Michael Schlesinger acknowledges the stereotype, even as he tries to dispel it. "There are a lot of women who don't like the Stooges," says the man who put together the Three Stooges 70th Annivoisary Blowout. "Men tend to be surface creatures. The Stooges didn't have any pretensions. It was just 'Let's go out and be as funny as we can.' Men have no problem with that. Women need something a little more subtle."
Schlesinger, a California-based Sony exec, assembled the program of seven shorts last year to commemorate the comedy trio's signing with Columbia Pictures. Moe, Larry, and Curly made films before that -- most notably a series with vaudeville star Ted Healy -- but in 1934 they defined their nyuk-nyuk image and became one of the world's most popular comedy teams. "They really didn't become the Three Stooges until they came to Columbia," says Schlesinger.
And yes, Schlesinger admits to being a Shemp fan. Not only that, he has kind words for both of Shemp's successors, Joe Besser and Curly Joe DeRita. "Shemp was the original third Stooge," he notes. "Curly replaced him. Shemp is extremely underrated. All those guys were very good."
Blowout features new, uncut prints of such faves as Men in Black (which was nominated for an Oscar), Violent Is the Word for Curly, and An Ache in Every Stake. And if you think the Stooges were all about hair-tearing and nose-tweaking, think again, says Schlesinger: "[Physical comedy] was a comic after-beat to a joke that was already told."
But Schlesinger concedes that the shtick can wear people down. "Shorts were released six weeks apart over 25 years. At some point, jokes and plots will be repeated," he says.
After seven decades of poked eyeballs and head boinks, the Three Stooges' appeal remains simple, says Schlesinger. "They're very funny. Put them on, and I'm on the floor laughing. The elemental nature of their comedy is very, very accessible." Sointenly!