Who’s On First

Most people are familiar with “Who’s On First,” or at least recall the names of the infielders – Who’s on first, What’s on second, and on third base, I Don’t Know.

In its end of the millennium issue, Time magazine rated it the funniest comedy routine of the 20thCentury.

Although “Who’s On First” is forever identified with Abbott & Costello, they did not originate the routine. Bud Abbott’s wife Betty recalled that, “Bud had done the baseball bit a long time before he worked with Lou. That was public domain. He did it with some comic, I don’t remember who it was. And it was a little different, because he and Lou put an awful lot of stuff in it, a lot of new material.”

Like most comedians who worked in burlesque, they were working with material that Phil Silvers wrote, “Nobody knows where ‘Who’s On First’ came from. Everybody used to do it. I did it myself with Rags Ragland. But Bud and Lou had the first crack at the big-time audiences with it, and nobody performed it quite like they did.”

They never performed it the same way twice.

Compare the version from the 1945 film, The Naughty Nineties:
To they way they performed on the Colgate Comedy Hour
Or from The Abbott and Costello Show (1953)
In all the years they performed the routine, Abbott and Costello never committed it to memory.
Abbott and Costello's best remembered performance of "Who's on First" was in the 1945 film, Naughty Nineties. But they performed the routine in a number of films and television appearances, never doing it the same way twice.

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