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)
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)
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)
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)
Disorder in the Court (1936)
Tony is an Editor here at Laser Time. Follow him on Twitter to talk Three Stooges any time, anywhere. He’d love to.