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That’s What Happens When You Let Owls Play Baseball

April 23, 2013

Comedians Bud Abbott and Lou Costello famous for their comedy routine Who's On First? with Abbott in old-fashioned baseball uniform and Costello and four owls all standing on first base saying Who??

Abbott and Costello were a little before my time, but I grew up watching their old movies, and they still make me laugh today (OK, I’m easily entertained).

I consider Who’s On First? to be comedic lunacy at its finest. The routine is brilliantly constructed, and I was intrigued to learn that its roots go back to burlesque.

I have a very slight personal connection to the routine. I grew up in Cooperstown, NY, which is home to the Baseball Hall Of Fame. A gold record of Who’s On First? was added to the Hall Of Fame Museum in 1956. Am I in the Hall Of Fame myself? No– but
I should be.  : )

Here’s a closeup of the Abbott and Costello caricatures.

Comedians Bud Abbott and Lou Costello famous for their comedy routine Who's On First? with Abbott in old-fashioned baseball uniform and Costello and four owls all standing on first base saying Who??

Here’s the famous routine itself.

You don’t really need to understand the American game of baseball to enjoy the routine. All you need to know is this:

Each team has nine players, and they play these nine fielding positions: first base, second base, third base, pitcher, catcher, left field, center field, right field, and shortstop.

The humor derives from the fielders’ names: Who plays first base, What plays second base, I Don’t Know plays third base, etc.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

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Questions For You:BlankVertSpace.8pixels

1. Are you an Abbott and Costello fan?

2. Do you have a favorite comedy routine or skit? (e.g., Monty Python doing “Spam”)

3. Ever visited the Baseball Hall Of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, USA?

Hope you’ll leave a comment.BlankVertSpace.8pixelsblank vertical space, 16 pixels high

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29 Comments leave one →
  1. April 23, 2013 2:07 PM

    Mark, you should be in the baseball hall of fame! I was an Abbott and Costello fan growing up. Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein was one of my favorites. I watched every comedy with my father growing up. My favorites are The Three Stooges, Benny Hill, Monty Python, and SCTV. Also, Carol Burnett, the Honeymooners and Steve Martin and even Ernie Kovacs were staples I grew up on. I think comedic communication on any level is one of the most powerful, hence why I am submitting your nomination into the Comedic Geniuses of all Time!


    • April 24, 2013 9:31 AM

      The red carpet beckons. I’m adjusting my crown. I’m striding forward to thunderous applause. I’m reaching out for the diamond-encrusted Comedic Genius Trophy… SPLAT!! Hey!– who left that banana peel there?? : P

      Ha! Tracey, you have listed some of the True Greats, and I grew up with ’em, too. I suppose they warped our brains, but hey, brains are gonna get warped one way or another, and I shall always believe they were good influences!

      Thanks so much for your jolly comment and support, and for that thoroughly outrageous nomination!! : )


  2. April 23, 2013 4:06 PM

    Like you, Mark, they were a little before my time, however I enjoyed watching them on TV. They sure were clever, and that routine is still funny today (even after viewing it many, many times over the years).

    Can’t think of a ‘favourite’ comedy routine..! Mind you, Mark, I do love a good comedy; laughter is great medicine; to be sure…

    I’d love to visit the Baseball Hall Of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, USA… If ever I’m in town I’ll certainly do that…!

    Your illustration of the comedy sketch is delightful; immediately I saw it I knew what your article was about…. That’s the beauty of a good image; it tells the story so very well…. 😉


    • April 24, 2013 9:43 AM

      Too kind, as always, my dear Carolyn, thank you. Pretty easy to tell you like comedy. Your good-humored comments speaketh plainly on that point… : )

      Be sure to let me know if you decide to visit the Hall of Fame. They have a special brass band to welcome distinguished visitors like yourself. I may even show up with my tuba… : P


  3. April 23, 2013 6:37 PM

    1. “Who’s On First” is a legendary classic, and I’ve seen how much it influences comedy to this day… and being a young’un by comparison, I’m sure that says a lot. I’ve seen the original, but seen variations, including a solo performance.

    2. Good on you to mention Monty Python– “I’m a Lumberjack, and I’m Okay” is my personal favorite among their material.

    3. No. The farthest east I’ve ever been is Ann Arbor, MI.


    • April 24, 2013 9:37 AM

      Many thanks, Jak. A solo performance of Who’s On First?? You got me scratchin’ my head on that one– it’s challenging enough with two people!!

      Everybody winds up at the Baseball Hall of Fame sooner or later– I’ll tell ’em to put out the Welcome mat for you!! : )


      • April 25, 2013 4:20 AM

        oh, a manic performance to be sure, but it’s been done, with just one person.

        I tried to find an example but found an interesting variation on YouTube instead called “Who’s On First” For English Majors. Might be worth checking out.


  4. April 23, 2013 6:54 PM

    Definitely a Monty Python fan. I love their musical numbers best, so Every Sperm is Sacred tops the list. My favorite is a scene from Holy Grail: The Knights of Knee.


    • April 24, 2013 10:07 AM

      A Python fan, eh?? Do you ever do any of those funny walks? Please say yes… : )

      I love British ensemble humor, and there seems to be a long tradition of same. I can highly recommend the Bonzo Dog Band (mid-60’s satirical pop group) and the old Ealing Comedies. The latter featured many of the same actors: Alec Guinness, Herbert Lom, Peter Sellers. We’re talking ancient B&W films that are more than 50 years old. Not easy to find, and probably not everyone’s cup of tea, but they reduce me to tears.

      Thanks for your kind comment, Red, nice to see you! : )


  5. April 23, 2013 8:22 PM

    Abbott and Costello had perfect chemistry and timing. That was a great bit they did. (I have used Monty Python’s “Spam” for obvious reasons on one of my posts. Also a very funny bit.)

    The element of surprise, the unexpected pratfall, sight gag or comment is what makes me laugh. This is something your wonderful illustrations always deliver, Mark.


    • April 25, 2013 7:17 AM

      And Who’s On First when it comes to delivering kind and supportive comments? Ah, that would be you, my dear Judy! Owl repeat that: you de bestest! : )


  6. April 24, 2013 6:28 AM

    Hilarious, what a hoot!


  7. April 24, 2013 10:43 AM

    I didn’t know you were from Cooperstown! I bet you have some great stories to tell from those experiences. Cool. We have the Springfield Basketball Hall of Fame here, and actually in high school my mom sent me to UMass basketball camp there for one summer. Quite an experience. I’d love to see the one in New York. By the way have you read Jackie Mac’s book? I bought it for my Sister and hubby for Christmas, but want to read it myself someday.

    My boyfriend loves Who’s on First, Abbott and Costello and the Three Stooges as well. We got to see Lewis Black perform twice, once at Hampton Beach and once in Northampton MA. He’s funny, no politician is immune from his jokes. Nearly on the floor laughing from his routines.


    • April 29, 2013 2:14 PM

      Thanks, Amelie. Yes, one of the perks of growing up in Cooperstown, was that we got to play all our high school and American Legion home games on historic Doubleday Field. I can brag about booting a lotta ground balls on the very same infield dirt where some very famous Major Leaguers played during the town’s annual Hall Of Fame Game. : )

      Basketball camp? Well, yes, that would suit your bouncy personality. : P


  8. April 24, 2013 10:45 AM

    Ooh, we love the Brit comedies too. Red Green as well, obviously.


  9. SingingTuna permalink
    April 26, 2013 1:37 PM

    ♥♥♥ your illustration!!! It’s super!
    I esp like how each owl has a different expression. WOW!!!!!!

    It’s one of my favorite routines, always good for a laugh AND appreciation of comedic genius.

    Answers? Got’em:
    (1) Yes, although mainly when I was a kid.
    (2) Wow. Fav comedy routine? Too many! One subtle bit made a GIANT impression on me when I was very young and watching old B&W movies on tv, from “The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer.”
    Mostly I like absurdity and puns. Wordplay…
    (3) Never visited Cooperstown. But I have been to Ossining. Does that count?

    I hope you don’t mind that link. Zap it if you don’t want it here.


    • April 27, 2013 2:02 PM

      Hoo, hoo! My 17 pet owls (who!) perch behind me as I work, are all hooting their approval of your wonderful comment– and I’m joining in! With enthusiasm!! Thank you, Sweet Tuna!

      And I must thank you for that wonderful link. The Bachelor And The Bobby Soxer is one of the few Cary Grant screwball comedies I have missed– I definitely gotta rectify that after reading all those wonderful exchanges from the film!! Just fantastic, brilliant comedy writing– thank you!! And you’re so right, that “You remind me of a man” bit is an absolute killer!!

      Ossining? Gosh yes, you just cruise 100 miles or so up to Albany, take a left onto 88, drive for another hour or so, get off at Oneonta, and you’re practically standing on the front steps of the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown– you were so close!! : P

      Thank you for your usual wunnaful contribution!! : )


  10. SingingTuna permalink
    April 26, 2013 1:39 PM

    Oh! I didn’t leave you info on WHICH quote! Sorry! It’s:
    “You remind me of a man”
    “What man?”



  11. April 27, 2013 11:47 AM

    It’s always difficult to “weed out” the best skit, though I have to say you can’t beat “Who’s on first?” Thanks for smiles!!!!! 🙂


  12. May 8, 2013 11:08 PM

    That’s a fantastic caricature!
    1. I think I am an Abbot and Costello fan. I loved their movies when I was a kid.
    2. The Smothers Brothers – “My Old Man.” Bill Cosby – “Chicken Heart.” Monty Python and the Holy Grail – The Battle with the Black Knight – “tis but a scratch!”
    3. I’ve never been to the Baseball Hall of Fame, but I have been to the Football Hall of Fame just up the road a piece or two.


    • May 13, 2013 8:45 PM

      Ah, man–! The Smothers Brothers! I had all their albums, and never got tired of listening to their unique brand of foolishness. Yep, My Old Man is a true classic.

      Your wonderful post about being a hostess at a Football Hall Of Fame induction ceremony was oddly moving, and a real joy to read. You dropped some pretty big names! One of those experiences that makes you smile, shake your head, and wonder if it was all a dream. Thanks for sharing that, and for being the excellent person you are.


      • May 17, 2013 12:04 AM

        Thank you so much for reading my Hall of Fame post, Mark. I appreciate your comment there. It was a fun time in my life – and yes, quite a surreal day.


        • May 21, 2013 1:06 PM

          That really was a great post, my dear Maddie, and I’m happy to recommend it to my readers. There’s something essential about surreal days– they help keep us going somehow. And of course they’re just plain fun to look back on in one’s dotage– which I’ve been in for some time now… : (


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