The Three Stooges

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Meet the brain trust.

"Now I know why Moe was always mad."

"Well, they're these kinda funny looking guys... who like to hit each other."

The Three Stooges are best known for the dozens of short subjects they turned out Columbia Pictures starting in the 1930s. In fact, with 190 short films, not including their features, 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, 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 were little more than second bananas and comic foils to vaudeville comic Ted Healy when 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. Unfortunately, elder brother Shemp Howard picked this time to strike out on his own, leaving them one stooge short of a three-stooge deal. So Moe turned to younger brother Curly (who had no prior acting experience) to replace him and the rest is history. Shemp Howard later rejoined the act after Curly suffered a stroke, 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 passed on, Joe Besser joined the group for their last shorts with Columbia and "Curly Joe" DeRita would sign on for their "post-shorts" career.

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.[1] 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 YMMV-- 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 Three Stooges movie was released on April 13, 2012. It was directed by the Farrelly Brothers, appropriately enough.

Has a recap page in progress.

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.
  • Adults Dressed as Children: Current Trope Illustrator (from All the World's a Stooge.)
    • They do this twice in the film.
  • 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 few times.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Bald of Awesome: Curly
  • 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 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.
  • Beam Me Up, Scotty: While Curly could psych himself up when dealing with the bad guys and occasionally needed to be restrained, he never said, "Lemme at 'em! Lemme at 'em!"
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Bully: Moe.
  • The Butler Did It: In the short "If a Body Meets a Body".
  • Butter Face: Curly or Shemp often ended up wih 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.
  • 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.
  • 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?"
    • Curly's "Sointen'y!"
      • "I'm a victim of coicumstance!"
    • 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.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The movie has several of these.
    • The sledgehammer that falls in the bucket of water.
    • The long range arrow that Larry shoots and does not know where it went.
    • "Too much iron in the water".
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Teddy in the movie- and how.
  • 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 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.
  • Courtroom Antics: "Disorder in the Court"
  • 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'!!

  • The Danza: Moe and Larry usually just went by their real names in every short. "Curly" was of course a nickname, and "Shemp" was how the boys' mother pronounced "Sam," his real name.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Larry, when he wasn't acting as goofy as Curly in order to annoy Moe.
  • 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.
  • DIY 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.
  • 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 sort of pecking order dynamic the stooges had.
    • Occasionally, Curly or Shemp would hit Larry, again, provided Moe wasn't around.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • Everything Explodes Ending: Three Little Sew and Sews
  • Everything's Worse with Bears: 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.
  • 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. Arguably, 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 over his case of this trope during filming of Evil Dead).
  • Fatal Method Acting: Curly suffered a stroke during the filming of the short Half-Wits Holiday. He is notably absent from the final scene of the short because he had to be written out of it in order to complete it. His health had been declining for a long time, as evidenced by his frail condition in the shorts leading up to his final one.
    • Also, the physical comedy was real. Curly had actually gone deaf in one ear from being slapped so much.
      • And Larry had a permanent callous on his left cheek from being slapped.
    • Moe actually broke some of his ribs during the filming of one short in which Curly accidentally saws through the table Moe is standing on, causing it to collapse.
  • Fat Idiot: Curly resembles that remark.
  • Fish Out of Water: In the 2012 movie, the stooges never left the orphanage until they were adults and had no knowledge of things like iPhones, Facebook and Twitter.
  • 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 phlegmatic, Curly is sanguine, and Shemp is melancholic.
    • In real life, it was otherwise: Moe was choleric/melancholic, Larry was sanguine, Curly was melancholic, and Shemp was phlegmatic.
  • 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.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Harpo Does Something Funny: [Moe punishes Curly]
  • Hero Syndrome: 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In One Ear, Out the Other
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: Many of Curly's jokes, which invariably earn some abuse from Moe.
  • 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."
  • 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.
  • Iron Butt Monkey: Though this applies to Curly most of all, all three Stooges have their moments.
  • ISophagus: Played straight in The Three Stooges film Disorder in the Court. When the stooges are reenacting a musical performance during a trial Curly slaps Moe on the back causing him to swallow a kazoo. They then find that when they press on Moe's stomach they can hear the kazoo, and soon Curly and Larry begin to make Moe play "Ach Du Lieber Augustine" by pumping his arm and squeezing his stomach, before he coughs the kazoo up
  • 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.
  • Jerkass: Moe. And then some.
  • 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.
  • 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 cocking the hammer and thoughtlessly discharging it in an enclosed space. Pretty much every rule of gun safety is blithely disregarded.
  • 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.
  • Kavorka Man: All three, both onscreen and off.
  • Knife-Throwing Act: The Three Stooges Go Round the World in a Daze
  • 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 the slapstick doesn't refer to the stick you use to slap someone. It's the stick you use to create the slapping sound.
  • Literal Ass-Kicking: Probably in every short.
  • Malaproper: The Howard brothers in general were masters of this.
  • Maniac Monkeys: Gorillas were always bad news in Three Stooges shorts.
  • Marathon Running: In 2011 cable channel Antenna TV began running mini-marathons of the shorts over the weekend.
  • Mean Character, Nice Actor: Moe's off-screen persona was a vast contrast to the Jerkass he normally portrayed. While still the "leader" to a fault, he was reportedly very selfless and kind. The Stooges loved to do charity benefits, and stories of them clowning around in kids' hospitals are plentiful.
    • For all that Moe loathed Curly onscreen, when Jerome (Curly) died, Moe mourned his brother deeply.
    • In addition, perennial supporting player Vernon Dent, who mainly played villains or hot-tempered comic foils, was actually a very generous, friendly, and easy-going person in real life.
    • Moe, knowing that both Curley and Larry had money troubles (Curley would squander money on nightclubs and women, and Larry had a gambling problem) convinced them to let him take half their paychecks, which he then invested in their names for their retirement.
    • Another story about Moe: During the filming of I'll Never Heil Again, the second of the Stooge films to try to put the wacky in Those Wacky Nazis, Moe, playing a parody of Hitler, was on set the day of his daughter's birthday when he realized that he was going to be running late if he didn't leave the set immediately. Apparently, the LAPD got a couple of reports of Adolf Hitler running red lights in Hollywood -- Howard, wanting to get home on time, didn't even bother to get out of costume!
  • 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: Will be directed by the Farrelly Brothers, starring Chris Diamantopoulos as Moe, Sean Hayes as Larry, and Will Sasso as Curly.
  • 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.
  • Nakama: Moe, Curly, and Shemp considered Larry to be their brother.
  • 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!?
  • 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.
  • Offscreen Crash: Sometimes used straight and sometimes averted.
  • Old Shame : Although it came later in their careers, they thought it was a mistake to do Snow White and The Three Stooges (since the film gave them little screen time, and barely any slapstick).
    • As well as having scenes involving genuine pathos, which was not in their repertoire.
  • Open-Heart Dentistry: "Calling Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine, Dr. Howard."
    • Which has become a very common Shout-Out in hospital scenes throughout media.
  • The Other Darrin: Usually crosses over with Not Quite Starring, often after the actual Stooges died.
    • This actually caused a bit of trouble with The Movie, which was stuck in Development Hell for 11 years because they couldn't find good comic actors to replace the originals. The roles ended up with Chris Diamantopoulos, Sean Hayes and Will Sasso as Moe, Larry and Curly, respectively.
  • Overly Polite Pals: The Stooges often did an overly-bumbling version of this whenever they wish to attempt to blend in with high society.
  • 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.
  • Pig Latin: One of the many running gags.
  • Plank Gag: A favourite of theirs.
  • Freudian Trio: Curly/Shemp/Joe (Id), Moe (Superego), Larry (Ego)
  • The Pratfall: Curly in particular made regular use of this.
  • 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
    • 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 movie as well.
  • Rump Roast: Happens in many shorts.
  • Running Gag: More than you could shake a schtick at.
  • Saving the Orphanage: The plot for the video game and the 2012 movie.
  • Say My Name: In "A Pain in the Pullman"


A butler: Say, you three 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.
  • Shout-Out: Dozens.
    • 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 Two, Three and Four, 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 the Batman 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • Snake Oil Salesman: The Stooges become this in Dizzy Doctors.
  • 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.
  • Straight Man: Larry, to a certain extent, and various supporting characters.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Four, actually-- Shemp, then Joe, then Curly-Joe, and finally Emil.
    • Also don't forget that Curly actually came in to replace Shemp, who wanted to do a solo career. (So Shemp actually returned, after Curly's untimely death.)
    • The "Emil" in question is frequent costar Emil Sitka, who replaced Larry Fine as the "middle Stooge" after Larry overworked himself into a stroke and had to retire.
      • Actually, Emil (whose character would have been called "Harry") never appeared in a film as a Stooge. He was recruited to replace Larry for a film project that never materialized. The only evidence of his temporary Stooge stint consists of a few publicity photographs.
  • 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.

"Hey wait a minute, that's a real one! I'm no fool."

  • Tap on the Head: Always accompanied by chirping birds afterwards.
  • 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, which usually resulted in more hilarity.
  • 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.

  • 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."
  • 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 Tooth Hurts: Used in "I Can Hardly Wait", where Curly gets a toothache.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Burnt toast and a rotten egg - "I've got a tapeworm and it's good enough for him".
  • 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!
    • Not to mention the lovely and talented Christine McIntyre, whom many Stooge fans fondly dub "the female Stooge".
    • Subverted in the movie with Teddy's father and mother. The father is by no means ugly (in fact, he is rather attractive)- but the mother is more attractive. Averted narrowly with Teddy and Lydia- Teddy grows up to be very handsome, but probably does not compare to the gorgeous Lydia (played by Sofia Vergara).
  • Vagabond Buddies
  • 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 Could Have Been: "Kook's Tour" as a TV series.
    • The stooges had wanted to do a full length feature film for years, but weren't able to do one until the late 50's, by which time it was Moe, Larry and Curly Joe.
    • Curly was supposed to have a part in "Malice in the Palace" as the cook who the stooges mistakenly think is chopping up a dog and a cat and cooking them, but unfortunately Curly was too sick to play the part so it was given to Larry. Had Curly been able to do it, it would have been the only time Curly would appear in a Shemp short as more than just a brief cameo.
  • 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.
  • Why Do You Keep Changing Jobs?: The stooges are basically doing something different in every episode, that is when they actually have a job.
  • 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)

Dum-dada-dum-da-dum. Da!

  1. In your face. Let's not forget tradition!