Glenn Kenny
August 09, 1996 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Three Stooges now on tape

On a recent Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist, caustic comic Andy Kindler revealed that he’d finally figured out why women didn’t like the Three Stooges: ”They’re not funny.” Having put that issue to rest, though, Kindler opens up another can of worms: What did men of the boomer and post-boomer generations (myself included) find so hysterical about these vaudevillians that would justify the surge of interest in the old shorts of Moe, Larry, Curly, and Shemp?

Six new compilations arranged by theme — Dizzy Doctors, Dopey Dicks, Out West, False Alarms, Hoi Polloi, and Listen, Judge — don’t do much to answer that question. The collected shorts don’t contain any ”classic” bits: Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine, and Dr. Howard aren’t paged once, and nobody asks about the whereabouts of those three new waiters. Curly and his alternate, Shemp, make a lot of goofy noises; Moe pokes and smacks; and Larry winces. Almost invariably, they have to bow and scrape before an employer, giving them the opportunity to say ”Yes, sir” and ”No, sir” in unison more than the comedic bit warrants. Wit and inventiveness rarely rear their heads, but the boys certainly demonstrate good timing in their primitive slapstick.

By way of explanation for our former enthusiasm, well, Stooges fans of my generation were either genuinely dumb, humor-impaired suburban guys — whose future spouses should have known what they were getting into — or arch hipsters for whom embracing the anarchic comedy team was a self-conscious celebration of cretinism. Members of both camps may well look at these tapes today and ask, ”We alienated our girlfriends for this?” All tapes: C-

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