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Friday, January 13, 2012

Thorn: If Who’s on First, Who’s in Write?

When I published this classic in The Armchair Book of Baseball in 1985, I prefaced it by writing:

This classic assault on sense and syntax is generally associated with Abbott and Costello, who, having performed it in the 1945 film Naughty Nineties, are presumed to have written it. They didn’t. Who did? Naturally.

I went on to say that the skit was of anonymous authorship, as were some 2,000 other stock burlesque bits in Abbott and Costello’s repertoire. Afterwards, however, I learned that they aired “Who’s on First?” as far back as 1938, when they performed it on Kate Smith’s radio show, and that the skit had an author: Irving Gordon (1915-96), a versatile fellow who also wrote Nat King Cole’s 1951 hit song, “Unforgettable,” as well as “Prelude to a Kiss” for Duke Ellington, “What Can I Tell My Heart?” for Bing Crosby, “Throw Mama from the Train” for Patti Page and—in a song title for Billie Holiday that puts one in mind of “Who’s on First?”—the strangely populated “Me, Myself and I.”

Presumably not this one.

The District Attorney Posted: January 13, 2012 at 11:02 AM | 12 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: special topics

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   1. Dale Sams Posted: January 13, 2012 at 12:47 PM (#4036210)
   2. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: January 13, 2012 at 01:02 PM (#4036220)
in a song title for Billie Holiday that puts one in mind of “Who’s on First?”—the strangely populated “Me, Myself and I.”

Jeez, DA, if you're going to mock the title, at least give us a link to the real version.
   3. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: January 13, 2012 at 01:19 PM (#4036239)
Irving Gordon's authorship of the skit is far from clear. Many people have claimed authorship.

He did, however, write "Delaware"
   4. The District Attorney Posted: January 13, 2012 at 01:22 PM (#4036246)
Not mocking! De La Soul is awesome.
   5. Bob Evans Posted: January 13, 2012 at 01:26 PM (#4036251)
He did, however, write "Delaware"

ohai

o
   6. Bruce Markusen Posted: January 13, 2012 at 02:07 PM (#4036308)
"Who's on First" still plays regularly in the Hall of Fame Library--customers just have to push a button to start the video--and it's still funny after 5,000 listens.

Now, I wouldn't want to listen to it continuously throughout the day, but hearing it every once in awhile is still amusing. The timing of Abbott and Costello, along with their ability to keep constant track of the names, is nearly flawless. There is one point where Costello almost forgets the name of Abbott's character, named Mr. Broadhurst, but he recovers just in time. Remarkable.
   7. Walt Davis Posted: January 13, 2012 at 02:20 PM (#4036332)
To be clear, he wrote the lyrics for Prelude to a Kiss.
   8. Howie Menckel Posted: January 13, 2012 at 02:25 PM (#4036342)

As long as Hu's not on short, you're ok.....

   9. OsunaSakata Posted: January 13, 2012 at 02:40 PM (#4036359)
While "Who's on First" was funny, it really wasn't about baseball, unlike George Carlin's difference between football and baseball routine. However, if it's done right, riffing off Who's on First can be hilarous, even today.
   10. Voros McCracken of Pinkus Posted: January 13, 2012 at 03:15 PM (#4036392)
There was a Kids in the Hall skit where they start off doing the bit but then Dave Foley says, "wait, I understand the confusion here" and then proceeds to explain the joke, much to the chagrin of Kevin McDonald who then calls him the "worst straight man ever."
   11. Eugene Freedman Posted: January 13, 2012 at 03:48 PM (#4036431)
De La Soul is awesome.


If you like that alternative hippy rap. Not I. Couldn't stand them or Tribe then and still can't. Although I can't stand anything other than underground now.
   12. Vance W Posted: January 13, 2012 at 05:42 PM (#4036577)
If Irving Gordon really did write "Who's on First" and "Unforgettable" he deserves to be much more famous than he is.

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