100 Years of Comedy Duos

Comedy Duos

One of the most popular comedy teams of all time was Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. They worked together for 10 years and 17 movies. The partnership (and friendship) ended in July 1956.

They met in 1945 and debuted at Atlantic City’s 500 Club on July 25, 1946; the team lasted ten years to the day. Before they teamed up, Martin was a nightclub singer, while Lewis performed a comedy act lip-synching to records. They met at Atlantic City’s 500 Club and pretty much ad-libbed their show, rough at first, bet the chemistry soon jelled. They appeared on the first episode of Ed Sullivan’s show, Toast of the Town, in June 1948, and became inseparable for nearly a decade.

Initially, they performed as “Martin and Lewis” but the rebranding to use both of their full names came in handy after the break-up, they were each well known. For reasons that have never really been explained, the pair stopped working together. They seldom spoke either.

On Sept 6, 1976 – Dean Martin appeared on Jerry Lewis’ 11th Muscular Dystrophy telethon. Frank Sinatra brought Dean up to Jerry’s stage. The reunion was a happy one, and they did keep in touch again, Lewis said “every day”. In 1989, at their last meeting, Jerry joked “Why we broke up, I’ll never know.”

What Really Caused The Breakup?

Mostly a little jealousy. Jerry and Dean both had their talents, but Jerry was getting more attention and Magazine covers. After the breakup, they both had bigger careers. The Telethon Reunion was one of the most iconic moments in Television History and could be called the last shining moment from The Golden Age of Television.

What Makes a Comedy Duo Work?

Typically this kind of comedy act had two people,
1. The Comic, usually the silly guy who got the laughs, and..
2. THE STRAIGHT MAN, who set up the jokes.

The earliest well-known Comedy duos were Laurel and Hardy. They were both established actors who first appeared as a team together in 1927, they were tight friends, and Stan Laurel never performed again after his friend Oliver Hardy died in 1957.

George Burns and Gracie Allen
Another famous duo from the early days was the Husband and Wife Team of George Burns and Gracie Allen. Their comedy act was one that was hard for anybody to duplicate. They were married in real life, and the routine started with George being the FUNNY guy and GRACIE the naive FOIL, but that turned around when GRACIEs naivety made her the funny one.

Abbott and Costello
They were best known for their WHO’s ON FIRST routine and made 40 movies together.

Bob Hope & Bing Crosby
Hope and Crosby made 8 “Road” movies together: Road to Singapore (1940), Road to Zanzibar (1941), Road to Morocco (1942), Road to Utopia (1946), Road to Rio (1947), Road to Bali (1952) and The Road to Hong Kong (1962)

Jack Lemmon & Walter Matthau
Appeared in 11 movies together, including Grumpy Old Men and The Odd Couple and their sequels.

Dan Aykroyd & John Belushi
Appeared in The Blues Brothers (1980), Neighbors (1981), in 1941, they barely acknowledge each other, for comedic effect.

Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor
Silver Streak (1976), Stir Crazy (1980), See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989), Another You (1991)

Cheech and Chong
Appeared together in Cheech & Chong’s Animated Movie, Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie, Cheech & Chong’s The Corsican Brothers, Nice Dreams, Still Smokin, Things Are Tough All Over, and Up in Smoke. They have never really been close friends.

Chris Farley & David Spade
Appeared together on Saturday Night Live and two films; Tommy Boy (1995) and Black Sheep (1996)

Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson
Over 20 years, there were 12 films the did together: The Cable Guy (1996), Permanent Midnight (1998), Meet the Parents (2000), The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), Zoolander (2001), Starsky & Hutch (2004), Meet the Fockers (2004), Night at the Museum (2006), Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009), Little Fockers (2010), Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (2014), Zoolander 2 (2016)

Jay and his “hetero life partner” Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith)
Their real-life friendship fuzzys the line between real life and their “view askew” universe.

Seth Rogen and James Franco
Their big-screen collaborations started in 2008 with Pineapple Express but met while they both worked on Television’s Freaks and Geeks.

Other people who make magic when appearing together include Will Ferrell & John C. Reilly, Simon Pegg & Nick Frost, and Tina Fey & Amy Poehler. Penn and Teller have been performing together since 1975.

In the 1970s and 80s, we had Cheech and Chong following the straight man/comic foil formula. Nickelodeon had Kenan and Kell playing off each other too. On the cartoon front, we have frenemies Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, usually BUGS pressing Daffy’s Buttons.