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Book review: Shemp Howard: Much More Than a Stooge

Author Geoff Dale has been working for years on this book covering the sometimes neglected, yet very beloved Shemp Howard, best known for his work with The 3 Stooges. Shemp was an original member of the act, then left to pursue a solo career, making way for Curly to join. When Curly suffered a stroke and couldn’t work, Shemp rejoined the trio. But during the gap before that time, Shemp was on Broadway, and had his own series of short comedies at two different studios. He also did supporting roles with everyone from Abbott and Costello to John Wayne and Randolph Scott.

Dale’s book, from BearManor Media, is as thorough a biography as we are likely to have on this very funny, very creative comedian. The fact that the author enjoys support from Shemp’s daughter-in-law and granddaughters adds further authenticity. The book dives deeply into his life and work.

Shemp’s solo career is examined more carefully and fully than in any other book. We understand how he explored his character, honed it over time, and gave it perspective during his tenure at Vitaphone (released through Warner Brothers). The Stooges were well established at Columbia by the time Shemp arrived there as a solo comic, starring in his own films, appearing in the Glove Slingers series, and doing cameos in the occasional feature like Blondie Knows Best. He then joined the Stooges due to Curly’s illness and while this period is covered in other books, it is far deeper and more fulfilling in this one. We learn about his relationship with ailing younger brother Curly, how his supporting players felt about him, comedians who cite him as an influence, and the author corrects misinformation from other books and (especially) online sources. This information is important to Shemp's story and to the overall better understanding of The 3 Stooges, whose timeless comedy continues to delight new generations.

Shemp Howard: Much More Than a Stooge is an essential addition to anyone’s library. And for Stooges fans, it is an absolute must. The hard work and long hours Geoff Dale spent writing this book has paid off with one of the finest showbiz biographies to be released this year.

The book can be ordered at this link: SHEMP


James L. Neibaur
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