A site of satirical musings, commentary and/or rhetorical criticism of the world at large.

My Photo
Location: Southeastern, Pennsylvania, United States

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Moe Knows Japanese: A Weekend at a Three Stooges Fan Convention

The Three Stooges Fan Club recently held their 20th convention in and around Ft. Washington, PA. The fan club activities – screenings, guest presentations, memorabilia sale and auction – happened in conjunction with an open house at the Stoogeum in nearby Spring House. Anne Marie and I attended the convention on Saturday, April 26, and spent most of the next day looking over the amazing collection of artifacts at the only museum totally devoted to The Three Stooges comedy team.

In case you have never heard of the Stooges (in which case, welcome back from Mars), I will try to explain them and their phenomena very briefly. The Three Stooges were an American comedy team comprising Moses “Moe” Howard, Samuel “Shemp” Howard, Jerome “Curly” Howard, and Larry Fine. The Howard brothers hailed from Brooklyn, while Fine grew up in Old City Philadelphia. They started in vaudeville under the supervision of comedian Ted Healy, and graduated to film shorts in 1934. They would eventually appear in over 190 comedy shorts for Columbia Studios, featuring their unique brand of violent slapstick humor.

Over the course of a career that ended in 1970, there would be six comics in the group altogether, but only three would be on the screen at any one time. The most popular configuration of the team was Moe, Larry, and Curly from 1934 to 1946. Their shorts were syndicated to television in the late 1950’s and have been seen constantly all over the world ever since. In this respect, their humor has proven to be more enduring than that of their contemporaries: Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, and the Marx Brothers.

This year, the convention featured Moe’s children, Joan Maurer and Paul Howard. The son gave a fascinating presentation involving home movies and slides. His goal is to show that, although Moe portrayed a short-tempered bully on screen, in real life he was a loving family man who doted on his children. We can’t say enough about Moe; he was the real brains behind the team, on and off screen. He managed the team’s business affairs and made sure that his partners could live comfortably once their performing days were over.

The memorabilia was a vast array of Three Stooges related items, artifacts (a personal check by Joe DeRita was available for purchase), souvenir clothing, buttons, cardboard cut-outs, statuettes, film stills, magazines, books, and of course the films themselves available in all formats from 8mm to VHS to DVD. Unfortunately, all transactions were cash only, and I had to leave empty-handed since I didn’t have enough money to buy a few books I would love to own. No matter; there is always

Anne Marie had visited the Stoogeum last year when I was out of town. Her description left me envious, but it did not prepare me for the variety of objects displayed there. The museum must own a poster for each one of the Columbia shorts. They even have an entire gallery of film stills, movie posters and correspondence devoted to Shemp! He had the thankless task of following Curly in the act when the latter fell ill, but he had carved out a respectable career as a second banana in many films prior to his promotion to full Stooge.

The massive display of Stooge marketing items was impressive, but not necessarily complete. I remember owning a Kenner Give-A-Show projector with a Three Stooges cartoon strip as a child. No such item was displayed here, but perhaps they are working on acquiring one for their collection.

The highlight of the weekend was the Stoogeum’s own presentation of rare color footage taken on the set of several of the shorts. An added bonus was footage from a Japanese television program showing Moe and Helen Howard receiving gifts during a trip to Japan sometime in the 1960s. At one point, the camera did a tight close up on Moe as he recited the letters from (I believe) the Japanese alphabet. The Japanese language is very different from the pig-Latin-like gibberish heard in a few of the Stooges shorts (the “ma-jah” routine from Three Little Pirates immediately springs to mind), but Moe handled it and himself with all the respect of a visiting foreign dignitary.

Unfortunately, the Stoogeum is not open everyday. It has an open house a few select weekends during the year, but otherwise it’s open by appointment only. For more information, see As for the convention, hope to see you there next year, knuckleheads!


Post a Comment

<< Home