Comedy Gold: Abbott and Costello’s Famous ‘Who’s On First?’
The comedians performed the famous skit numerous times during their careers, but it was rarely performed exactly the same way twice
Chances are you’ve heard of the famous comedy skit “Who’s on First” by Abbott and Costello. It’s the definition of an oldie, but a goodie.
In this day and age there’s no such thing as good clean comedy — you know, jokes that don’t come at the expense of others. Which is fine — but you might find this a little refreshing.
If you’re unfamiliar with the comedy gold — the premise of the sketch is that Abbott is identifying the players on a baseball team for Costello, but their names and nicknames can be interpreted as non-responsive answers to Costello’s questions.
Abbott’s explanations leave Costello hopelessly confused and infuriated, until the end of the routine when Costello appears to imitate Abbott by saying what appears to be gibberish to him, accidentally getting it right:
Costello: Now I throw the ball to first base, whoever it is drops the ball, so the guy runs to second. Who picks up the ball and throws it to What. What throws it to I Don’t Know. I Don’t Know throws it back to Tomorrow—a triple play.
Abbott: Yeah, it could be.
Costello: Another guy gets up and it’s a long fly ball to Because. Why? I don’t know. He’s on third, and I don’t give a darn!
Abbott: What was that?
Costello: I said, I DON’T GIVE A DARN!
Abbott: Oh, that’s our shortstop!
Even though Abbott and Costello performed “Who’s on First?” numerous times throughout their careers, it was rarely performed exactly the same way twice.
Once the duo formally teamed up in 1936, Abbott and Costello really started to work the sketch which they had found to be a hit as they were touring vaudeville revue called “Hollywood Bandwagon.” They perfected and performed the skit on “The Kate Smith Hour” radio show on March 24, 1938 for the first time.
Heck— they even did the routine for President Franklin Roosevelt several times.
A shorter version was featured in the guy’s 1940 film debut, “One Night in the Tropics.” The version considered to be their finest recorded rendition, however, was drawn out and featured in their 1945 film “The Naughty Nineties.”