The 5 Most Essential Three Stooges Shorts

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Let me get this out of the way: the Three Stooges are my favorite comedians of all time. I’ve watched (and performed) plenty of standup, sketch, and improv, and nothing comes close to what these Vaudeville performers did.

With over 100 shorts to their name, the Three Stooges (four, technically — this article includes only Moe, Larry, Curly, and Shemp) have quite a history. I don’t claim to have seen everything they put out, but several years of watching NYUK on AMC with my grandfather has made me something of an expert. So if you haven’t ever seen the slapstick wonders of the Stooges, or if you’re looking to re-watch some classic comedy, here are the troupe’s most essential sketches.

Brideless Groom (1947)

“You’re supposed to be singing about the voices of spring, not the eruption of a volcano!”

If I had to pick one word to define the Stooges’ career today, it would be “kitsch.” Women fall into three categories in these shorts: doting and kind, eccentric and obsessive, and outright brutish — you won’t find any character studies here. But Brideless Groom‘s Miss Dinklemeyer is still totally memorable, even in a room full of dictionary-definition gold diggers. This get-rich-quick plot — Shemp needing to get married before he can receive a hefty inheritance — is a recurring theme with the Stooge’s work, and the phone booth scene is one of the funniest things you’ll ever see.

Malice in the Palace (1949)

“When it comes to cooking, I’m the cat’s meow!”

Calling some of the Stooges’ shorts racially insensitive is fair, though considering the second World War had only been over a few years by the time this one rolled out, you can sympathize a bit. Regardless, the Map of Starvania is a perfect sight gag. That said, some of the biggest laughs in the Stooge’s work come from over-the-top foley sound, and the cat-and-dog kitchen scene is easily the greatest example. Once the trio goes on a treasure hunt, we’re also treated to a kids-in-a-trenchcoat gag with the guys stacked up as a giant. Little Rascals go nothin’ on this.

Sing a Song of Six Pants (1947)

“Oh, a fifty. How did that get in there?”

The majority of the Stooges’ shorts have two themes: working a blue collar job and needing money. Six Pants combines the two, with the guys attempting to take down bank robber Terry Hargan inside their dry cleaning shop. This also gives them the perfect opportunity to utilize tools in the shop in unusual ways (another Stooges motif), like Moe using a pants presser to make pancakes. This short also contains two of the troupe’s best sight gags: a customer whose jacket is torn by a razor, and Shemp pulling a switcheroo with Hargan’s fake beard.

You Nazty Spy! (1940)

“Our motto shall be ‘Moronika for morons!'”
 It’s easy to think of the Stooges as bumbling idiots, but off camera, they had serious balls. You Nazty Spy! is actually the first Hollywood film to spoof Hitler — it was released halfway through the war, for Shemp’s sake — and Moe’s role made him the first American to portray Hitler (or a parody) on camera. Pair that with the most Yiddish phrases the troupe ever crammed into a short, and you can see how bold this video truly is. Did I mention Curly’s “little red book,” the contents of which skirted the line of obscenity at the time? The Stooges were not just goofy comedians, but brilliant satirists too.

Disorder in the Court (1936)

“Vernacular? That’s a derby!”
 This is it, the quintessential Three Stooges short. It’s stuffed from top to bottom with sight gags, slapstick, and wordplay; I’d bet it has the most laughs per minute of any of the trio’s works. It also contains the finest moment of each Stooge: Moe working the letter press, Larry yelling like Tarzan, and Curly swearing in for testimony. It’s also notable for packing all of that entertainment into a single location, the courtroom. And let’s be honest, “Disorder in the Court” is the one of the best schlock-y puns out there. This isn’t just the Stooges’ greatest work, but one of the greatest comedic shorts of all time.

Tony is an Editor here at Laser Time. Follow him on Twitter to talk Three Stooges any time, anywhere. He’d love to.

8 thoughts on “The 5 Most Essential Three Stooges Shorts

  1. I love this article so much! All of these shorts but the nazi one where all on a VHS tape I had growing up. I must’ve watched these a hundred times but they never get old!!!

  2. LOVE me some Stooges but I find as I get older my ability to watch them gets more and more fragile. It’s terrifying watching some of the later ones. They all look old as hell and they are doing stunts that would make most 20 year olds cringe. One of the worst examples of the agony they put themselves through was the short where Moe actually broke a rib. I think it was the one where they were robbing a bank (or maybe they were doing house repair). Regardless, Moe is standing on a table. The table collapses and you see Moe land on the wooden fragments. He brushes it off, stands up and give the boys a good slap but you can see he is in some pain. While watching TCM, they went into that particular episode and explained how he broke a rib yet was able to finish the scene. Jesus, most wrestlers couldn’t even pull that off.

    1. The most cringe-worthy parts are in the editing for me — a film degree will do that to you. But yeah, there are some diminishing returns as they got older. Just one of the many reasons I only included the four stooges people actually care about.

  3. Love them Stooges. I find I enjoy them best after I’ve had a rough day. Seeing them fail worse than I did but do so in good humor is somehow comforting to me. I feel kind of the same way about Laurel and Hardy.

  4. Also through the lasertime link you can get the whole sketch collection including bonus discs from Amazon for the low price of 44.99.

    Got that for my dad years ago when the price of that was coming down from the original 100 bucks on sale roughly for that I think. Never cracked much of it open but its comforting to just have all the shorts if I wanted them. Also have the new movie. Honestly its much better then it should have been considering the development hell it went through. It went so well I was hoping they did shorts with those actors and sell them to some cable station or internet streamer. I guess its too late for that now but still that’s also cheap and worth it if you enjoy the Stooges

  5. I love the stooges so much. When I was younger, I used to tape the shorts off the TV because a lot of the good ones weren’t available anywhere. I think that is reflected in your list. 3 out of the 5 shorts listed were put on many different VHSes because they were public domain. I’m not sure I would agree that they are the best but any Stooges conversation is always good.

    1. Actually, they’re all public domain except for Nazty Spy.

      I agree there are “better” ones for more dedicated fans (I love Punch Drunks and Booby Dupes), but I feel these are the Stooges’ most accessible shorts. Disorder in the Court is forever a classic.

  6. I love the Stooges. They were brilliant and don’t get enough credit for their comedic timing and delivery. One of my favorite things ever in the history of anything is in Beer Barrel Polecats, when Curley implores Moe not to hit him , saying “Don’t hit me Moe, I’m a citizen.” Which means nothing and everything at the same time. I introduced them to my wife and she has become quite the Shemp fan. I would say he is probably her favorite.

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