‘Muscle Up A Little Closer’ (1957) is the 176th short comedy made by The Three Stooges for Columbia Pictures. It was photographed from Wednesday, June 27 through Friday, June 29 1956 and was released on Thursday, February 28th 1957. It features Joe Besser in the role of the third stooge (I refuse to consider him one of ‘The Three Stooges’ and instead regard him as an actor substituting for Curly and Shemp) and Maxine Gates as a large woman named Tiny. Gates was in a number of movies in the 40s and 50s and the list of her character names on her IMDB page makes it clear how diverse roles were for women of size; characters named ‘fat girl’, ‘fat broad’, ‘fat floozie’ and the like constitute much of her oeuvre. Indeed, the Stooges giving her the role of ‘Tiny’ stand out as early examples of size-positive naming. By now you’re probably wondering: ‘why is he doing this to me?’ Showing a Joe Besser short on a bright and lovely Saturday morning is akin to dousing a plate of pancakes with gasoline instead of syrup. Why does Joe suck so much? Even Larry and Moe, with their ‘grown-up’ haircuts, are at their least amusing in the Besser shorts. The Columbia short subject unit had all but shut down at the time this was shot and one can feel the dissolute and depressed nature of the set somehow seeping through the celluloid. In the interest of being a completist, though, we must watch the Joe shorts. One every third month shouldn’t be too painful.