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Abbott and Costello.

Byline: By SALLY WILLIAMS

Abbott and costello were one of the greatest comedy teams in the history of show business. Watching them on the tele- vision on a Saturday morning was the closest thing to a matinee. Like Laurel and Hardy, they mastered the straightman/clown relationship, creating a magical chemistry that took them from the burlesque stage to radio and broadway.

On January 28, 2003, officials from the Library of Congress announced that 50 recordings of cultural, historical or aesthetic significance in the history of the United States would be added to the National Recording Registry collection. Among the 50 was Abbott and Costello's first recorded broadcast of Who's on First?, from the Kate Smith show in 1938.

Who's on First, What's on Second, and I Don't Know is considered by many to be Abbott and Costello's best. It is sitting there alongside Martin Luther King's I Have A Dream, speech (1963), President Roosevelt's fireside chats and General Dwight D Eisenhower's 1944 D-Day address to the Allied nations.

Also included are Orson Welles's 1938 recording of HG Wells's War Of The Worlds, the 1937 description of the crash of the airship Hindenburg, and recordings by Duke Ellington, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Elvis Presley, George Gershwin, Bob Dylan, Ray Charles and Woody Guthrie.

Abbott and Costello would probably laugh to see themselves included on such a prestigious list.

William Alexander Abbott was born on October 6, 1897 in Asbury Park, New Jersey.

Bud became one of the most sought-after and polished straight men on the burlesque circuit. It was here that he met his smaller and funnier buddy, Louis Francis Cristillo, born on March 6, 1906, in Paterson, New Jersey.

Their official teaming was in 1936. They appeared on the Kate Smith Radio Hour, performing what would soon become known as their classic signature skit, Who's On First.

Next stop for Bud Abbott and Lou Costello was Hollywood and they signed to Universal in 1939.

Abbott and Costello reigned as the new kings of comedy, producing a decade of box office hits including, their 1948 monster classic that's still a favourite, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.

Bud and Lou's style and brand of comedy helped lift the morale of the American public during the Second World War.

Eager to lend their time to the war effort, the boys funded a cross-country tour to help raise much-needed funds on behalf of the War Bond Drive. They sold out at venues wherever they went.

They were honoured on the steps of New York's City Hall by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia for raising a record $89m in just three days.

In the 1950s, Bud and Lou became early television pioneers along with the brilliant Phil Silvers, Milton Berle, Jack Benny, and Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.

Lou Costello passed away in 1959, and Bud Abbott in 1974 - but today their comedy continues to generate new legions of fans around the world.

Abbott and Costello have been a major influence on the career of America's top comedian, Jerry Seinfeld.

He says, 'If it weren't for Abbott and Costello, many of the wonderful burlesque routines which are a part of the American fabric would have been lost forever.

'They were giants of their time, who truly immortalised burlesque forever. Maybe that art form is largely lost, but I try and keep it alive in my own show.'

Sally Williams: Hair raising laughs:Bud wore a front-piece toupee in most of their earlier films, and Lou blackened his scalp to make his hair appear fuller on camera. Lou's wife would colour his head with a toothbrush. Their movies include Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948); Abbott and Costello Meet The Killer: Boris Karloff (1949); Africa Screams (1949); Abbott and Costello In The Foreign Legion (1950) Abbott and Costello Meet The Invisible Man (1951); Abbott and Costello Go To Mars (1953); Abbott and Costello Meet Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde (1954); and Abbott and Costello Meet The Keystone Cops (1955).
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:May 19, 2005
Words:662
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