In 1925, The Three Stooges started out as a vaudeville and comedy act with comedian Ted Healy. During this period, they were known as “Ted Healy and His Stooges,” “Ted Healy and His Southern Gentlemen,” “Ted Healy and His Three Lost Souls” and “Ted Healy and His Racketeers.”
On stage, Healy would perform jokes and songs, but the Stooges would constantly find new ways to interrupt him. In response, Healy would insult them and beat them up. The original Stooges during this period were Moe and Shemp Howard and were later joined by their brother Curly Howard and Larry Fine.
Five years later, after appearing on their first film “Soup to Nuts” with Ted Healy, the Stooges were offered a contract by a studio to perform without Healy. Due to some legal problems with Healy, who was not happy about his, the contract was cancelled. The Stooges went on to tour on their own and in 1933 they signed a contract and were officially hired by MGM.
The trio was then officially given their now-famous name, The Three Stooges. Between 1934 and 1958 the group made nearly 200 comedy shorts. The first 97 shorts starred the original trio, but after Curly suffered a stroke in 1946, he was replaced by his brother Shemp (who had been out of the group for a few years and got back on board), then by Joe Besser, and finally by ‘Curly Joe’ De Rita.
On May 14th 1961, The Three Stooges appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show for the first time. By this point the trio consisted of Moe Howard, Larry Fine and ‘Curly Joe’ DeRita. In this appearance, they performed a sketch about movie star stand-ins, in which Curly was the stand-in and did all the rough takes where he always ended up getting hurt.
The hit trio returned to the Sullivan stage three more times, on February 10th 1963, October 6th 1963 and their last appearance on May 9th 1965.
All of their sketches performed on The Ed Sullivan Show featured their typical slapstick, head-knocking comedy where Curly would always be the target for tricks and took all the hits; Moe was the bad-tempered leader and Larry the middleman.
Moe, Larry and Curly Joe went on to make a number of full-length films from 1959 to 1965. The group also continued to tour and throughout the sixties, they were one of the highest-paid live acts in America. After Moe and Larry both passed away in 1975, Curly Joe DeRita continued to perform with a new lineup called The New 3 Stooges; however, this group stopped performing when DeRita retired in 1979.
Even though, there was no longer a physical group performing, it did not mean the end for The Three Stooges. Since then, reruns of their classic films and timeless sketches continue to play on television keeping the dynamic trio alive, delighting old fans, as well as attracting new admirers.
In 2004, a museum dedicated to the group called the “Stoogeum” was inaugurated and in 2012 a new Three Stooges film was released; the first new Three Stooges film in nearly fifty years.
Considered the greatest comedy trio of all time, The Three Stooges will forever remain as one of America’s most famous vaudeville comedians and undoubtedly, one of the best comedy acts from The Ed Sullivan Show.