Some years ago I was contacted by Paul Howard, the son of Moe Howard, to ask if I would participate in a documentary he was making about his famous father, the eye-poking, head-banging leader of The Three Stooges. Of course, I said yes. In subsequent conversations Paul revealed that it had taken him many years to come to terms with being the offspring of a Stooge. That piqued my curiosity, and if you’re a lifelong Stooge fan (like me) I think you’ll have the same reaction to the finished product, a nine-part series called The Three Stooges: Hey Moe! Hey Dad!, which is now available in an elaborate boxed DVD set.
Paul and his filmmaking partner, Frank Basile, cover all the bases as they explore present-day Stooge fandom (including an annual convention in Philadelphia), the enduring appeal of the slapstick trio, and their personal and professional history. The show draws on interviews with Stooge family members (including Paul’s sister Joan Maurer), experts, and admirers (including Whoopi Goldberg, voice artist Billy West, and yours truly) as well as a treasure trove of rare photos, home movies, television clips, and scrapbook ephemera. There are even audio recordings of Moe, Larry, and Joe De Rita. And unlike almost every previous Stooge tribute, this one makes extensive use of the Columbia Pictures library and doesn’t rely solely on public domain footage to show the comics at work.
I’ve been a Stooge fan from the moment I first encountered the trio on television when I was eight-years-old. In those days there was no place to read about them, so in my teens I began conducting my own research and published the first Stooge filmography in Film Fan Monthly, which I expanded for my chapter about their career in my 1970 book Movie Comedy Teams. I saw the aging knuckleheads make a personal appearance at my local theater when they were promoting The Three Stooges Meet Hercules in 1962 and had the thrill of corresponding with Moe Howard, who was an avid and articulate pen pal for several years. (You can read more about that HERE.)
My early efforts have been eclipsed by decades of writing and research by other diligent fans and enthusiasts, but I’ve never lost my boyhood interest in the Stooges. I look forward to each new issue of The Three Stooges Journal, faithfully published by Gary Lassin, who operates The Stoogeum in Philadelphia, home town of Larry Fine.
A less devoted admirer might find Paul Howard’s nine-part miniseries overlong; the story could have been told more concisely, but I didn’t mind. And I love all the goodies that come along in the boxed set: a replica script of their 1935 two-reeler Uncivil Warriors, a reproduction of a giveaway comic book from the 1960s, sheet music for “The Alphabet Song,” a facsimile of Moe Howard’s membership card in Actors Equity, personal photos, and much, much more.
You can read about the Stooges in books and online, but this heartfelt documentary series brings them to life in a different way. I’m honored to have participated in it.