Slapstick at its best: Three Stooges Festival returns to Detroit’s Redford Theatre

Erica Hobbs
Special to The Detroit News

One of world’s favorite comedic trios returns to the big screen this weekend for the Redford Theatre’s beloved Three Stooges Festival. The event will showcase six episodes of the long-running series, considered one of the best slapstick comedy acts of all time. 

“It’s such a universal type of comedy, everybody can enjoy,” said Redford Theatre volunteer John Monaghan. “It’s so visual, it’s just kind of primal.”

Known for their cartoonishly violent acts like eye-poking, slapping, hair-pulling and hitting each other with hammers, saws and other objects, the Three Stooges have been entertaining audiences for more than a century. Though the Stooges originated as a back-up act for comedian Ted Healy, the official Three Stooges got their start as 20-minute shorts released before feature films, eventually starring in their own movies – including a modern 2012 remake – and being re-released on TV.

The Three Stooges in "Back from the Front"

But the 1934 to 1946 years are considered the Golden Era for the series, featuring mainstays Moe Howard and Larry Fine along with Curly Howard. After Curly suffered a debilitating stroke in 1946, Shemp – the brother of Moe and Curly – replaced him, performing with the trio until his death in 1955.

“Shemp was a bit more of a serious actor,” said Jacob Malbouef, who selected the films. “He could play the goofball character, but he had his own take on it.”

The event’s lineup will include four episodes from the Curly years and two with Shemp. 

Though the festival has been taking place once or twice a year for more than a decade, Malbouef said he uses a detailed spreadsheet to show new episodes each time, with a variety of different settings. 

“There are so many of them out there that you can kind of space it out where you can show them every 10 years (without repeating), and there’s still plenty in between,” he said.

This year’s lineup includes:

•    “So Long Mr. Chumps” (1941, Curly)

•    “Cactus Makes Perfect” (1942, Curly)

•    “Back From the Front” (1943, Curly)

•    “Three Little Pirates” (1946, Curly)

•    “I’m a Monkey’s Uncle” (1948, Shemp)

•    “Vagabond Loafers” (1949, Shemp)

Malbouef and Monaghan agreed the Stooges are a multigenerational favorite, enjoyable for children and seniors alike. Malbouef said many fans, like himself, were introduced to the series by their parents as children, and watching them is nostalgic.

“Friday family movie nights were good memories for me with the opportunity to spend time hanging out and having fun with my dad,” he said. “Now that I’m older and dealing with the stresses of adult life, watching the Stooges is a nice way to relax, have a good laugh, think back on childhood memories and turn off the outside world for short time.”

Monaghan said the big screen is the best place to experience them with the shared energy of others. He said those who don’t consider themselves Stooges fans might change their mind in a group setting.

“With these films, audience participation is a must,” he said. “It’s so important to see the Stooges with an audience, because people are laughing communicably, it’s just funnier.”

The Three Stooges Festival will take place on Friday, March 25 at 8 p.m. and on Saturday, March 26 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Tickets are $5 and available online and at the door. For more information, visit