The Three Stooges “Disgraced” the Tennessee Theatre Stage in 1947

Bob Gardner, a math professor at ETSU, wrote to say that he is a zealous Three Stooges fan. He developed a website for his favorite merry madcaps: The professor shared with me a newspaper ad from the Johnson City-Press Chronicle showing that the tumultuous trio made a personal appearance on Saturday, Oct. 25, 1947 on the stage of the Tennessee Theatre (146 W. Main).

Bob further referenced a photo in Sonya Haskins’ book, Johnson City, TN, Images of America (Arcadia Publishing, 2005) showing Weldon Nelson of Boones Creek posing with the teasing threesome.

In 1947, the Stooges were comprised of Moe Howard (Moses Horwitz), Shemp Howard (Samuel Horwitz, an original Stooge who left the act but returned when his brother Curly (Jerome Horwitz) who replaced him suffered a major stroke) and Larry Fine (Louis Feinberg).

The hilarious humorists gave five performances in Johnson City: 12:50, 3:00, 5:00, 7:10 and 9:15. The flyer shows “The Three Stooges in Their Own Hollywood Fun Review”; a Johnny Mack Brown western flick titled, “The Rogue of the Range”; Chapter 5 of the 12-episode serial, “Crimson Ghost”; The Rodeo Ramblers, Top O’ the West’s Music Stars of Juke Box Fame”; and a cartoon. The cost was $.30 for children and $.60 for adults.   

Dr. Gardner put me in contact with William Brown, a person who attended the Stooge performance that day and offered his remembrances: “The presentation lasted about an hour. To me, the boys were funnier in person than on film, probably because I felt I was part of the scene. No Stooge impressed me any more than the others; I viewed them as a unit.

“My favorite has always been Curly, but he wasn’t in this performance. It didn't cross my mind that they would still be revered decades later. I went backstage after the performance where they were taking pictures, but I didn't have the money to buy a photo.”

Brown recalled the Stooges’ unforgettable zany verbal scenarios – Moe’s ripping off part of Larry Fine’s hair, forehand slap, double cheek slap, triple slap, backhand slap, nose tweak and poke in the eyes. Who could forget the lovable lunatics?

The titles of the Stooge “shorts” were equally amusing: “Brideless Groom,” “Goof on the Roof,” “Restless Knights,” “Half-Shot Shooters,” “Disorder in the Court,” “Sing a Song of Six Pants” and “Squareheads of the Round Table.”

The Stooges incorporated many unique expressions and sounds into their acts – Moe: “I’ll murder you”; “Remind me to kill you later”; and “You bone head.” Curly: “Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk, nyuk”; “Woo, woo, woo, woo, woo,…”; “Hi, Che, Che, Che, Che, Che”; “Soitenly” (certainly); and “I’m trying to think, but nothing happens.” Shemp: “Hee, Bee, Bee, Bee, Bee, Bee” and “Ah, Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha.” Larry: “Hey, what’s the big idea” and “I’m Sorry, Moe. It was an accident.”

The boys often spoke in pig Latin to communicate with each other and keep others from understanding what they were saying, such as Curley saying, “Moe, Larry, it’s the opca, it’s the opca,” meaning, “it’s the cop, it’s the cop.”

And finally … Robert “Moe-Bob” Gardner and Robert “Puddin' Head” Davidson cunningly designed an introductory probability and statistics” course that integrates The Three Stooge films as data:

What great memories, guys. “Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk, nyuk.”