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Sunday, March 01, 2009

Who's On Stage

In honor of the forthcoming "Questions" show, an update to the classic Abbot and Costello Who's On First? routine, performed by the Animaniac's Slappy Squirrel and her nephew Skippy in Woodstock Slappy.

As older Dreamtimers know, the original skit was performed by the great comedy team, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, and is the most famous of many burlesque routines centered around word confusion.  The earliest example may be a skit designed for a straight man and comic probably written at the start of the 20th century called "The Baker Scene," where the straight man relates that he's getting paid for loafing in a bakery.

Comic: I'd like to get a job in that bakery.  Who's the boss?
Straight Man: Yes.
Comic: That's what I'm asking.  Who's the boss?
SM: Yes.
C: Who's the guy you're working for?
SM: Exactly.
C: I'm asking you for the last time, what's the name of your boss?
SM: No, Watt's the name of the street.
And we're off.  Abbott and Costello originally introduced Who's On First? in their stage act, and eventually trotted it out to a larger audience during their run on The Kate Smith radio show in 19 and 38. By 19 and 44, the duo had had the routine copyrighted, and it became a staple of  their radio and television appearances.

The first rock'n-roll version seems to have been done by the L.A.-based comedy group, The Credibility Gap, in the mid-70s. The Credibility Gap's routine centered around a music promoter trying to write a newspaper ad about a concert to feature The Who, The Guess Who, and Yes. Hilarity, as one could guess, ensued.  I've heard the Credibility Gap version, and it's not half as funny as Woodstock Slappy.

Although it took some 60-odd years, life finally imitated art in 2007 when the Los Angeles Dodgers added an infielder named Chin-Lung Hu. After Hu singled in a game against the San Diego Padres, Dodgers announcer Vin Scully solemnly remarked "And Hu's on first."

"I've waited my entire life to say that," Scully later added.

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