Nyuk! Nyuk! Nyuk!
Wooo! Wooo! Wooo!
Anyone who loves low-brow, slapstick, pie-in-your face, poke-in-the-eye comedywill recognize those trademark phrases of the Three Stooges.
Actually there were six Stooges-- Moe Howard, his brothers Curly and Shemp, LarryFine, Joe Besser and Curly Joe DeRita--who appeared in nearly 200 short films andcountless features from 1930-1975.
Though all the Stooges except DeRita have died, Stoogemania is going strong.Stooge conventions are held annually, and TV stations across the country airtheir comedies. (KTLA has the rights in the Los Angeles area, although thestation isn’t currently airing the shorts.)
The original wild and crazy guys will be honored in “Disorder in the Court: 60thAnniversary Tribute to the Stooges,” a special commemorating the trio’s firstmovie. Stooge-ophile Alan Thicke hosts the special airing Wednesday on KTTV.
“Disorder in the Court” features clips from the Stooges’ films, outtakes, homemovies and footage from a TV pilot that hasn’t been seen in more than 40 years.Also on hand is Emil Sitka, who played more than 70 different roles in 40 Stoogeshort films and all but one of their features.
“The very first picture I did with them was in 1946, ‘Half-Wits Holiday,”'Sitka, 75, said from his home in Camarillo. “Curly collapsed with a stroke andthey took him off very incapacitated. He lived for five more years.”
After Curly’s stroke, Shemp, who had been a Stooge until 1932, rejoined thegroup. “He was a star of his own shorts,” said Sitka, Rand he did a lot offeatures. He was the one Stooge who was in demand by other studios. He was realfunny. He was the funniest of them all.”
Shemp, who died in 1955, also looked the funniest. “He had a nose that lookedlike a baked potato,” said Sitka. “He had two big cauliflower ears. The hair hewore in a split used to fall in his face.”
Moe, who died in 1975, was the most serious in real life. “He was a goodbusinessman,” Sitka said. “He did all the talking for the Stooges. He had afurniture factory and invested his money wisely. He was my best friend of theThree Stooges. We would collect contributions for charities and clothing for thepoor.”
Larry, who also passed away in 1975, was more interested in sports than acting."If there was a ball game on, that was his main concern,” said Sitka. “Being onthe set was an interruption. He was constantly betting on sports. He wasn’t thebest comedian. If he had to do a thing by himself, he wasn’t amongst the best.”
Curly was the shyest. “He was not a showoff,” Sitka said. “Some fans must thinkhe was a cutup, but he was kind of shy. He only did it when the camera wasturned on.”
Moe, said Sitka, was very concerned for Curly’s welfare after his stroke. “Curlyhad difficulties staying in the places they put him, like the Motion PictureCountry Home,” Sitka said. “He was in such bad shape. I think he had moments ofhysteria and other symptoms that were bothersome to other patients. To the fans,he is their utter favorite.”
The Stooges would often have heated arguments on the set. “They would uselanguage plumbers would use under the sink if they hit themselves with ahammer,” Sitka said. He recalled the time the trio got into a fight over a sightgag that wasn’t working when a group of children arrived on the set for a visit."I tipped them off, and you can’t realize how suddenly they became gentlemen.”
Sitka found it easy to work with the Stooges. “I was able to feed off theircomedy,” he said. “For some other actors it was hard. A few actors were fired onthe set. They discovered they had to do something different (than a regularmovie) and couldn’t handle it.”
Officially retired, Sitka is writing his memoirs and makes appearances at Stoogeconventions. He spends a lot of time reading letters from Stooge fans. “I amconstantly being sent photographs for me to autograph and mail back. I look atthe price on the back of the lobby card and it will say $45! Some of them willsend them to me wrapped in cellophane like it was the Constitution.”
And why are those unsophisticated knuckleheads still so popular?
“They reach an audience from a child to an elderly person,” said Sitka. “Theydeflate dignity, flaunt authority and go against the rules. They try to do theirjobs, but they foul up in the goofiest ways, which is something everybodydoes.”
“Disorder in the Court: 60th Anniversary Tribute to the Stooges” airs Wednesday8-10 p.m. on KTTV.