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Overview for Joe Besser
Joe Besser

Joe Besser



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Also Known As: Joseph Besser Died: March 1, 1988
Born: August 12, 1907 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: St Louis, Missouri, USA Profession: Cast ... comedian actor song plugger magician's assistant handbill distributor Western Union delivery boy


Short, portly comedian whose eccentric personas often were whiny, child-like, cautious or bratty, Joe Besser is best recalled as Stinky, the "man-child" dressed in a Little Lord Fauntleroy suit who caused Lou Costello much consternation, and for joining The Three Stooges for the last of their 16 two-reel shorts at Columbia after the death of Shemp Howard. A burlesque and vaudeville performer who emigrated to Hollywood at the demise of those two stage genres, he began doing bits in radio and in films, usually as weak, frightened passive characters. Besser began to attract more audience recognition as Mr. Know It All on radio's "Let Yourself Go" (from 1945 to 1949) and then in 1950, when he spent a year as a comedy performer on the CBS variety program "The Ken Murray Show." Audiences enjoyed him as the skipping, brat Oswald, a.k.a. 'Stinky', who threatened "I'll harm you" whenever he was grasped by the arm on TV's "The Abbott and Costello Show" (syndicated, 1952-54).

When Shemp Howard died in 1955, Besser was tapped as his replacement in the Three Stooges, but his nervous-nellie shtick didn't really mesh with the more knockabout slapstick of Moe Howard and Larry Fine. When the Stooges ended their affiliation with Columbia Pictures (with whom Besser had been under contract in the 30s and 40s) in 1958, he was dropped in favor of 'Curly' Joe DeRita. For Besser, that turn of events proved favorable as he went on to a career as a character player in films and TV. He co-starred as the building superintendent Mr. Jillson on the ABC sitcom "The Joey Bishop Show" from 1962 to 1965 and made memorable guest appearances on shows like "Batman" and "Love American Style." For much of the 70s, he provided character voices for animated series, many produced by Hanna-Barbera.


glenburg ( 2007-03-09 )

Source: Once a Stooge, Always a StoogeThree Stooges Scrapbook

As co-writer of the late Mr. Besser's autobiography, "Once a Stooge, Always a Stooge," I can assure that Mr. Besser was never "dropped" in favor of Joe DeRita as the third Stooge. To the contrary, Mr. Besser had to bow out as the third Stooge due the poor health of his wife. If you check out "The Three Stooges Scrapbook" which I co-authored with my brother and Moe's daughter, Joan Howard Maurer, Mr. Besser's story was confirmed by Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Joe DeRita. In fact, both Moe and Larry were sorry that he could not continue with the act. As far as the statement that his style of humor did not "mesh," that's a misrepresentation. Mr. Besser did his best considering the scripts which were given to the team during this period, most of which were remakes of earlier shorts with low production values. To illustrate that his style did mesh, I can remember attending a Three Stooges Film Festival in the 1980s where a Stooges short with Mr. Besser was presented. It was "Oil's Well That Ends Well." The laughter was deafening. Sure, Mr. Besser wasn't Curly, but he didn't pretend to be. He shouldn't be judged by Curly purists. He should be judged on his own merit. Lastly, Mr. Besser never worked in burlesque. Sincerely, Greg Lenburg

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