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Bud Abbott (1895—1974) was a veteran burlesque entertainer from a show business family. He had worked at Coney Island and ran his own burlesque touring companies. At first he worked as a straight man to his wife Betty, then with veteran burlesque comedians like Harry Steppe and Harry Evanson. When he met his future partner in comedy, Abbott was performing in Minsky's Burlesque shows.
Lou Costello (1906—1959) had been a burlesque comic since 1930, after failing to break into movie acting and working as a stunt double and film extra. He appears briefly in the 1927 Laurel and Hardy silent two-reeler, The Battle of the Century, seated at ringside during Stan's ill-fated boxing match. As a teenager, Costello had been an amateur boxer in his hometown of Paterson, New Jersey.
The two first worked together in 1935 at the Eltinge Burlesque Theater on 42nd Street --now the lobby of the AMC movie complex in New York City. When AMC moved the theater west on 42nd Street to its current location, they "pulled" it by giant balloons of Abbott and Costello.
Other performers in the show, including Abbott's wife, advised a permanent pairing with Costello. The duo built an act by refining and reworking numerous burlesque sketches into the long-familiar presence of Abbott as the devious straight man, and Costello as the stumbling, dimwitted laugh-getter.
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