One thing my brother and I were mutually blessed with were vivid imaginations. This blessing served us well as young children growing up in New York. Later,mine turned into a bit of a curse, but that’s another story for another day.
Our imaginations allowed us to create many different games and made play time almost theatrical. As you have gathered from some of our previous posts, television was a big part of our early years. We lived and died with the characters we came to know and love. Weekly , we would wait with bated breath to see what this weeks episode brought us. We spent hours reliving last weeks show, discussing and enjoying each moment over and over during the week.
One of the genres of television that had a great impact on us was Comedy. We loved to laugh at the antics of our favorite characters: Abbot and Costello were without a doubt one of our earliest and fondest memories. Later, it was Corporal Agarn of F Troop, Maxwell Smart of Get Smart, Gomer Pyle, Barney Fyfe, Tim Conway, Harvey Coreman and many others.
The earliest of Comedy plots had the Straight Man and bumbling, lovable , hilarious sidekick.
This was the genius of Abbott and Costello. Their “Who’s on First” routine remains one of the monuments of comedy and definitely one of the lasting memories for Rob and I.
This was the backdrop of our creation of Shorty. The straight man, me… And the lovable sidekick, Shorty, My brother.
We created “episodes ” of Shorty; Shorty in the Army, Shorty in Baseball, Shorty Plays Football , etc. mostly it was all ad lib. We just created as we moved along and played. It was never done for anyone else. Sometimes Mom would watch an “episode”, but mostly it was just he and I creating impossible, hilarious situations that Shorty found himself in under a variety of circumstances. My character never had a name. I was simply the Coach or the Drill Sargent etc. Shorty was Shorty and most of the game/episode involved me yelling at Shorty for screwing up everything he tried. He fell down a lot, and I had to pick him up and get him back into the game, the Drill , or whatever the activity he was supposed to be doing. We entertained the hell out of each other. We laughed and laughed at the situations we created and then laughed harder at the spontaneous response Shorty had to whatever happened.
The name Shorty was not exactly a moment of creative genius : we came up with it simply because Rob was younger and shorter than me, thus the birth of the Shorty story line.
Looking back, it’s interesting to realize that Shorty actually predated some of the classic comedy shows mentioned above. In a strange way, Shorty was a pioneer.
To this day, when Rob or I hear the name Shorty mentioned in any way…. We are back laughing and creating and laughing some more, “live and on stage “at 290 west 12th street.
Eat your heart out Gomer Pyle.