less funny. Curly's failing health towards the end of his career is part of the reason this was done.
    • Most of Shemp's later shorts were remakes of earlier shorts, a cost-cutting measure by Columbia's short subjects department.
  • Stock Shout-Out: Dozens of times.
    • Any comedic fight scene in which one character attempts to poke another character in both eyes at the same time, only to be foiled by the second character holding up a flattened hand in front of their nose. This gag appears in Evil Dead, during the scene where Ash is being beaten up by skeleton arms rising out of the earth.
    • Many trios who posess or somehow acquire hairstyles (or the equivalent) reminiscent of the Stooges'.
    • Short Circuit includes a brief appearance by Numbers One, Two, and Three, sent out to retrieve Number Five. "Johnny" reprograms them after a battle and they re-appear before their controllers engaging in Stooge-like shenanigans.
    • During the "Beware the Creeper" episode of Batman: The Animated Series, the Joker's henchmen-of-the-episode sported Stooge-like haircuts, and the bald one even engaged in Curly-like self-face-slapping. They were even named "Moe, Lar, and Curl".
  • Straight Man: Larry, to a certain extent, and various supporting characters.
    • Moe in the 2012 film.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Three actually — Joe, then Curly-Joe, and finally Emil. Joe and Curly Joe were Curly subs and Emil replaced Larry. Curly-replacing-Shemp-replacing-Curly was an aversion since Shemp and Curly were fundamentally different characters. The two Joes were subversions as well, as they had their own style and never tried to parody Curly, despite looking like him.
  • Styrofoam Rocks: Used quite often, though it helped sell their slapstick humor by having them survive being hit in the head with rocks or bricks with only minor pain.
    • This is even Lampshaded in Beer Barrel Polecats, when Moe and Larry are breaking rocks over Curly's head in prison while he nonchalantly sews a uniform. He stops them at one point when Moe is grabbing another rock.
    Curly: Hey wait a minute, that's a real one! I'm no fool.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: Moe. Possibly the Trope Namer, though Moe usually said "I'm surrounded by Morons" instead. Played with because Moe was an idiot too.
  • Tap on the Head: Always accompanied by chirping birds afterwards.
  • Taxman Takes The Winnings: In "Healthy, Wealthy and Dumb", Curly wins $50,000 in a radio sweepstakes, and the stooges think they have it made. That is until they find out that after taxes Curly is only left with $4.85, leaving them unable to pay for the damages to the expensive hotel they're living in. This scenario was repeated in "A Missed Fortune", a remake featuring Shemp.
  • There Is Only One Bed: In episodes where they weren't sleeping in three stacked bunk beds that were almost certain to collapse, the stooges all shared one bed (even if there were 3 beds available), which usually resulted in more hilarity.
  • The Tooth Hurts: Used in I Can Hardly Wait, where Curly gets a toothache.
    • And then there's The Tooth Will Out in which the boys train one whole week to become dentists. It ends pretty much the way you'd expect.
  • Think of the Censors: In Gypped in the Penthouse, a beautiful woman takes Shemp's ring and hides it in her cleavage, leaving Shemp with a problem:
    Shemp: There must be a way to get that ring back without getting in trouble with the censors.
  • Thinking Tic: Shemp would often start going into spasms when he tried to think, and might request Moe to bonk him in the head to help get the thought to come out.
  • This Is a Work of Fiction: You Nazty Spy! claims that "Any resemblance between the characters in this picture and any persons, living or dead, is a miracle."
    • The "don't try this at home" message at the end of the 2012 film probably qualifies.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: You Nazty Spy! was the first movie ever to mock the Nazis. Not only do they have that Crowning Moment of Awesome, but the balcony scene where they parody Hitler's unique oratorical style with nonsense and weird noises is perhaps the biggest Crowning Moment of Funny in all the Stooges' copious work. Certainly justified mocking on the Stooges' parts, since they were all Jewish.
  • Thought Bubble: A rare live-action one in I Can Hardly Wait, while Curly is dreaming.
  • Three-Dimensional Episode: Two of The Three Stooges shorts, Pardon my Backfire and Spooks, were shot in 3-D in the 1950's, during the first big 3-D craze.
    • The fact the 2012 film, released during the 2010's 3-D fad, was produced and issued only in 3-D, probably counts as an inversion.
  • Thumbtack on the Chair: Though it rarely happened with actual thumbtacks, the Stooges and their antagonists were often on the receiving end of this kind of gag.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Burnt toast and a rotten egg: "I've got a tapeworm and it's good enough for him."
  • True Companions: Moe, Curly, and Shemp considered Larry to be their brother.
    • A major plot element of the 2012 film.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Scads of attractive actresses played love interests for the Stooges. Later in an autobiography Moe would say that producers and directors would butter up a woman by telling her she could be in a Stooge short. That many of them had no acting abilities and little stage presence didn't seem to matter.
    • Yes, but one of them was Lucille Ball! (In her first credited role, no less.)
    • Not to mention the lovely and talented Christine McIntyre, whom many Stooge fans fondly dub "the female Stooge".
  • Vacation Episode: "Idiots Deluxe" and "Guns a Poppin''.
  • Vagabond Buddies
  • Villain Protagonist: The Stooges themselves in "Income Tax Sappy", in which they (ultimate unsuccessfully) attempt tax evasion. Larry also plays a uniquely antagonistic role in "He Cooked His Goose" as a ladykilling Smug Snake who tries to play Moe and Shemp against each other in order to get with their respective women.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Type 1. Moe Howard sure seemed to hate the first Joe, Joe Besser. While Besser seemed to reflect on his time with the Stooges fondly and thought Howard was a good sport for taking the hits for Joe Besser.
  • Verbal Tic
    • A large portion of Curly's shtick involved his odd vocalizations like "nyuk-nyuk-nyuk," "woo-woo-woo," barking, and so on.
    • Shemp would often go "heebebebebebebeee", usually while snoring but in certain situations while he was awake too.
  • Wartime Cartoon: Though not cartoons as such, the Stooges made several shorts supporting the war effort ranging from from the sublime (You Nazty Spy) to the cringeworthy (The Yolk's on Me) which used actual Japanese-American internees as extras.
  • Weird Trade Union: The Amalgamated Association of Morons local 6 7/8 (Half-Wits Holiday).
    Stooges: We are morons tried and true! And we'll do our yell for you! (start making weird faces and noises)
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In Even As I.O.U., the plot of the first half of the short, where the stooges are helping a homeless mother and her child, is forgotten after they go to the horse races to raise money for them.
    • A tragic inversion of the trope occurs midway through Half-Wits Holiday when Curly walks off camera and is never seen nor referenced again, even during the short's climactic pie fight. This is due to Curly suffering his stoke between scenes and the decision being made to complete the short without him.
  • Why Do You Keep Changing Jobs?: The stooges are basically doing something different in every episode, that is when they actually have a job.
  • Work Off the Debt: In the short "Oily to Bed, Oily to Rise", the Stooges accidentally damage a farmer's saws; he orders them to work for him until they can pay for new saws. However, in the next scene, they aren't shown doing said work and are back out wandering the countryside. It's never established if they did work off their debt or ran off when the farmer wasn't looking.
  • Yellowface: In No Dough Boys, a wartime short, the stooges are dressed as Japanese soldiers for a photo shoot, and later stumble upon a hideout with Nazi spies and have to take on the identity of the Japanese spies they were expecting to meet with.
  • You Can Say That Again: In Micro-Phonies, as they see a beautiful woman:
    Curly: My, ain't she pretty!
    Moe: Boy, you can say that again!
    Curly: My, ain't she pretty!
    Moe: Shut up! (slaps him)
  • You Have to Believe Me: Curly and Shemp often ended up in these situations in mystery or horror-themed shorts, earning them a Dope Slap from Moe. Then Larry would see the same scary thing, but Moe would think they're both being morons until he sees it for himself.
  • Young Gun: Billy the Kid in The Outlaws Is Coming.
  • You Wouldn't Hit a Guy with Glasses?: Shemp tries this in Who Done It? Of course, Moe hits him anyway without bothering to remove the glasses.

The Movie has examples of:


Dum-dada-dum-da-dum. Da!
The Thick of ItComedy SeriesThe Tremendous Court
David SpadeComic ActorsEric Sykes
Royal Shakespeare CompanyDouble Acts And GroupsEdgar Wright
Lady Play Your MandolinFilms of the 1930s    
The Thin ManFilm SeriesTomie
They Shoot Horses, Don't They?The Great DepressionTime Cop
AstérixSlapstickLaurel and Hardy
SnixShort FilmX Marks The Spot
TarzanFilms of the 1940sTom and Jerry
This Is the EndCreator/Columbia PicturesTootsie
The TinglerFilms of the 1950sBaby Huey
Regal RingletsImageSource/Live-Action FilmsAdults Dressed as Children
A Thousand WordsFilms of the 2010sThunderstruck

alternative title(s): Three Stooges; The Three Stooges; The Three Stooges
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