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Bud Abbott was a comedian best known for playing the "straight man" of the Abbott and Costello comedy duo.
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Born to parents who worked in the circus, Bud Abbott started out in burlesque shows and went on the gain national fame as the "straight man" of the comedy duo Abbott and Costello.
Actor and comedian Bob Abbott was born on October 2, 1895, in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Bud Abbott was born to parents who worked in the circus. His father was an advance man for traveling acts, and his mother performed as a bareback horse rider for the Ringling Bros. Circus. With show business in his blood, Abbott dropped out of school in 1909 to work with his father at Coney Island. However, his career was interrupted one year later when, at the age of 15, Abbott was drugged and shanghaied onto a ship bound for Norway.
Eventually working his way back to the United States, and in 1918 he moved to Detroit. There he worked as the treasurer of the National Theater, a famous burlesque house. This was where he met and fell in love with Jenny Mae Pratt, a burlesque dancer and comedienne who went by the stage name Betty Smith. They married later that year and remained together until Abbott's death 55 years later.
Bud Abbott served as the treasurer and later manager of National Theater throughout the 1920s, and in 1924 he also began taking the stage to play the "straight man" opposite Betty as well as in other burlesque acts. He quickly earned a reputation as one of the region's better "straight man" performers, and was invited to take the stage with such vaudeville comedians as Harry Steepe and Harry Evanston. In 1931, Abbott decided to move back to New York, where he continued to work on burlesque shows at small theaters.
Abbott was working as a cashier at the Casino Theater in Brooklyn one night in 1936 when the comedic duo of Lyons and Costello were scheduled to perform. But Lyons, the straight man of the pair, had stayed home sick. Panicking backstage while a packed crowd waited for the show to begin, Costello heard that the man working the cashier had some experience performing as a straight man, and he asked him to substitute for his partner onstage.
The impromptu show was a smashing success, earning thunderous laughs from the raucous crowd, and one of the greatest comedy duos was born. Lou Costello was a talented young comedian with a childlike onstage energy; he was short, chubby, boisterous and 11 years Abbott's junior. Abbott -- tall, slender, fast-talking and serious -- was his perfect complement, the deadpan butt of Costello's jokes and pranks.
Abbott and Costello worked the burlesque and vaudeville circuits, initially headlining a show featuring striptease artist Ann Curio. They gained national exposure in 1938 when they appeared regularly on the popular radio show The Kate Smith Hour. One of their early radio performances was "Who's on First?" -- a routine they wrote in collaboration with comedy writer John Grant.
One of the most famous comedy routines ever, "Who's on First?" turned a simple mix-up over a baseball lineup into a sidesplitting gag.
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