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Under the Radar DVD of the Week: 'The Abbott and Costello Show: Who's on First?'

Dennis King Published: January 31, 2011

This week, the oddest DVD to appear on release lists is:

“The Abbott and Costello Show: Who’s on First?”

Here in the bleak days of winter, with spring training still weeks away, it’s comforting to contemplate the coming of warm weather and the opening of baseball season. And what better way to bask in the glow of diamond days than to revisit comics Abbott and Costello and their classic skit, “Who’s on First?”

“The Abbott and Costello Show: Who’s on First?” (due out on DVD Tuesday) is a compilation of sketches from the comic duo’s TV series, which debuted in 1952 and ran for 52 episodes over two seasons. The new disk repackages previous digitally restored and re-mastered material from 2010’s “Complete Collector’s Series,” with the classic baseball skit as its centerpiece.

“Who’s on First?” originated as a vaudeville skit, which was later adapted by Abbott and Costello into a verbally dexterous routine they performed on The Kate Smith Radio Hour. In it, Abbott attempts to identify for Costello the nicknamed players on a baseball team, and the famed “Who’s on first, What’s on second, I Don’t Know is on third” routine was born. The skit was later featured in the comedy team’s 1941 hit “Buck Privates,” as well as in at least two other feature films and on their TV radio shows.

Abbott and Costello performed “Who’s on First?” countless times over their career (although rarely the same way twice). In 1956, a gold record of the routine was placed in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., and a video of the sketch now plays continuously at the museum.

Time magazine named the routine Best Comedy Sketch of the 20th century in 1999, and it was included in the American Film Institute’s list of 100 memorable movie quotes in 2005.

Along with the “Who’s on First?” skit, the new disk also includes other classic burlesque-inspired routines made famous by the comedy team, such as “The Lemon Bit,” “Niagara Falls,” “Floogle Street” and others.

“The Abbott and Costello Show: Who’s on First?” is not rated and runs 156 minutes. It is being released by Entertainment One.

- Dennis King


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