Follow TV Tropes


Creator / Abbott and Costello

Go To
Bud Abbott (left) and Lou Costello (right). Behind them, on first base: Who.

"Heeeeey, Abboooooooott!"

William Alexander "Bud" Abbott (October 2, 1897 – April 24, 1974) and Louis Francis "Lou" Costello (March 6, 1906 – March 3, 1959) were an American 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?" "Yes.")

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. This later included the duo joining the Universal Horror Shared Universe with the pair encountering all sorts of monsters and equally fantastic situations, an artistic merger that worked surprisingly well with each franchise allowed to play to their strengths.

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.

Eventually, Costello grew dissatisfied by the arrangements and left to perform his own in 1957, but he died soon after in 1959. Bud Abbott worked relatively little afterwards, suffering from gambling debts, income tax problems and declining health. However, he did get one last major gig near the end of his life performing the voice of himself in The Abbott and Costello Cartoon Show by Hanna-Barbera with Stan Irwin voicing Costello.

Not to be confused with Tony Abbott and Peter Costello, a pair of Australian politicians who served together as ministers under Prime Minister John Howard. Abbott was later the Prime Minister of Australia.

A list of their films:

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 Bid: Costello buys a bunch of slave girls in Abbott and Costello in the Foreign Leigon this way, because he thinks the other bidder is waving at him.
  • 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.
  • Adults Dressed as Children: Joe Besser as Stinky the Spoiled Brat, who would get into hilarious spats with the equally childish Costello.
  • Advertised Extra: Abbott and Costello were supporting characters in their first film, One Night in the Tropics, but the home video releases heavily feature them on the cover (and they weren't pictured on the original poster) and put their names above the title as if they are the stars.
  • 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.
  • Ambiguous Gender: The hotel employee in Who Done It who constantly swindles Lou.
  • Ancient Egypt: Although it was set in (then-)modern times, Abbott and Costello Meet The Mummy calls pretty heavily on this trope.
  • 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 cats (in Bob Clampett's A Tale of Two Kitties) before being redesigned as mice (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.
  • Bankruptcy Barrel: Lou dons one at the end of Buck Privates.
  • Beanstalk Parody: In Jack and the Beanstalk, Eloise Larkin and her fiancé Arthur's plans to attend the rehearsal of a play are jeopardized because no one will babysit her obnoxious kid brother Donald. Eloise phones the Cosman Employment Agency, where Mr. Dinkel (Bud) and Jack (Lou) just happen to be seeking work. Jack flirts with Cosman employee Polly, but he is thwarted by the arrival of her boyfriend, a towering police officer. Polly sends Dinkle and Jack to babysit, but an attempt to lull the boy to sleep by reading the fairy tale Jack and the Beanstalk (Jack's "favorite novel") aloud fails when Jack stumbles over the larger words. Bemused by Jack, Donald reads the story instead — a role-reversal made complete when Jack falls asleep as Donald reads. In his slumber, Jack dreams that he is the young Jack of the fairy tale. Hilarity Ensues as he the people he has met fill the various roles in the story.
  • 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".
  • Beware the Silly Ones: 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.
  • Boke and Tsukkomi Routine
  • Bowdlerization: The original movie poster for Africa Screams as well as some early home video releases show a racist caricature of an African stewing Abbott and Costello in a cauldron as he holds a cookbook. This is absent from modern video covers and streaming service thumbnails for obvious reasons.
  • 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.
  • Bungled Suicide: In Pardon My Sarong, Bud convinces Lou to shoot himself rather than starve to death when they are marooned at sea without food or fresh water. Naturally, Lou pulls the trigger and misses.
  • 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.
  • Call-Back: In Pardon My Sarong, Costello refers to an egg-beater as an outboard motor. Towards the end of the film, he calls an outboard motor an egg-beater.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Whenever Costello sees something that makes him flustered, he becomes hilariously tongue-tied and unable to explain it to Abbott.
  • Can't Get in Trouble for Nuthin': In The Noose Hangs High, Abbott and Costello try to commit a crime to Get into Jail Free. It doesn’t out work so well because they target the wrong people (e.g. stealing something from a guy who stole it himself).
  • 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. At the end of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, Lou goes off like this:
    Costello: And another thing, Mr. Chick Young, the next time I tell you that I saw something when I saw it, YOU BELIEVE ME that I SAW it!
  • Catchphrase: "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.
  • Clear My Name: The goal of Costello's character in Mexican Hayride after Abbott's character left him holding the bag in a phony oil field scheme.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: The "Pokomoko" guy in Lost in a Harem.
  • Compilation Movie: The World of Abbott and Costello (1965) features various scenes from eighteen of their films.
  • Counting Sheep: In Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man, when a psychiatrist tries to put Lou to sleep (the whole scene is one big Comically Missing the Point), Lou starts counting.
    Psychiatrist: What are you doing?
    Lou: I'm counting cows.
    Psychiatrist: COWS?
    Lou: I'm allergic to sheep.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Dr. Jekyll in Abbot and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Made all the more disturbing by the fact that the object of his affections is his niece.
  • Darkest Africa: In their movie Africa Screams, complete with a friendly gorilla, a safari, a cannibal tribe that wants to cook Bud and Lou in, respectively, a tall skinny and short round iron kettle, and oodles of Costello-hating African wildlife.
  • 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.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Discussed (for laughs, natch):
    Costello What time tomorrow are you going to tell me who's pitching?
    Abbott: Now listen. WHO is not PITCHING.
    Costello: *exasperated* I'll break your arm if you say Who's On First!
  • Don't Explain the Joke: Abbott explains the punchline to Costello's joke about Jonah and the whale, where the whale is cut up, and in it, has Jonah on a stool selling the apples he was hauling. Costello then leaves in dismay.
  • 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.
  • Dynamite Candle: The killer slips Costello one during the climax of Abbott and Costello Meet The Killer, Boris Karloff.
  • Elevator Floor Announcement: In an episode of their radio show.
  • Endearingly Dorky: 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.
  • 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 Ditz.
  • The Flapping Dickey: In Hold That Ghost, at the end of the film, the two main characters are running a party when Costello's character, Freddie Jones, encounters a maitre d', who had fired them from an earlier job, working as a temp waiter. Freddie tweaks the waiter's dignity by ordering him to fix his tie, fix his vest and to pull down his shirt, at which point, his dicky pops up and rolls up in classic scroll-like fashion.
  • 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 '90s: The Naughty Nineties is set in the 1890s, and involves Abbott and Costello's characters trying to help their boss regain ownership of his showboat after he loses it in a card game.
  • Get into Jail Free: Abbott and Costello try this in The Noose Hangs High because in jail they would be safe from the guy who wants them dead (protective custody hadn't really been established when the film was made). It becomes a case of Can't Get in Trouble for Nuthin'.
  • 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.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: In Abbott and Costello Meet the Keystone Kops, con man Joseph Gorman and his accomplice Leota Van Cleef swindle Harry (Abbott) and Willie (Costello) before fleeing to Hollywood to become a producer with Leota as leading lady. The head of the movie studio, Mr. Snavely, discovers who they really are, but since he consider Gorman a great producer he decide to let them keep their fake identities, but their salary will be used to pay back to the people they have swindled in the past. The two con artists starts to like the opportunity to make an honest living, but their hired accomplice blackmail them to rob the studio's safe.
  • He-Man Woman Hater: In Keep 'Em Flying, the boys try to form a "woman-haters union" to keep themselves on the straight and narrow since the military doesn't allow women. It barely lasts five seconds.
  • Here We Go Again!: In Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff after have getting rid of one of the many Peeka Boo Corpse before getting blamed for the murder, Costello believes he can finally relax and go to bed, but once he open the closet he sees another dead body. His reaction; sighs to himself, calmly walks out to get the laundry cart that were used to remove the previous body and place it by the closet and proceeds to scream at the top of his lungs after Abbott.
  • Hero Antagonist: The drill sergeant in Buck Privates and Buck Privates Come Home.
  • Hollywood Mirage: Lou has several in Abbott and Costello Join the Foreign Legion. One is even a milkshake bar in the middle of the desert! When the boys stumble across an oasis, he takes several minutes to accept that it's real.
  • "Home Alone" Antics: In Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff, Costello rigs his hotel room with various booby traps to prevent the killer from murdering him or planting any more dead bodies in there.
  • Honorary Uncle: The boys (Costello mostly) become this to an adorable French orphan girl in Buck Privates Come Home.
  • How Would You Like to Die?: In Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff. Karloff's character keeps trying to get Costello's to commit suicide, but fails; when he finally asks the question outright, Costello replies with "Old age."
  • Hurricane of Puns: The basis of most of their humor.
  • Hypocritical Humor: In one of the versions of their argument about hot dogs going with mustard, Costello says that he prefers Worcestershire sauce, but pronounces it "Wooshteshire-sheer shaush". Abbott tries to pronounce it, but messes it up, to which Costello replies "You can't even shay it."
  • Idiot Ball: In the diner routine (seen in Keep 'em Flying and an episode of The Abbott and Costello Show), the waitress gives Lou a free piece of cake, only to leave and her twin sister comes in and tells Lou he has to pay for it, both coming in and out at different times and confusing Lou. Considering they're twin sisters working together, they should have explained they were twins, especially when Lou keeps mentioning his confusion.
  • 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 episode "Hungry":
    Abbott: Go ahead, just order something small.
    Costello: I'll have a small steak.
  • Involuntary Dance: Costello's character in Mexican Hayride finds himself compelled to dance when he hears a samba after sambaing in a dance marathon for 68 hours to win the money to get to Mexico.
  • It Was Here, I Swear!: A standard bit, appearing in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein and Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff 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 many 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.
    • Also this exchange:
    Abbott: Oh, well–-we can fix that..
    (Pulls the sink out of the wall, breaks it over Costello’s head.)
  • Ladykiller in Love: Jinx in Keep 'Em Flying and Tommy in Pardon My Sarong both have character arcs like this.
  • 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.
  • Lie Detector: The "Tree of Truth" in Pardon My Sarong. Go To Mars revisits this joke with balloons and an electric chair that can read minds.
  • Literal-Minded: Costello.
  • Lovable Coward, Costello, frequently. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein is a prime example.
  • Love Potion: Costello and several other characters accidentally drink one in Comin' Round the Mountain. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Manchild: Costello generally acts as one.
  • Mid-Battle Tea Break: In Pardon My Sarong, when the bad guys are chasing Costello up a flight of stairs, they all stop to catch a breather halfway up.
  • Mistaken for Aliens: In Abbott and Costello Go to Mars, the boys land in New Orleans during Mardi Gras, and the locals' large papier-mâché costumes convince them that they’re on Mars.
  • 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!"
  • Never Bareheaded: Costello was always been seen wearing a hat throughout a majority of movies, such as Africa Screams and Jack and the Beanstalk, but The Abbott and Costello Show stood out the most with him always wearing his derby on even at home when Abbott takes off his when they don't go out.
  • 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's character.
    • And perhaps Here Come the Co-Eds, since the school in question is an all-girls school and so technically the girls there are not "co-eds."
  • No Indoor Voice: Captain Kidd.
  • Noodle Incident: In In Society, the "Susquehanna Hat Company" phrase makes men react in rage and anger against Costello and causes women to scream in terror and anguish. We never really discover why the mention of this company causes such wild and violent reactions in passersby, although one stranger accuses the company of employing child labor, and another blames their hats for her husband's death.
  • Not Now, We're Too Busy Crying Over You: 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.
  • 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.
  • Old, Dark House: The boys inherit an Old Dark Inn from a dead gangster in Hold That Ghost.
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: In Hit the Ice, the boys boast to some gangsters that they make a living by "shooting people". They are referring to their job as photographers, but the gangsters think they are trigger-happy hitmen.
  • Open Mouth, Insert Foot: In Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff, Lou accidentally admits that he hid two dead bodies in an elevator, essentially confessing to the murders he's been wrongfully suspected of.
  • The Operators Must Be Crazy: The episode "Who Done It" has a skit about a particularly bizarre and abusive operator.
  • Paparazzi: The lead side character in In The Navy is stalked by a nosy reporter throughout the movie and eventually falls in love with her.
  • Peek-a-Boo Corpse:
    • Happens several times in the murder mystery films, like Who Done It? and Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff. Of course, when Costello alerts Abbott or the authorities, the body is nowhere to be found.
    • Also happens in Hold That Ghost, where Costello assumes the body is behind a hidden door, but actually falls out of the curtains next to the door.
  • Peeling Potatoes: Following one of Lou's usual screw-ups in Buck Privates, the Drill Sergeant Nasty tells him that he's going to make him an admiral. Lou says he didn't know the army had admirals, and the sergeant assures him he is going to be in charge of all of the army's vessels. Cut to Lou on K.P., washing a gigantic stack of dirty pots.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: The two receive one from Mr. Fields of Fields' Employment Agency after acting like bigshot jackasses.
    Fields: You've had your shay, now you listen to me. You came into this office like a wild man, you criticized my business and the way I run my business, you knocked my furniture, you insulted my wife. My wife! (picks up a photo of his wife from his desk) Do you realize that's the woman I married? That's the woman I love. The day I married her, she ran third of... (lets it go) You see? Now, you've got me insulting my own wife! Don't you know that a gentleman never insults anybody? (Abbott agrees with him) The first essential of politeness is consideration of the feelings of others? Graciousness without condescension? That's the attribute devoutly to be wished. You don't have it! Now listen to me. The next time you come into a man's place of business, always knock before you enter; and when you do come in, take off your hat. TAKE IT OFF! And when you speak to a man, address him as "sir". Sir! S-I-R, "sir"! Another thing, politeness costs you nothing. If you can't say anything nice the way a man runs his business, don't say anything at all! Now I want you two hoodlums to get out of my office, and don't you dare to come back until you learn to act like gentlemen. GET OUT!
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: In Little Giant, Benny Miller (Costello) is so incompetent in his job as a Traveling Salesman that his boss John Morrison transfers him to a remote regional branch: Morrison not wanting to fire him for it will expose that he has been Stealing from the Till.
  • Reassignment Backfire: in Little Giant, Benny Miller is transferred to a remote sales district following a disastrous first day as a Traveling Salesman. However, due in a large part to a prank played on him by his coworkers, he ends up becoming the company's Salesman of the Year.
  • 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.
  • Reflexive Response: Used in Hold That Ghost. Also Mexican Hayride, where Costello can't help but dance uncontrollably every time he hears samba music.
  • Rule of Pool: Played with in Hit the Ice
  • Say My Name:
    • Substituted with Abbott's various character names in the movies.
  • Self-Deprecation: 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.
  • Shave And A Haircut: How the ghost (actually just a mobster in a sheet) reveals himself in Hold That Ghost.
  • Shotgun Wedding: In Ride 'Em Cowboy, the Indians suggest forcing Costello into a "bow-and-arrow wedding".
    • Also alluded to in Comin' Round The Mountain after Costello's love interest takes a Love Potion.
  • 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: An intentional example in Who Done It? when Costello's character smashes an illuminated sign "VOTE FOR TOWNSEND PHELPS" so it reads "SEND HELP" while they're trapped on the roof of the radio station with the killer. Later, it gets smashed again to read "END".
  • Signature Headgear:
    • One of Costello's trademarks across his appearances was a nice derby hat. Over time, he definitely has a habit of trying on various hats throughout his movies.
      • At one point, in Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy, he sees a panhandler carrying a basket and asking for money and tries to buy the basket as a hat, but gives it back after it turns out it's too big for him to wear.
  • Slapstick: A staple of their routines.
  • Smart Jerk and Nice Moron: Bud Abbott's character is always portrayed as more intelligent than Lou Costello's, and he often talked down to him, complained about him, and slapped him. Lou Costello was almost always nice and friendly, but not very bright.
  • Solar System Neighbors: Abbott and Costello Go to Mars, despite the title, is actually about the duo going to Venus to meet space women.
  • Spoiled Brat: Joe Besser as Stinky, dressed as a little boy and constantly in a Sitcom Arch-Nemesis rivalry with Costello.
  • Stock Scream: Costello's screams from the wax museum scene in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein became this through their following movies.
  • Straight Man: Abbott. Generally regarded as one of the greatest straight men in the history of show business, if not the greatest. He was so important to the team that Costello originally insisted he get 60% of their pay.
    Lou Costello: Comics are a dime a dozen. Good straight men are hard to find.
  • Straight Man and Wise Guy: Abbott and Costello are masters of this.
  • 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.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: One Night in the Tropics features the "You're 40, She's 10" routine, where Abbott asks Costello to imagine a scenario where he's a forty-year-old man in love with a ten-year-old girl. Costello's reaction is that he's going to be in trouble.
    Costello: This one's gonna be a pip...
    Abbott: Well now, wait a minute while I finish!
    Costello: Now, I'm goin' around with a ten-year-old girl.
    Abbott: Well now, wait a minute.
    Costello: I got a good idea where I'm gonna wind up...
  • This Was His True Form: After Mr. Hyde's Disney Villain Death, he transforms back into Dr. Jekyll in front of a crowd of people.
  • 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.
  • Traveling Salesman: In Little Giant, Lou plays a naïve country boy named Benny Miller, from Cucamonga, California, who has been taking correspondence phonograph lessons in salesmanship. Convinced of his own brilliance as a salesman, he gets a job as travelling salesman for the Hercules Vacuum Cleaner Company. He is so inept that after one day he gets transferred to a remote regional branch where he can't do any harm. This becomes a Reassignment Backfire when circumstances conspire to make him the company's Salesman of the Year.
  • Two-Person Love Triangle: in the romantic subplot in Jack and the Beanstalk
  • The Tape Knew You Would Say That: In Here Come The Co-Eds Costello is about to sweap under the rug but as he lift it there's writing on it saying "Don't put it here" and when he lifts the other corner there's more writing saying "Not here either".
  • "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.
  • Unexpected Inheritance: Hold That Ghost plays with the trope. Abbott and Costello unexpectedly inherit a tavern not from a relative but from a guy they just met. The guy, a gangster named Moose Matson, had no idea who he could trust in life, so he left his property to whoever was with him when he died.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: At his worst, Abbott is a manipulative and selfish Jerkass.
  • 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 (Costello was allegedly deeply touched when Abbott suggested naming the establishment after Costello's late son) 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.
  • Whatever Happened to the Mouse?: In the immortal Who's on First? routine, Bud and Lou go through the names of eight players, but never name the right fielder.
  • Who's on First?: In many of their routines, of which the trope namer is only the most famous.
  • With Friends Like These...: In the majority of their films, the pair's characters are supposedly friends, yet Abbott's character almost always bullies and abuses Costello's.
  • You Kill It, You Bought It: Parodied in The Wistful Widow of Wagon Gap.

Referenced by...:

  • Jerry Seinfeld referenced them a number of times on his show, most notably when George tries to explain his idea about 'a show about nothing'. He would also produce and star in an NBC special Abbott and Costello Meet Jerry Seinfeld.
  • Looney Tunes parodied them in three cartoons as "Babbit and Catstello". They also borrowed some of Lou's catch phrases and made them their own, like "I'm only three-and-a-half years old" and Bugs Bunny's "Gee, ain't I a stinker?"
  • In the "Vintage Steele" episode of Remington Steele a body is found in a vat of wine at the Costello Monastery. When Laura suggests they interview the abbot, Movie buff Steele quips "Ah...the Abbot of Costello".
  • Robin Hood: Men in Tights has a scene where a church abbot is greeted with Costello's catchphrase.
    Costello lookalike: "HEY ABBOT!
    Abbot: I hate that guy...
  • If you didn't see some similarities between Ren and Stimpy and Abbott and Costello, you weren't paying close enough attention.
  • The Adventures of the Gummi Bears episode "Friar Tum" features a character named Abbot Costello.
  • Five Hundred Years After has a passing mention of a famous farce, Who Dropped Her First?, set in a bedchamber laid out (reading between the lines) like a baseball diamond.
  • The Futurama episode "A Pharaoh to Remember" has a reference to Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy.
  • Mother 3 features a duo of comedians named Lou and Bud as minor characters.
  • An anonymous email that has been circulating around the internet for many years casts Abbott as a tech-support operator attempting to explain to Costello that to stop his Windows PC he must click on the "Start" button.
  • In Australia, the days when Tony Abbott and Peter Costello were prominent members of the Liberal Party were a gift to political commentators across the country.
  • One episode of VeggieTales featured Larry and Mr. Lunt's characters having a battle of wits, with the riddle they must solve being presented by the Abbot of Costello. The riddle itself is a parody of the Who's on First? routine.
  • In the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Joker's Millions", Joker named his loyal pet hyenas Bud and Lou (previously only known as Harley Quinn's "babies"). This makes sense, given Joker's appreciation of comedy. The hyenas are given the same names in Krypto the Superdog.
  • In the Hercules: The Legendary Journeys episode, "Monster Child In A Promised Land," Iolaus mentions a comedy team known as Abbotus and Costellocles.
  • A recurring segment on Square One TV featured Cabot and Marshmallow. Set backstage at a Vaudeville theater, the segments show Cabot getting the better of Marshmallow through a variety of math related tricks. Always started with a suitably altered version of Costello's catch phrase.
  • In the Sherlock episode "The Hounds of Baskerville", the Major snarkily tells Sherlock (who he's mistaken for a Conspiracy Theorist) that they have two aliens in their basement named Abbott and Costello.
  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal has them in a dark subversion of their Who's on First? routine.
  • Housepets! has two characters named Falstaff and Truck who act like raccoon versions of Abbott and Costello.
  • Robert Rankin has a Running Gag that Hugo Rune hates Bud Abbott. In The Book of Ultimate Truths, the protagonists visit an monastery. Guess the Abbot's name.
  • Garfield and Friends used a Who's on First joke in an U.S. Acres episode where three dog brothers come to help on the farm, their names are "Who, What, and Where"!
  • The Simpsons had Chalmers and Principal Skinner attempting to do a recreation of Who's on First?. Skinner ruins it almost immediately by explaining the joke.
  • The "Next" cell phone app did a radio ad with Bud and Lou soundalikes doing a routine with "Which app?" "The Next app!" "The one you got on your phone!" etc.
  • In one Spider-Man comic, Black Cat burgles a place guarded by two inept guards named "Bud" and "Lou".
  • Animaniacs had "Who's on Stage?" in "Woodstock Slappy", ironically using the real names of various 60's rock bands.
  • In the Diana: Warrior Princess spin-off Elvis: The Legendary Tours (a role-playing game based on an imaginary far-future TV series with massive amounts of Future Imperfect), Elvis Presley's Evil Twin is the Sinister Minister Abbot Costello (which is also a sideways reference to Elvis Costello).

"I don't care who's on first!
"Oh, that's our shortstop."


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Lou Costello, Bud Abbott


7 x 13 = 28

In this timeless Abbott and Costello sketch, Costello proves without a shadow of a doubt that 7 x 13 is equal to 28 (he's wrong, but who's asking?)

How well does it match the trope?

5 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / InsaneTrollLogic

Media sources: