On 22 October 1903, a true comedy legend was born. While few would recognize him by his given name—Jerome Lester—millions recognized the sheer creative genius that was Curly Howard. Yes, Curly Howard, the third (and perhaps best loved) Stooge. The brother to Moe, and Shemp, and as part of the original Columbia short subject brigade, a man who brought mirth to multiple generations of comedy fans. But he didn’t start out as part of the act. While his brothers hooked up with partner Larry Fine and “leader” Ted Healy for several tours of vaudeville, “Babe” (as he was known to friends) pursued a career as a humorous conductor. When Shemp tired of Healy’s abuse and drinking, he left to take other offers. Moe suggested Curly step in, on one condition. He had to shave his full head of flowing red hair. Since he considered himself quite the ladies man (and he was), Curly was crushed.
Still, upon his debut with the trio, he quickly became its most iconic member. With a collection of classic mannerisms, malapropisms, and mugging, he soon symbolized the Stooges’ sensibility. Moe may have been the Mean One, and Larry and Laid Back One, but Curly was the Cut-up. He was the punchline to every joke, the rimshot to every pie in the face. Up until his untimely death from poor health at age 48, he was the center of attention, though he was far from happy. Still, the legacy he left behind has become a beacon to a long forgotten time of face slaps, eye gouges, and head clunks. In this regard, we present the Top 10 Three Stooge Shorts—Curly Edition—of All Time. Of course, there’s a caveat. This is a very personal list. After all, comedy is a very personal thing. Also, we’re concentrating on Curly, not the Stooges or shorts overall. And finally, the fact remains that you could easily do a Top 20… or 30… or 50 Curly overview (he co-starred in 98 of the timeless two reelers, after all) and still leave out something legitimate.