Friday, August 23, 2013

Practical Lessons From The Three Stooges

Spread out!  I've been a Three Stooges fan for about two decades.  Before Sony/Columbia finally released all of the short films (there's 190!) on DVD box sets, I had made it one of my life's missions to collect all 190.  I got pretty damn close, taping over 120 of them from various TV showings over the years.  (Remember recording programs onto VHS tapes in the pre-DVR days?  We lived like neanderthals!)  Lately I've been watching the DVDs while feeding baby Link, and it set my mind a-wonderin' about why I haven't written about those three (actually six) knuckleheads.  Well, today is the day that I rectify that situation, and I'll do it faster that you can say Ticonderoga, if you can say Ticonderoga.

I'm not here to polarize anybody with arguments about who the best Stooge was (any sap knows Shemp is the top), but rather, I'm here to share some important life lessons I picked up from Moe, Larry, Curly, Shemp, Joe, and Curly Joe.  As my daughter YaYa (who's become quite the Stooges fan despite typically only watching cartoons or at the very least something in color) said, "Those guys aren't very good at anything!"  Sure, every time they cook a turkey they end up stuffing it with clamshells and tin cans.  Okay, whenever they try to fix a leak they end up flooding the basement and somehow hooking the water up to all the electric devices in the house.  Alright, so they repeatedly make the questionable decision to put Curly on the top of their triple-bunk-beds.  None of us are perfect, but without the antics of the three missing links, I may not have become the man I am today, for better or worse.

By now you must be wondering what I possibly could have learned from such nonsense and mayhem.  Well, don't get excited, I'll tell you when I'm ready.  Am I ready?  Yeah, I'm ready.  Swing it!

Lesson #1: Push Buttons!

It happens pretty much every time the Stooges have to operate an unfamiliar piece of machinery; the boys randomly push every button they can until they get either the desired result or sparks start shooting out of the machine.  While this trial and error approach often ends in disaster for the chowderheads, it has come in handy quite often for me.

When I worked in an office, I was known as one of the guys who was "good at computers".  I soitenly am, but only through growing up always having access to one and learning through the trial and error (or "Push Buttons!") method.  Whenever I run into a software problem, my natural inclination is to try everything I can, including commands that I'm unfamiliar with, to see what the result is.  Usually I stumble upon a solution.  Rarely I mess things up even more (I'm a victim of coicumstance!), but there's always an ace up my sleeve (and by "ace" I mean "web search").

This reminds me of a story I heard a few years back.  I'm not sure if it's true or not, but it's a good story anyway.  An out-of-work fellow applied for a job operating a crane.  He lied and said he had experience.  He was fired on the first day while trying to learn to use the crane on the job.  He then got a second job operating a crane, this time merely exaggerating his level of experience.  He was fired after a few days when it became obvious that he didn't truly know the ins and outs (or is it 'ups and downs'?) of working a crane.  But by his third attempt at attaining (and maintaining) a job as a crane operator, he had accumulated the necessarily abilities to do the work, and he kept the job.  Trial and error.  Push buttons!

Lesson #2: Always Carry a Rag!!

Any mom or dad (or aunt or uncle or godparent or babysitter, etc.) already knows this, but you've got to carry a rag (or at least a pocketful of napkins) at all times.  Yes, I'm a dad, but I learned this lesson a long time ago from Los Tres Chiflados.  How?  (And how!)

You never know when you're going to get hit in the face with a pie, a lump of clay, or a geyser of oil.  That's why you always need a rag.  Okay, so maybe the Stooges get hit in the face with more pies, lumps of clay, and geysers of oil than the average ham-and-egger, but still, you never know.  Maybe you won't ever get a pie to the face, but a rag or hunk of paper towel will always come in handy to clean up spit-ups, spilled juice boxes, or ice cream drips (all of which can and will happen if you hang out with my brother, S.M.).  Or suppose you sneeze that newfangled way doctors are promoting, into your elbow, and you're left with a glob of boogers on your arm.  Good thing you brought a rag!

By the by, a rag also comes in handy for over-dramatically crying into, then ringing out a ludicrous amount of water from.

Lesson #3: Make the Best of Things!!!

Perhaps this one is a little corny, but that doesn't make it any less true.  One thing I've always loved about the Stooges is their eternal optimism despite repeated screw-ups.  No matter what the situation, they always make the best of things.  Let's pretend for a moment that your friend, we'll call him 'Shemp', fell out a window, and he's dangling off the 8th or 10th floor.  You and your other pal, we'll call him 'Larry', have procured a rope, and the two of you are in the process of hoisting him back up to the window.  But Shemp, ever the hound-dog, lets go of the rope when he reaches a balcony occupied by a shapely female type.  Not expecting the sudden shift in momentum, you and Larry stumble backwards and land in the bathtub with your clothes on.  What would you do?  Would you complain, or would you decide to make the best of it and take a bath, even though "this ain't Saturday night!"?  The Stooges opt for the bath (and curiously start applying soap over their clothing).

Of course, this isn't the only example of how Larry, Moe, and (Third Stooge) take the lemons life gives them and make the proverbial lemonade.  On the run from the cops or a group of men they tried to scam (or both), the Stooges will take refuge in a random building.  Once inside they may join the military, become riveters, or start art classes.  And they just roll with it, much to the annoyance of the people who normally engage in these activities without the interference of three disgraceful vagabonds.

There's a handful of films where Curly goes violently insane when he either hears a certain song, sees a mouse (because his father was a rat), or sees a tassel.  He usually can only be calmed by being tickled or eating cheese.  Most people would probably have such a person committed or put onto oodles of medication, but Larry and Moe always use this odd quirk to the benefit of the group, entering Curly into boxing matches or letting him go berserk when there's bad guys on the loose.  You could say they're taking advantage of the poor guy, and I could tell you to shut up and poke you in the eyes.  Poink!

Whether you're a casual fan who doesn't know a woo woo woo from an eeb eeb eeb, or you're a hardcore salami skull who knows that 'Gritto' spelled sideways is 'Otri-guh-guhh' (?), we can all learn a lot from the Stooges.  They're terrific!  They're colossal!  They're even mediocre!

Watch your P's and Q's, heed these lessons, and make sure to come back to the blog next week for more articles and another Pancake Bros. video (see if you can spot the Stooges influence in our work).  

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