Abbott and Costello Both Had Scandalous FBI Files

Bud Abbott and Lou Costello are one of the most famous comedy duos of all time.

Their slapstick, buddy style comedy turned them into Hollywood stars, and their act influenced generations of comedians after them —including Jerry Seinfeld. The pair worked together for two decades before splitting up and never had the chance to reconcile.

However, Abbott & Costello’s fruitful adventures in the entertainment world did catch the eye of the FBI for multiple reasons.

Abbott & Costello
Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, circa 1945 | Silver Screen Collection/Hulton Archive/Getty Images Huty16134

Abbott and Costello worked in radio, TV, and film

Abbott and Costello had much in common. Both were New Jersey natives and both had experience working as performers and in the world of burlesque.

They didn’t know each other growing up, but each spent time honing their craft as individuals before joining forces in 1936. At that point, the two men were in their thirties.

According to Britannica, Abbott and Costello launched their sketch routines on the vaudeville circuit and grew popular with their “Who’s On First?” bit taking off. They took their show to live stages, film, and radio. In the 1940s, they even launched a children’s radio program.

Between 1940 and 1955, they starred in more than one dozen films and were box office darlings, earning Hollywood tens of millions of dollars.

Additionally, they landed a syndicated TV series later in their careers. While Abbott and Costello experienced their own personal and professional challenges, behind the scenes, they were on the FBI’s radar when the agency was cracking down on “lewd” activities.

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Bud Abbott was investigated for porn

The BBC reported that the FBI released files on certain celebrities back in 2012, including Abbott and Costello. Under the watch of J. Edgar Hoover, Abbott drew the agency’s attention for pornography. The Los Angeles police shared details with the FBI.

“A police informant furnished information to the effect that Bud Abbott, the well-known motion picture and television star, is a collector of pornography, and alleged he has 1,500 reels of obscene motion pictures which he shows in his home where he has a projector of his own.”

Lou Costello in trouble over ‘lewd’ activities

According to files dated 1948, Costello was in hot water over receiving and showing obscene films. The FBI memo dated January 1948 described a 1944 incident:

In October of 1944 during the course of an investigation of a purported ring of obscene motion picture operators in Hollywood, information was received that the best-known customers for obscene film in Hollywood were Red Skelton, Lou Costello, George Raft and others. One informant, who, it has been shown, tends to exaggerate the facts, said that Lou Costello had the largest library of obscene film in Hollywood. The informant remarked that Costello “had it running out of his ears.”

There were also notes that he was interviewed in 1946 by agents for showing pirated films to “military hospitals and shut-ins.” He wound up paying a fine.

But that same year, the FBI conducted a sex trafficking sting and and reported Costello paid two prostitutes $50 each to “put on a lewd performance” in connection with a movie premiere.

There were also accusations of mob ties and foreign espionage, but neither were convicted of any such crime. Costello died in 1959 from heart issues and Abbott died in 1974 from cancer.