Jerry Seinfeld says the rhythm of “Who’s On First?” is like “musical math”. Larry King says it’s “the funniest sketch in the history of comedy teams in show business. I laugh every time I hear it. Abbott and Costello were comedic geniuses.”
Seinfeld elaborates talking about how the routine influenced him as a comedian, writer and baseball fan. Speaking about why baseball lends itself to comedy, Seinfeld says, “Baseball has a heart of gold. It has a humanity that other sports, they just don’t have, for whatever reason, and humanity is funnier.”
The list of tributes goes on………In 2012, Jimmy Fallon recreated the entire skit bringing in personalities like Billy Crystal, Seinfeld and other fans of baseball participating as well. You could tell it was a labor of love and that a lot of hard work went into their recreation of the routine.
Such is the force that nearly eight decades later still captures the imagination and attention of people both in and out of the game. Now, here’s the rest of the story……….
According to Baseball Almanac, the general premise behind the exchange has Costello, a peanut vendor named Sebastion Dinwiddle, talking to Abbott who is Dexter Broadhurt, the manager of the mythical St. Louis Wolves. However, before Costello can get behind the plate, Abbott wants to make sure he knows everyone’s name on the team…
They performed the routine for the first time on Kate Smith’s Radio Show in 1938. The lineup that took the field was
First Base: Who Second Base: What Third Base: I Don’t know Shortstop : I Don’t Care
Left Field: Why Center Field: Because. Pitcher: Tomorrow Catcher: Today
For reasons no one has ever explained, there was no right fielder (Naturally!). Authorship of the sketch has long been debated. We do know that there are two handwritten versions at the University of Chicago from the early 1920’s. A vaudeville writer and performer named Samuel Goldman once laid claim to the title, but again no one is really sure. It hardly matters though because, with comedy, it’s the delivery that counts the most.
The routine achieved greater recognition and popularity when it could be performed on television. It was then that all of the nuances and facial expressions, especially crafted by Costello came to light. The chemistry between them was almost surreal as Abbott dead panned as the straight man.
Not coincidentally, the Baseball Hall Of Fame saw fit to honor Abbott and Costello with a plaque
depicting a “Gold Record ” Jerry Seinfeld nailed it……….”Who’s On First?” is “musical math”. Enjoy the clips………the force lives on”…….
On The Radio: (Audio Only On Television: (Click Here)
The Sequel: Jimmy Fallon et al. (Click Here)
Sources And Acknowledgments:
MLB Blogs (Author: John Thorne) Baseball Almanac It’s Still A Home Run (LA Times
Costas And Seinfeld Tribute (MLB.com)