Geoff Dale Answers Shemp Questions!

geoff dale q&a shemp

Geoff Dale Answers Shemp Questions!

What inspired you to write this book?
Shemp was the original Stooge under the founder Ted Healy, alongside his younger brother Moe. He was Healy’s most constant minion from 1923 to 1934 when he left for a solo career. He appeared alongside some of the major stars of the day in these solo efforts, like John Wayne, James Stewart (his film debut in a Shemp short), Abbott & Costello, W. C. Fields and many more. So why has there never been a book focusing on him? So, I decided it was time I took the plunge.

Can you tell me about the book?
Essentially it covers his life from March 11, 1895 to his untimely death November 22, 1955. Even more my book examines just why so many entertainers, historians, filmgoers and even academics in 2023 love Shemp Howard. To prove that I researched and found a healthy cross section of the public including these categories to back up my point that Shemp was and never will be The Forgotten Stooge.

What did you learn when writing the book?
There is so much to learn about the fascinating era that Shemp and his fellow Stooges lived and worked in and to be honest I likely only skimmed the surface. The immigration to the US of the beleaguered Jewish people living under horrific and often brutal conditions throughout Eastern Europe, the Anglicized name changes and the growth of a remarkable community of entertainers like Shemp, Curly, Moe and Larry. They are an integral part of my book, so there is an historic element as well.

What surprised you the most?
Although I pride myself in knowing a fair bit about the culture of that era, I gained an even greater insight thanks to the much-appreciated grasp and thorough understanding of those times demonstrated by my historic editor Brent Seguine. My biggest surprise? Perhaps that Shemp was quite an impressive dramatic presence in an otherwise very ordinary movie Convention Girl (1935).

What does the title mean?
Once you start reading the book and getting into his catalogue of films both as a Stooge and a solo actor, the title becomes obvious. He was an original Stooge under the entertainment superstar of the day Ted Healy and he returned later to replace his ailing younger brother Curly. Yet his 105 feature film appearances outside the trio demonstrate that he was so much more than a simple member of the great comedic trio.
Did your opinion of Shemp change while researching?
In 1958 when Stooge shorts began appearing on TV, the concentration was largely on Curly and not Shemp. As a seven and eight-year-old then, I didn’t get it but now I know that was understandable to a degree. But back then everytime the older Howard brother showed up, I greeted his appearance with delight and almost awe. Who was this funny fellow who looked a tad like Moe and wasn’t quite as timid as the other two? During my intensive research and putting the information into book form, I got to find him even more interesting both as a decent fellow and a wonderfully gifted entertainer.

Did Shemp get his due or was he underrated?
Sadly, Shemp was dubbed unfairly and mistakenly as The Forgotten Stooge which is simply untrue. Stars of the past like Bud Abbott recognized his talent as do many top-notch performers of today like Paula Poundstone, Penn Jillette and the legend Shecky Greene. Underrated? Hardly but did he get his due, so let’s make those necessary amends right this minute!

Had Curly not been ill could Shemp have made it on his own?
Definitely so and in different ways. Just like other stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood like Harpo and Groucho Marx, the quick-witted, adlibbing pro Shemp had the gift of making us smile and laugh uncontrollably. Like those others did, he could have popped up as a frequent guest on popular TV sitcoms, game shows and the big silver screen.

Why are Shemp and The 3 Stooges still popular a century since the trio’s birth?
Humour is so subjective. What makes one laugh can leave another cold. Yet we all need some form of comedic banter and episodic nonsense in our lives, whether its broad slapstick or subtle satire. Shemp, Curly, Larry, Moe and the two latter-day Stooges Joe and Curly Joe made us laugh for the past century so why can’t it still work? Bring on Shemp and the healing powers of hilarity.

There’ve been film and TV Stooges movies so how about Shemp alone?
Well, I’m only print writer not a filmmaker so that’s a question you’ll have to pose to those creating, producing and directing movies today. Personally, I believe there is enough Shemp material to work with both inside and outside the Stooges. As the book demonstrates, there is certainly enough interest, his style of humour and that glorious cinematic era in which he lived and worked.

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  • Gloria Fritz on

    Shemp will always be my favorite stooge I still like the other ones but I like Shemp he will always be my favorite

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