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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Top 10 Comedy Teams of All Time

Comedy seems to work best when done in groups. This is not just true of older comedy routines – most modern television comedy hits are such due to the supporting actors. For example, Will and Grace would never have survived were it not for the character of Karen Walker. This list looks at ten of the most prolific and most well known comedy teams. It is perhaps a little light on the British comedy duos such as the Goons – but do feel free to name them all in the comments.

Amos and Andy
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Voiced by Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll, performing on the radio from 1928 all the way 1960. This sketch comedy act was based on turn of the century black minstrel acts, and the two voice artists depicted black people as poor, lower class menial workers, who eventually move from Georgia to Chicago and become taxi drivers.
At least once, in 1931, when the Pittsburgh Courier took up the article of a black preacher who considered the show racially offensive (since the two voice artists were white). They tried to get a million names on a petition, in order to get the show canceled, but few people would sign it, not out of racial fear as much as out of enjoyment of the show. The black leads are always shown to be very simple-minded, but very polite and good-natured, and smarter than the average white man. They also thrived on malaprops, which are incorrect uses of a language. One of George “Kingfish” Stevens’s (played by Gosden) best such lines is, “Heck, naw, I ain’t gawn let my kids use no ‘cyclopedia! They kin walk to school like I did!”
This was subsequently blamed on Yogi Berra, who, never to be outdone, said, “I didn’t say half the stuff I said.”

Frick and Frack
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Werner Groebli and Hans Mauch, respectively. They were comedic figure skaters, both from Basel, Switzerland, and performed all over the world in lederhosen and traditional German “Oktoberfest” garb.
They performed in a few films, beginning with Lady, Let’s Dance, in 1944. They never performed in the Olympics, but a lot of Olympic figure skaters think they would have been shoe-ins for gold medals.
“Frick and Frack” has become a household phrase in English, due to their popularity from the 1930s to the 1950s. Some of the stunts they performed defy belief, most notably Frack’s rubber legs, which were twisting, collapsing legs while skating in a spread-eagle.
Frick’s signature move was a cantilever spread-eagle, which he invented.

The Smothers Brothers
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Tommy Smothers always plays the slower buffoon to Dick Smothers’s straight man. Tommy’s signature line was “Mom always liked you best!” after which they would argue over whether that were true or not. When their mother died, they never performed this routine again.
They are accomplished guitar players, and Tommy is a master of the yo-yo. They have the distinction of being the longest-lived comedy team in American history, having performed for about 52 years.
During the late 1960s, they had their own show, “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” which was extremely controversial (and funny) because of their peace advocacy. They regularly poked fun at the Vietnam War, President Nixon, and racism. The show lasted an amazing 2 years, 1967 to 1969, before being canceled for what CBS was forced to call “Anti-American Peace Propaganda.” Ah, the ’60s.

Cheech and Chong
The hippies and counter-culturalists found their idols in the weed-smoking surrealists Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong. They broke up in 1985, but reunited in 2008 much to everyone’s delight.
They made a number of films from 1978 through the 1980s, all having heavily to do with drug use, the free love of hippies, etc. Arguably their best work is the 1983 film Still Smokin’, in which they travel to Amsterdam, Netherlands, for a film festival about Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton. When the latter two stars don’t show up, Cheech and Chong save the day with their own live stage performance. One of the best bits is Chong as “the old man in the park,” and the duo as “Ralph and Herbie the dogs.”

Abbott and Costello
Bud Abbott played the straight man to Lou Costello, and even if they had only done one routine during their entire career, “Who’s on First?” would net them the #6 spot. They had already rehearsed it to perfection, but had not had a chance to perform it on stage.
The first televised performance of it was at the Steel Pier, in Atlantic City, New Jersey. They had a few sheets of material written by someone else, and they didn’t think much of it, so Abbot asked Costello, “You wanna do Baseball?” “Yeah, let’s do it.” And they walked out and made history.
It had been many times since before the radio days of burlesque vaudeville, with the simple gag of Who and What being proper nouns. Abbott and Costello were the first to hone it into its modern form of a baseball team’s names. They copyrighted it, and performed it several times in different films. None of this mentions the host of other outstanding performances to their credit.

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