Abbott and Costello on the Radio

Today would have been the birthday of one of my all-time favorites, Lou Costello (March 6, 1906 – March 3, 1959). As a child I couldn’t get enough of Abbott and Costello movies. Somehow I don’t think this duo gets the credit it deserves in the pantheon of classics as compared to other greats like the Brothers Marx or Stan and Ollie. Well, I’m here to tell you that millions who grew up watching Bud and Lou on TV think they’re swell. Not that these two entertainers need me to vouch for them, mind you. Abbott and Costello ruled movie rankings throughout the 1940s and when the popularity of their movies began to wane they took over television. Like me, audiences couldn’t get enough of them.

Bud and Lou c. 1938
Bud and Lou c. 1938

To celebrate Lou Costello’s birthday I put together the usual line-up, a truckload of classic radio shows that remain utterly entertaining. These are standard fare for me during long road trips and they never fail to get my mind off the asphalt.

From November 18, 1943 – “Nylon Stockings” with Lucille Ball:

Bud and Lou started working together sporadically in the early 1930s before teaming officially in 1936. During the next few years, the duo worked the burlesque circuit and perfected routines each had done countless times with other partners, including their famous “Who’s on First?” routine. Eventually, Abbott and Costello would conquer all mediums of popular entertainment by staying true to their classic routines from vaudeville and burlesque. They have been credited as one of the few comedy teams to have preserved these routines on film. The brand of comedy Abbott and Costello excelled at, which relied heavily on the verbal tennis match, as I call it, was also perfect for radio as it loses nothing in the non-visual medium.

 

From April 25, 1946 – Lou becomes “The Sheriff of North Hollywood”

Abbott and Costello launched their weekly radio show in October 1942 on CBS. During that time they were tops at the box office and were already known in radio circles as guests on other shows and (in 1941) as regulars on The Chase and Sanborn Hour with Edgar BergenThe Abbott and Costello Show took the familiar formula of other popular radio shows at the time, which mixed comedy and music with a full orchestra and featuring popular songs of the day. Perhaps more impressively is that anybody who was anybody in Hollywood guest starred. I made it a point to include some of the shows I’ve enjoyed most that also feature names we all recognize from the movies.

The Abbott and Costello Show moved to ABC in 1947, the same year (I believe) that they began hosting a half-hour children’s program, The Abbott and Costello Children’s Show:

From December 18, 1948 – “The Abbott and Costello Children’s Show”

There you have the overly simplified story of the radio careers of Abbott and Costello. Now sit back and enjoy their work:

From October 15, 1942 – “Bank Robbery” featuring Marlene Dietrich:

From March 16, 1943 – the boys got to the circus with Alan Hale:

From December 2, 1943 – Bud and Lou visit Palm Springs with Veronica Lake:

From March 23, 1944 – Lou needs a psychiatrist and Linda Darnell plays his nurse:

From April 6, 1944 – The Abbott and Costello Show with guest star, Cary Grant:

“Who’s on first?”

From June 18, 1944 – The “Who’s On First” routine:

From October 19, 1944 – “Lou Goes to Jail”

From June 28, 1945 – Bud and Lou visit Lou’s hometown, Paterson, NJ:

From December 7, 1944 – The boys visit Tin Pan Alley:

From June 2, 1948 – The Abbott and Costello Show with guest, Lon Chaney, Jr.:

Happy birthday, Lou!

As a special treat here is an episode of the popular, “This is Your Life” TV series dedicated to Lou Costello:

 

If you’re an Abbott and Costello fan you might want to visit Lou’s daughter, Chris Costello on Facebook. Chris often answers fan questions personally and shares stories about her father and Bud Abbott.

More on Abbott and Costello:

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff

Buck Privates

The Naughty Nineties

5 thoughts

  1. Thanks so much for this fantastic post! I am looking to sitting back, relaxing and listening later this evening. What a wonderful partnership they were – still bringing joy and laughter to audiences. Regards, Paul from Silver Screen Classics.

  2. I agree totally about these two. They never got the praise they deserved. Growing up, I tried to see their movies as soon as they were released, listened to their radio shows, and loved it when they came on TV. Thanks for this post, Aurora.

  3. Hello I love listening to the audio of Abbott & Costello, do you know as the movie with Buddy Hackett Bud & Lou in 1978 mentioned that on November 4 1943 after the show Bud Abbott mentioned on air that Lou’s son has passed away and he did the show anyway., do you know if the copy of that show still exists somewhere? Thanks

    1. I’ve never heard that one myself and looked for it a while back. I can’t say for sure that it doesn’t exist, but I’ve never been able to find it.

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