Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Sunday, April 15, 2012

"Spread Out!" My Education with The Three Stooges

In 1962, a old Hiram Schools friend, Johnny Kelker, and I went to the Midway Drive-In between Kent and Ravenna to see The Three Stooges in Orbit--a feature-length film (with Larry, Moe, and Curly Joe).  Johnny and I had watched the Stooges a lot at his house when we were in junior high--he had a little black-and-white set, with rabbit ears, in his room) but not as often as my younger brother, Dave, and I did.  I remember that the Stooges seemed to be on just about every schoolday afternoon, and there sat Dave and I on the living room floor in Hiram, laughing ourselves ill while my mom grieved in the other room.  She couldn't stop us from watching for one simple reason: Dad was often watching and laughing with us.

Dave and I learned all the Stooges' moves--the pokes in the eyes (and how to block them--and how to defeat the blocks), the Curly-jumping-up-and-down, the slaps in the face, the Curly-rotating-spaz-on-the-floor, the sounds (woo-woo-woo!)--all of which deepened our mother's grief--her despair that either one of us would ever amount to spit.

The Stooges were popular at Hiram High School, too.  My friends made the sounds, talked about the shows, did the Curly-laugh/snicker/chortle (nyuk-nyuk-nyuk!), and, by so doing, generally annoyed most of the girls and all of our teachers.  I don't remember many (any?) girls in our class who liked--or admitted to liking--the Stooges.

Last night, buying tickets in Kent for the new Stooges' film, I asked the young ticket-seller if she'd been selling many that evening for the Stooges.  "Not many," she said.  "I'll bet you didn't grow up watching them?" I offered, being careful not to cross the line between Friendly Old Man and Creepy Old Perv.  She looked at me as if I had just escaped from The Home.  "No!" she snorted so hard I almost offered her a Kleenex.

I suppose I should have been reading Tolstoy all those Hiram late afternoons.  Or at least The Three Musketeers, whose story I knew only via the movies and Classics Illustrated.

But I didn't.  I preferred Moe to Athos.  I watched The Stooges smack one another, destroy property, behave inappropriately, and--in one of my favorite moments--drive a tractor through a picnic for no reason that I can summon from my fading memory.

Did I like them because they got away with stuff and I didn't?  Because they were dumber than I?  (Who knew dumb, by the way, better than Shakespeare, who used the dumb=funny equation throughout his plays?) Because they were more socially clumsy than even I, a most clumsy adolescent?

No.  It was much simpler.  They were funny.

And last night, in Kent, Joyce (yes, she went, though she'd never been a Stooge-o-phile) and I were surprised at how many very young children (early elementary grades) were in the audience.  Oddly, almost all of them were with Dad only.  And not oddly: They were all laughing themselves ill.

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