There have been many successful comedy teams over the years, from the familial group the Marx Brothers to the more recent duo of Dudley Moore and Peter Cook. One of the most popular comedy teams was the duo of Abbott and Costello.
Bud Abbott and Lou Costello were mainstays in the 1940s and 1950s entertainment scene, releasing multiple successful films, recording radio shows, and appearing in vaudeville-style sketches. While fans loved the comedic celebrities, the reality is that the two men had a lot of problems with each other — and finally, their issues grew too great to ignore.
Abbott and Costello rose to fame in the 1940s
Bud Abbott and Lou Costello first started working together in 1935, after Abbott’s partner at the time got sick and couldn’t perform. The two men based their act on being total opposites — both in appearance and personality.
Abbott was tall and thin and cultivated a serious, stringent persona. He acted as the “straight man” of the group, the perfect foil for the short, stout Costello’s slapstick comedy routines.
In the late ’30s, Abbott and Costello began performing on radio programs, ultimately debuting their own show, The Abbott and Costello Show, in 1940. Around the same time that their radio show took off, Abbott and Costello began starring in a series of films, beginning with the hit musical One Night in the Tropics.
By the mid-’40s, the team had become a comedy powerhouse, with viewers of all ages listening to them on radio and watching them on screen.
When did Abbott and Costello disband?
Abbott and Costello enjoyed many successes over the course of their time together. Still, their most popular comedy routine is undoubtedly the iconic “Who’s on First?” routine.
The bit, which is grounded in baseball lore, was first performed by the duo in vaudeville, eventually became closely identified with Abbott and Costello. They performed it numerous times over the years, including in their movies One Night in the Tropics and The Naughty Nineties.
“Who’s on First?” is considered to be one of the greatest comedy routines of all time. These days, it is still recognized as an influential and hilarious piece of entertainment, even for fans who don’t regularly tune into baseball. Unfortunately, although the “Who’s on First?” routine cemented Abbott and Costello’s place in pop culture history, it wasn’t enough to keep the duo together forever.
By the mid-’50s, the two had started to experience career burnout, and in 1957, they formally dissolved their partnership.
Why did Abbott and Costello reportedly hate each other?
Ultimately, it seems as though the slow point in their careers wasn’t the only reason for Bud Abbott and Lou Costello’s separation. According to a report by Telegraph, Abbott and Costello harbored ill will toward each other for years, beginning in 1945, when Abbott reportedly hired a maid who had previously worked for Costello.
The report states that Costello took their feud to the press, kickstarting many years of fighting and bad feelings. Iconic screen actor Errol Flynn tossed in his own two cents, claiming that in 1957, he played a pornography film in front of the comedy duo and their families as a practical joke.
According to the report, Abbott and Costello blamed each other for the inappropriate film, not knowing that Flynn himself was behind the prank. Flynn later claimed that the mixup was the ultimate cause for their breakup that same year.
While it is more likely that the years of fighting led to the final split, the incident certainly didn’t help matters. In spite of the bad blood between the pair, they made some incredible contributions to the world of comedy over the years, so their ultimate legacy is a positive one.