Who’s on first!!!

Uploaded by on Feb 16, 2007

Abbott and Costello perform the classic “Who’s on first?” baseball sketch in their 1945 film “The Naughty Nineties” first performed as part of their stage act. Still find this really funny

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From Wikipedia:

Who’s on First?

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For the Blackford Oakes novel, see Who’s on First (novel).
This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (January 2012)

Who’s on First? is a vaudeville comedy routine made most famous by Abbott and Costello. In Abbott and Costello’s version, the premise of the routine is that Abbott is identifying the players on a baseball team to Costello, but their names and nicknames can be interpreted as non-responsive answers to Costello’s questions. In this context, the first baseman is named “Who”; thus, the utterance “Who’s on first” is ambiguous between the question (“which person is the first baseman?”) and the answer (“The name of the first baseman is ‘Who'”).

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[edit] History

“Who’s on First?” is descended from turn-of-the-century burlesque sketches that used plays on words and names. Examples are “The Baker Scene” (the shop is located on Watt Street) and “Who Dyed” (the owner is named Who). In the 1930 movie Cracked Nuts, comedians Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey examine a map of a mythical kingdom with dialogue like this: “What is next to Which.” “What is the name of the town next to Which?” “Yes.” In English variety halls (Britain’s equivalent of vaudeville theatres), comedian Will Hay performed a routine in the early 1930s (and possibly earlier) as a schoolmaster interviewing a schoolboy named Howe who came from Ware but now lives in Wye. By the early 1930s, a “Baseball Routine” had become a standard bit for burlesque comics across the United States. Abbott’s wife recalled Bud performing the routine with another comedian before teaming with Costello.[1]

Bud Abbott stated that it was taken from an older routine called “Who’s The Boss?”, a performance of which can be heard in an episode of the radio comedy program It Pays to Be Ignorant from the 1940s.[2] After they formally teamed up in burlesque in 1936, he and Costello continued to hone the sketch. It was a big hit in 1937 when they performed the routine in a touring vaudeville revue called “Hollywood Bandwagon”.[1]

In February 1938, Abbott and Costello joined the cast of The Kate Smith Hour radio program, and the sketch was first performed for a national radio audience that March.[1] The routine may have been further polished before this broadcast by burlesque producer John Grant, who became the team’s writer, and Will Glickman, a staff writer on the radio show.[3] Glickman may have added the nicknames of then-contemporary baseball players like Dizzy and Daffy Dean to set up the routine’s premise. This version, with extensive wordplay based on the fact that most of the fictional baseball team’s players had “strange nicknames” that seemed to be questions, became known as “Who’s on First?” By 1944, Abbott and Costello had the routine copyrighted.

Abbott and Costello performed “Who’s on First?” numerous times in their careers, rarely performing it exactly the same way twice. They did the routine for President Franklin Roosevelt several times. An abridged version was featured in the team’s 1940 film debut, One Night in the Tropics. The duo reprised the bit in their 1945 film The Naughty Nineties, and it is that longer version which is considered their finest recorded rendition. They also performed “Who’s on First?” numerous times on radio and television (notably in The Abbott and Costello Show episode “The Actor’s Home”).

In 1956 a gold record of “Who’s on First?” was placed in the Baseball Hall of Fame museum in Cooperstown, New York. A video (taken from The Naughty Nineties) now plays continuously on screens at the Hall.

In the 1970s, Selchow and Righter published a Who’s on First? board game.

In 1999, Time magazine named the routine Best Comedy Sketch of the 20th century.[4]

An early radio recording was placed in the Library of Congress‘s National Recording Registry in 2003.

In 2005, the line “Who’s on First?” was included on the American Film Institute‘s list of 100 memorable movie quotations.

[edit] Sketch

The names given in the routine for the players at each position are:

The name of the shortstop is not given until the very end of the routine, and the right fielder is never identified. In the Selchow and Righter board game, the right fielder’s name is “Nobody”.[5]

At one point in the routine, Costello thinks that Naturally is the first baseman:

Abbott: You throw the ball to first base.
Costello: Then who gets it?
Abbott: Naturally.
Costello: Naturally.
Abbott: Now you’ve got it.
Costello: I throw the ball to Naturally.
Abbott: You don’t! You throw it to Who!
Costello: Naturally.
Abbott: Well, that’s it—say it that way.
Costello: That’s what I said.
Abbott: You did not.
Costello: I said I throw the ball to Naturally.
Abbott: You don’t! You throw it to Who!
Costello: Naturally.

Abbott’s explanations leave Costello hopelessly confused and infuriated, until the end of the routine when he finally appears to catch on. “You got a couple of days on your team?” He never quite figures out that the first baseman’s name literally is “Who”. But after all this he announces, “I don’t give a darn!” (“Oh, that’s our shortstop.”) That is the most commonly heard ending, which varied depending on the perceived sensibilities of the audience. The even milder “I Don’t Care” was used in the version seen in the film The Naughty Nineties. A recording of the obvious “I Don’t Give a Damn” has also turned up on occasion.

The skit serves as a climax for an Abbott and Costello radio broadcast which begins with Costello receiving a telegram from Joe DiMaggio asking Costello to take over for him.[6]

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