Three Stooges Festival will ‘soitenly’ delight
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Three Stooges Festival will ‘soitenly’ delight

To make people laugh is a talent. To keep them laughing for 100 years is no joke.

Wax figures of the Stooges inside The Stoogeum. Photo courtesy of The Stoogeum
Wax figures of the Stooges inside The Stoogeum. Photo courtesy of The Stoogeum

Thanks to 190 short films and decades of live performances, The Three Stooges have delighted audiences since 1922. Now, a century after their inception, the Stooges and their work will be celebrated with a festival on Sept. 17 at Harris Theater. The 7:30 p.m. program, hosted by Pittsburgh Magazine’s Sean Collier, will feature six of the Stooges’ short films and allow audience members to participate in related trivia and activities.

The Three Stooges Festival is “going to be a really entertaining laugh-out-loud night of cinema,” Collier, a media personality and stand-up comedian, told the Chronicle.

Attendees will see “Pop Goes the Easel,” “Grips Grunts and Groan,” “Three Little Pigskins,” “Brideless Groom,” “Fright Night” and “Sing a Song of Sixpants.”

Collier said that even decades after their release, the six films still resonate because they’re not only funny and entertaining but “artful.”

“In this era, where so much of what we watch is brand new — the newest thing on streaming, the newest movie out — the cultural impact is so ephemeral,” Collier said. Conversely, the Stooges — like Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplain, Abbot and Costello, Jonathan Winters and even Jim Carrey — largely hold up, he added, because of a “little bit of a magic formula of what makes them funny.”

Michelle Squiccimara, museum registrar of The Stoogeum, a 10,000-square-foot, three-story building in Ambler, Pennsylvania, housing nearly 100,000 pieces of Stoogeabilia, said that though times are certainly different now than when the Stooges were in their heyday, their appeal goes beyond their onscreen antics.

For many families, it wasn’t uncommon for grandparents and grandchildren to enjoy the same gags. And by sitting together and laughing at the same jokes, the Stooges became something that was “passed down” from generation to generation, she said.

A collection of artifacts inside The Stoogeum. Photo courtesy of The Stoogeum

Although there’s a certain nachas in sharing laughs with your offspring, that isn’t the only pride many landsmen feel when it comes to the Stooges.

Moe, Larry, Curly and Shemp were all born Jewish. Elements of their heritage were evident throughout their work, with a notable example occurring in their 1938 film, “Mutts to You.”

During a scene involving Moe and Larry, who are both impersonating foreign laundrymen, a police officer asks them about their origin.

Larry, in an attempt to confuse the officer, replies, “Ikh bin ah China boychik fun Slobodka un Ikh bet dir hak mir nit ah chaynik and I don't mean efsher.”

Larry’s remark, which some viewers considered gibberish, is Yiddish for, “I am a Chinese kid from Slobodka, and I beg you not to bother me, and I don’t mean maybe.”

The line is an Easter egg, or inside joke, to Yiddish speakers, but not every bit in the Stooges’ repertoire still generates a smile. Whether due to cultural misappropriation or reliance on stereotypes, some elements of their humor may trouble audiences today.

Those scenes aside, the Stooges’ humor is mostly “G-rated comedy,” Collier said. “It’s physical slapstick. It’s situational.”

Although plenty of comedy lovers already revere the Stooges, festival organizers hope a new generation will appreciate the performers’ gifts as well, Collier added. “There’s a real treasure in going back to that era and finding some great movies to laugh at.”

Squiccimara agreed, telling the Chronicle that even 100 years after the Stooges’ beginnings, the performers and their gags still cause a “nyuk, nyuk, nyuk.”

Added the Stoogeum staffer, “I think they are still pretty funny.” PJC

Adam Reinherz can be reached at areinherz@pittsburghjewishchronicle.org.

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