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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

Favorite Fictional Characters, #199: Curly Howard

Victim of Circumstance.

The Pace boys used to watch the Three Stooges on Saturday mornings on WSBK-38 back home in NH, all three of us laughing ourselves sick while my poor mother shook her head and admitted the humor was lost on her. In my experience, most women tend to agree that the Stooges were - and are - a peculiarly masculine pursuit. And that's fine. Sometimes you need to sit as men do and watch brothers poke each other in the eyes and hit each other in the head with a hammer. It's a guy thing.

Now, Curly Howard was a real person, as were they all. But the Curly Howard he portrayed as the most hilarious of the Three Stooges was a fictional character he invented, working alongside his brother Moe and their partner Larry Fine. He replaced Shemp in the vaudevillian troupe, and was light years funnier than his older brother, leading to the glory days of the Stooges in the 1930s.

I enjoyed Moe and his sullen browbeating of his brothers as the limited brains of the operation, and Larry's crumpled physiognomy and sad sack shamble was a source of humor as well, but both were flotsam in the wake of Curly's energetic comedy. Untrained as an actor, often unable to remember his lines, Curly would resort to using stage props in inventive ways or failing that, simply relying on his own body as an instrument of hilarity. His utterances became legend - nyuk nyuk nyuk, woob! - as he careened his way through unending shenanigans. Even now, eight decades later, you can't help but laugh at his antics, verbal and physical both.

The Stooges were idiots on the make in a depressed world where even idiots could hit it big, though they usually managed to squander whatever luck came their way through their own greed, infighting, or plain stupidity. And Curly was of course the stupidest, the most coarse, with a Neanderthal's magnetism with the ladies and a legendary strength when provoked (by an opponent or Pop Goes the Weasel). He was the stoogiest of Stooges, and an absolute treasure. As were those Saturday mornings laughing with my father and brother all those years ago.

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