The Corner

How Abbot & Costello Split The Proceeds

Abbot-60, Costello-40. Supply and demand: there were (and are) far fewer

good straight men than good funny men. Think how someone gets to be a

comic: he wants to tell jokes and make people laugh. Working at this for

years and years, he builds up the necessary skills of timing & delivery.

Being a straight man is different, the kind of job you wander into

accidentally. Nobody starts out in life with the ambition to stand next to

another guy who is cracking jokes. Yet the straight-man skill set is just

as deep. For example: you must train yourself NOT TO MOVE A MUSCLE while

your partner is delivering a line. If you even blink, it distracts the

audience’s attention to you, and they miss your partner’s line. There is a

lot about this in Phil Silver’s excellent and funny autobiography.

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