The ‘Niagra Falls/Slowly I Turn’ bit–which we’ve been examining this week in excruciating detail–found a variation of sorts in this Abbott and Costello routine from ‘Keep ‘Em Flying’, a 1942 wartime vehicle co-starring Martha Raye as twins. (Click the above link–the person who posted the video declined to share it on other websites. Why does this piss me off?) The premise is hardly original–Laurel and Hardy did the same bit in their 1929 short ‘Men ‘O War’; Bud has only enough money for one sandwich which they’ll split. But for some reason he feels it important that he ask Lou what he’ll have and have Lou decline the offer. Only Lou can’t resist the impulse to order and…you get the idea. The constant badgering of the same prompt–in ‘Niagra Falls’ it’s the locations name, here it’s the notion of eating–and the resulting frustration and violence connects the two routines. The big question one has while watching this is: why is Bud doing this to Lou? What is he getting out of constantly upping the demand that Lou turn down his offer? Is it meant to be sadistic? Is he just screwing with him? Or, like most Vaudeville, is it just a routine that doesn’t really make any logical sense but which preys on an audiences most basic primal instinct–that of self-survival in the face of increasing danger? I promise you one thing: this is the end of our foray into the Vaudeville world (at least for a long time). I’ve never seen the hits on this blog decrease as dramatically as they have this week.


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