Movie Mom

Movie Mom


List: Great Comedy Duos

posted by Nell Minow

As I was watching Year One, I thought about why the Michael Cera/Jack Black teaming does not work very well. They are both very funny guys, and they have that yin/yang element that propels most comedy teams, with one expansive and impulsive and the other more cerebral and hesitant. But there is not a lot of chemistry between them. That led me to thoughts of some of my favorite comedy teams.

Bob Hope and Bing Crosby This team was unique because it included two mega-stars who were at the top of their fields as solo performers, and yet they made a series of films as a team that rank with any of the best comedy duos of all time. My favorite: Road to Bali, but this number from “Road to Rio” is one of their all-time highlights.

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy These adorable goofs were holy fools, with a wonderful innocence and grace. My favorites: “Two Tars” and “Big Business” But this charming dance from Way Out West is another treasure.

Bud Abbott and Lou Costello A classic comedy paring includes a straight man who is a bit slick opposite a comedian who is a bit child-like. My favorite of their movies is “The Time of Their Lives,” but I also love “Buck Privates” and of course their classic “Who’s on first” routine:

The Smothers Brothers Tom and Dick Smothers were also a classic straight man/fool team, but they added in superb music and some barbed political commentary. Their best work was on their television series and I love their CDs, like this one: Sibling Revelry: The Best of the Smothers Brothers

Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis This team began as unknowns and became the most successful performers in America, working in clubs, in the early days of television, in recordings, movies, and even in comic books. Then they split, and each achieved stardom as solo artists. Lewis referred to their act as “a handsome man and a monkey.” They had a wonderful fearlessness and obvious affection for each other and an extraordinary chemistry. I prefer their television work to their movies.

Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara Ben Stiller’s parents were a very successful comedy team before they went their separate ways as actors on television (Stiller played George Costanza’s father on “Seinfeld” and Kevin James’ father-in-law on “King of Queens” and Meara appeared on “Archie Bunker’s Place,” in “Sex and the City,” and in movies like “The Daytrippers”). Their comedy played off their real-life differences, especially their Catholic-Jewish intermarriage.

There are many more worth mentioning, including Mike Nichols and Elaine May (who both had successful careers as movie directors), Tim Reed and Tom Dreeson (the first inter-racial comedy duo, whose book about the experience is called Tim and Tom: An American Comedy in Black and White, Dan Rowan and Dick Martin, whose act was very traditional but whose television show, Laugh-In was innovative and hugely influential, and George Burns and Gracie Allen, whose careers included vaudeville, movies, and a groundbreaking television series.



  • jestrfyl

    I would add one that is not a comedy duo in the strictest sense, But Paul Newman and Robert Redford had a sense of each other’s style and timing. I think they were amazing when they worked off each other in only two movies.

  • Alicia

    Good choices, Nell – I would add Lucy and Desi, and Woody Allen and Diane Keaton. I realize that both my additions were couples who ended up breaking up, but they were clearly “made for each other” nonetheless.
    My favorite “Abbott and Costello” movie, which is just as funny today as it was when it first came out, is “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.”

Previous Posts

Love is Strange
Love is strange.  As this movie opens, a deeply devoted couple of more than three decades wakes up and prepares for a big, important, emotional, happy occasion.  They bicker a little bit, but it is clear to them and to us that these are reassuringly familiar rhythms for them, almost a contrapuntal

posted 5:59:53pm Aug. 28, 2014 | read full post »

See Great Directors -- in TV and Music Videos
Top directors do more than movies.  Take a look at these clips from Emmy-nominated television series and these music videos made by some of the most talented directors working in Hollywood, including Michel Gondry ("Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"), David Fincher ("Fight Club"), and Paul Tho

posted 3:46:47pm Aug. 28, 2014 | read full post »

Interview: Daniel Schechter, Writer/Director of "Life of Crime"
Newcomer Daniel Schechter, who wrote one of my favorite neglected gems, The Big Bad Swim, worked with an all-star cast in "Life of Crime," which he adapted from The Switch by Elmore Leonard and directed.  It is set in 1970's Detroit and it is the story of a woman played by Jennifer Aniston who i

posted 3:59:35pm Aug. 27, 2014 | read full post »

The November Man
Pierce Brosnan knows what it is like to play a spy in a big-budget, glamorous, blockbuster. He was the most urbane of Bonds in four movies. He knows what it is to play a seedier spy in a prestige, mildly meta movie, the 2001 film "The Tailor of Panama" (with Daniel Radcliffe in a pre-Potter role). S

posted 10:57:58am Aug. 27, 2014 | read full post »

Trailer: Thunder and the House of Magic
"Thunder and the House of Magic" opens September 5, 2014. [youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z6VKG3lZEIg[/youtube]

posted 8:00:02am Aug. 27, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.