Sunday, January 18, 2015

16 Funniest Comedy Teams Of All Time

Monty Python
I came across an article a few months ago about the funniest comedy teams of all time and I'd like to share that list with you.

I usually think of a team, as it applies to comic performers, as being 2 people (unlike a sports team).  There are 3 names on this list that are more than 2 people per team.  The following list of teams is presented in no particular order.  Is your favorite among them?

Smothers Brothers:
Real life brothers [they've always been a favorite of mine], folk singers and comedy duo who rose to fame in 1958 in the coffee houses of San Francisco.  In the late 1960s they had their own television variety show on CBS but constantly found themselves at odds with the CBS censors over their anti-Vietnam war political stance.  CBS fired them during the show's third season, leaving an already produced episode unaired.  They again headlined their own television network variety series in the late 1980s.

Abbott and Costello:
Partners for many years in movies and on their own television show.  Their Who's On First baseball routine is still one of the funniest comedy bits of all time.

The Three Stooges:
A trio whose members, most of whom were brothers, changed from time to time.  Their style of comedy invented comedic violence.  They turned eye pokes, face slaps, and unchecked aggression into an art form.  They started in vaudeville and moved into films and eventually television.  Moe Howard, Larry Fine, and Shemp Howard were the original 3.  Then Shemp was replaced by Curly Joe (Howard) with Shemp rejoining Moe and Larry at a later date.  Then Shemp was replaced by Joe Besser who was eventually replaced by Joe DeRita.

Cheech and Chong:
The comedy duo of Cheech and Chong have a successful stand-up comic career, won a Grammy for comedy album, had a successful movie career together and also pursued individual careers.  Cheech Marin had a successful run as Don Johnson's co-star in the Nash Bridges police drama television series.  He also appeared on a celebrity Jeopardy tournament and won his game.  Tommy Chong most recently appeared on Dancing With The Stars. The duo are still performing their stand-up routine in venues around the country.

Amos and Andy:
This fictional black comic duo was created for radio by Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll who also wrote the episodes and voiced the main characters in addition to several other characters on the shows. When the successful radio comedy moved to television, the roles and Amos and Andy were initially portrayed by Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll, both Caucasian, who performed in black face.  They were later replaced by African American actors who continued the roles.

Laurel and Hardy:
This comic duo started in silent films in 1921 and segued into talking pictures with a successful movie career through out the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s.  They turned slapstick comedy into high art with thin Englishman Stan Laurel playing the clumsy childlike friend of much heavier pompous American Oliver Hardy.  A solo acting role for Oliver Hardy surprised me as a bit of really off beat casting.  In 1949, he co-starred in The Fighting Kentuckian as sidekick and buddy of…John Wayne!

Monty Python:
Another of the non-twosome comedy teams…there were 6 members…on the list and some of the funniest Brits ever born (although one of them was American).  Marvelously funny comedy and satire sketches on their television series from the 1970s, Monty Python's Flying Circus.  And some equally hilarious movies.  And as individuals they each had their own careers.  Graham Chapman had studied medicine prior to turning his hand at writing.  He died from cancel at the early age of 48.  John Cleese went on to write and star in one of the funniest situation comedy television series, Fawlty Towers, as well as a long string of movie and television guest starring roles including an Emmy win.  Terry Gilliam, the lone American of the group, went on to a successful career as a feature film director.  Erik Idle was the writer of the Broadway hit, Spamalot, a Monty Pythonesque satire of Camelot [I've seen Spamalot…very funny].  Terry Jones is a well-respected historian who has written books and presented documentaries on medieval and ancient history [A few years ago, I saw an excellent documentary series he wrote and presented, I think on the History Channel, about The Crusades].  Michael Palin has continued a successful writing and acting career and in addition has written and presented a series of travel documentaries.

Martin and Lewis:
What happens when you pair a zany over-the-top Jewish comic and a suave debonair Italian singer? You get the hottest show business duo for a decade—movies, television, clubs.  After their break-up, they each went on to very successful solo careers.

Marx Brothers:
Real life brothers, they started in vaudeville and went on to Broadway and movies.  There were originally 5 brothers in the act—Chico, Harpo, Groucho, Gummo, and Zeppo.  Zeppo only appeared in the first 5 movies while Gummo didn't appear in any of the movies.  Groucho went on to achieve success on television as the MC of the game show, You Bet Your Life, from 1947 until 1961.

Burns and Allen:
Very successful husband and wife comedy team with George Burns as the straight man to the ditzy wife character of real life wife Gracie Allen.  They spanned the years from vaudeville, through radio, and a successful television situation comedy show where he would end each episode with "Say goodnight, Gracie."

Lucy and Ethel:
While their television husbands were away, these best friends would get themselves into all kinds of hilarious jams.  The I Love Lucy episode where they worked on the assembly line in a candy factor is considered a classic comedic routine.  Lucille Ball was a master of physical comedy.

Laverne and Shirley:
Lucy and Ethel regaled us with funny moments in the 1950s.  And from 1976 to 1983 best friends Laverne (Penny Marshall) and Shirley (Cindy Williams) picked up the gauntlet and carried it forward as 2 single blue-collar workers in a Milwaukee brewery.

Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau:
Each respected actors adept at both comedy and drama and friends in real life, they appeared together in 10 films spanning 4 decades.  Probably the most famous is the film adaptation of the Broadway hit, The Odd Couple, in 1968 which spawned a sequel 30 years later in 1998 also starring Lemmon and Matthau (plus 3 television series).  Matthau died in 2000 and Lemmon in 2001.

Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner:
Each film and television legends in their own right, they made comedic history when they wrote and performed their 2000 Year Old Man routine.  Brooks and Reiner were both writers on Sid Caesar's Your Show Of Shows television variety show that ran from 1950–1955 and Caesar's Hour television variety show after that.  These 2 television shows gave us more comedic writing genius than just Brooks and Reiner…also among the writers were Woody Allen and Neil Simon.

Bob Hope and Bing Crosby:
Bob Hope's wise cracking and fast talker and Bing Crosby's smooth crooner were box office gold with their series of Road To… movies with their co-star leading lady, Dorothy Lamour.

Tim Conway and Harvey Korman:
As if watching the brilliance of Carol Burnett doing sketch comedy wasn't enough, Tim and Harvey were a treat for the funny bone.  It was difficult to tell who laughed more, Tim and Harvey or the audience.


Liz Flaherty said...

Great choices!

Sandra Dailey said...

These are all so great. I remember even the oldest ones like it was yesterday. I still watch them when I can. I own several on VHS and DVD, including all of the Ma & Pa Kettle movies.

Ashantay said...

I liked all of these combos - and just remembering some of their skits has me laughing right now. Thanks for the giggles!

Harlie Williams said...

For me it will always be Lemmon and Matthau. There are classic, classy and you can feel the love and friendship between them.

Runner up: Conway and Korman. Neither one of them could keep a straight face.


Samantha Gentry said...

Liz: Glad you liked them.

Thanks for your comment.

Samantha Gentry said...

Sandra: The Ma and Pa Kettle movies go back lots of years. I have all the original Thin Man movies with William Powell and Myrna Loy on DVD. Marjorie Main played in one of them (pre Ma and Pa Kettle).

Thanks for your comment.

Samantha Gentry said...

Ashantay: I know what you mean about mentioning some of the comedy team names and it immediately brings back their routines and the laughs that went with them.

Thanks for your comment.

Samantha Gentry said...

Marika: Lemmon/Matthau definitely a classy act. And Harvey Korman/Tim Conway...loved them together. It was such fun watching Tim break up Harvey. You'd see that little bit of a grin tug at the corner of Tim's mouth and you'd know that within 30 seconds Harvey would lose it.

Thanks for your comment.