“Forgotten Hollywood”- OK to Use “Who’s On First” Routine…

Posted on October 11, 2016 by raideoman1 | No Comments

Manny P. here…

   An appeals court says producers of a Broadway play can use Abbott and Costello’s famous Who’s on First routine over objections by the comedy duo’s heirs. The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan ruled in favor of the production. The heirs had sued Hand to God producers.

   A lower-court judge ruled last December that the play’s use of the routine was so transformative that it constituted fair use of a copyrighted work. The 2nd Circuit disagreed with that reasoning. But, it said the heirs could not win their claim because they could not prove they owned a valid copyright.

   Who’s on First is descended from turn-of-the-century burlesque sketches that used plays on words and names. Abbott’s wife recalled him performing the routine with another comedian before teaming with Costello.

ac_banner   After they formally teamed up in burlesque in 1936, he and Costello continued to hone the sketch. It was a big hit in 1937, when they performed the routine in a touring vaudeville revue called Hollywood Bandwagon. In February 1938, Abbott and Costello (right) joined the cast of The Kate Smith Hour radio program, and the sketch was first performed for a national audience that March. They did the routine for President Franklin D. Roosevelt several times. The duo reprised the bit in their 1945 film The Naughty Nineties, and it’s considered their finest recorded rendition.

   In 1956, a gold record of Who’s on First was placed in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York. A video (taken from The Naughty Nineties) plays continuously on screens at the Hall.

    On a personal note, I performed the routine in high school in 1974, playing the Bud Abbott part. The performance still resonated with the youngsters in the audience

   In the recent play, an actor uses a sock puppet to perform part of the famous routine, almost verbatim. The parties didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Until next time>                               “never forget”

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