Monday, April 23, 2012


Inspired by the recent unleashing of the Farrelly Brothers' The Three Stooges on an unsuspecting moviegoing public, Wallace Baine  has written this homage to the original Larry, Moe and Curly over at the Sentinel.

I personally have not seen the new faux-Stooge movie, since I value what few remaining brain cells I still possess. But in courageously outing himself as a closet fan of the original Stooges, Wallace adds fuel to a theory I've harbored for years about the dueling genetic makeup of men vs women.

Let's be very clear about this: I love men. But whatever their individual merits may be, men are a different species than women. I don't mean all that Venus and Mars claptrap; not all women are nurturing earth mothers, any more than all men are head-bashing Neanderthals. And yet there's a fundamental divide that separates male and female from a very early age.

Once, Art Boy painted a ocean-themed mural with three classes of fourth-graders, with each child contributing one creature to the mural. Girls mostly drew mermaids, or funny fish with animal heads. Boys drew gangsta starfish, killer sharks with razor teeth, or fish equipped with rocket launchers and Ninja swords. There were exceptions to prove the rule, of course, but next time your peace is shattered by neighborhood kids bombing around on those midget motorcycles with a roaring exhaust pipe the size of a Sousaphone, guess which gender is riding it?

When Art Boy himself was a kid, so he tells me, he and his buddies used to buy Aurora model kits of movie monsters, painstakingly build, glue, and paint them—and then blow them to smithereens with firecrackers.

But what separates male from female is more than just a primal urge for noise and destruction. It's a much more subtle and insidious cultural reference point, a renegade scrap of odd circuitry in even the most enlightened human males.

I call it the Stooge Gene.

Men find the weirdest things funny. When I was a kid, old Three Stooges shorts from the '30s and '40s were played constantly on TV in syndication. Entire new generations of kids were exposed to Larry, Moe, and Curly bashing each other upside the head, poking each other in the eyes, and hitting each other with hammers, two-by-fours, and bowling pins. Documenting the reaction of little kids could launch a thousand doctoral theses in behavioral psychology. In a nutshell: girls hate the Stooges, and boys love them.

The reverberations continue into our grown-up lives. I used to hate Candid Camera, a voyeuristic species of televised entrapment where ordinary people were set up in ludicrous situations to flounder helplessly for the laughing hidden camera eye. At the end, Allen Funt, or Fannie Flagg or somebody would pop out of the woodwork and let the despairing dupe off the hook, thanking them for being such "a good sport." I always thought it was an appalling act of wanton humiliation. Art Boy thought it was funny. Every time there was a Candid Camera special on TV, he had to watch.

Now that creeping Candid Cameraism has morphed into "reality" TV, there are endless opportunities for men to get in touch with their inner Stooge. On America's Funniest Home Videos, ordinary shmoes are so beguiled by the prospect of cash prizes and a trip to Hollywood that they turn the cameras on each other, urging their spouses, kids, families, even their pets, to make fools of themselves and endanger their lives for the idle amusement of millions.

We once channel-hopped across an AFHV clip in which a woman was posing beside a mountain creek for her videographer husband. She slipped on a slick rock and stumbled knee-deep into the freezing water, shrieking. Did her husband drop the videocam and run to her aid? He did not. He stood where he was, filming it all, laughing like a hyena as his wife slogged around in the drink, struggling to get a foothold. I stared at the screen as slack-jawed as the opening night audience for Springtime For Hitler. Art Boy laughed. Two marriages flirted with disaster.

What twisted demographic is keeping AFHV on the air? How can the Farrellys still have a career? Chalk it up to the Stooge Gene.

(No Aurora monster models were harmed in the writing of this blog.)


  1. Oh, God. I hate the Stooges. I am grateful that my present husband dislikes them too, but he was the last of a long line of boyfriends who did. Hmm, what does that say about me? Or him?

  2. Sheepishly raising my hand as a female fan of the 3 Stooges.

  3. That's okay, you can still play in our clubhouse...

    Anyway, you're not the only one. Other women have 'fessed up to me, as well, but I guess there are always exceptions that prove every rule!

  4. Well, I wouldn't get too genetically deterministic about this--or about anything else, either. I'm certifiably male, and have never "loved" the Stooges in my life--though I could never be bothered to go to the trouble of hating them, either. I really don't give a damn about them, one way or the other. I'm sure Stoogism, like virtually everything else, is cultural, not genetic.


  5. That may be, but then I would have had to title this post "The Stooge Cultural Phenomenon," which wouldn't have been nearly as catchy!

  6. Sorry to be so late to the party. I've only just discovered your blog.

    But I'm a gal, and I like the Stooges--have liked them ever since I watched them as a kid on Sunday mornings.

    I guess I'd take the harmless slapstick and boneheaded-but-likable characters of the boys over a lot of the mean-spiritedness and negativity that passes for comedy today. (Witness Two And A Half Men, where everyone's in a competition to see who can be more unlikable.) Despite the fact that they regularly bonk the crap out of each other, the Stooges are goodhearted. Many of their shorts feature them out to help someone else, and usually succeeding in spite of themselves. And there's an innocence and genuineness to the shorts that's nothing like the nihilism that seems to be the heart of too much of today's comedy.

  7. Thanks for chiming in, Jennifer! And I totally see your point about the innocence of the Stooges vs. the mean-spirited dreck of so much modern comedy.