I hope this isn’t new, that at some point you’ve taken the time to watch “Who’s on first?”, the greatest American comedy routine. This particular performance is from a film, THE NAUGHTY NINETIES, so Abbott & Costello do the whole thing without a single laugh, but it’s still fall on the floor funny. I don’t need the laugh track to know that.
(Listen closely, and you will hear some muffled laughter. Wikipedia says it’s from the crew who couldn’t hold it in. I don’t blame them.)
But without the laughs, you can revel in the pauses. Costello’s frustration grows in those pauses. It gets funnier in the pauses, but I do wonder, after running it a thousand times, in theatres, on radio, then television, what was it like to do a routine you know kills and not hear a thing from your audience?
It’s still funny. Bud and Lou didn’t need an audience to know that.
(If you too grew up in the 1990s, you might remember this bit from THE ANIMANIACS, undoubtedly my first real introduction to the Who’s on first? conceit: “Who’s on stage?”