The Stooges Take Cleveland

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Guest Blogger:
David J. Hogan, author of Three Stooges FAQ (Applause Books)

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OK, there’s our favorite guy: Captain Penny, the lanky, smiling young train engineer come to visit with us kids daily from WEWS-TV, Channel 5 (“First in Cleveland” as the station unfailingly reminded everybody). On the menu? Cartoons, live guests like animal trainer Jungle Larry, and the big guns, the Three Stooges.

As Russ Meyer said years later, “Welcome to violence!”

The Stooges were TV’s Big Thing when their shorts were made available to television in 1958, and local TV stations snapped them up like prawns. The shorts often were broadcast as segments of established kiddie shows, which is how Captain Penny got lucky enough to show them. WEWS announcer and sometimes sportscaster Ron Penfound got the Captain Penny gig in 1955, and he’d ride it all the way to 1971. In the late 1950s he got the Stooges.

My recollection is that the shorts were shown unedited, with every face-slap, head-thump, and belly-banger on glorious display. I even recall the climbing-spike-in-the-head gag from They Stooge to Conga. Wow!

Like every kid I was fascinated by the eye-poke, which was sublime. The sudden violence of it, and the plucked-violin sound effect, were (in those pre-hippie days) mind-blowing.

I liked Captain Penny’s on-camera kindness but I was a little put off by his goodie-goodie point of view. He was low-key and well-meaning—quite in opposition to the Stooges—and he invariably looked right into our eyes at the end of every Stooges comedy and say (and I’m paraphrasing from the mists of memory), “It’s all right to laugh at the Stooges but not to do as they do.”

I guess that meant the eye-poke was out whenever my little brother wandered by.

Years later I learned that Ron Penfound had flirted with becoming a Protestant clergyman before his head was turned by broadcasting. But he remained a gentle soul who closed every show with these words: “You can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool Mom. She’s pretty nice and she’s pretty smart. Do what Mom says and you won’t go far wrong.”

Overflowing from the pores with the Stooges, I silently willed my mother to say, “David, if you want to give Tim the eye poke, well, that’s just fine.”

Never happened!

Three Stooges FAQ by David J. Hogan
This entertaining and informative study of the Three Stooges focuses on the nearly 190 two-reel short comedies the boys made at Columbia Pictures during the years 1934-59. Violent slapstick? Of course, but these comic gems are also peerlessly crafted and enthusiastically played by vaudeville veterans Moe, Larry, Curly, Shemp, and Joe – arguably the most popular and long-lived screen comics ever produced by Hollywood.

Available from Applause Books and booksellers nationwide.

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About HLPAPG

Hal Leonard Performing Arts Publishing Group, the trade book division of Hal Leonard Corporations, publishes books on the performing arts under the imprints Hal Leonard Books, Backbeat Books, Amadeus Press, and Applause Theatre and Cinema Books.

Posted on December 15, 2011, in Comedy, Film & TV and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Captain Penny, Mr. Jingeling, Romper Room… by TLones1480

    Mr. Hogan:
    The video you used was probably mine-I’ve had issues with YouTube recently and moved a number of videos to DailyMotion..Here’s a link as well if you wanted to reedit it in..

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