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“Who’s On First?” actor may have had A.D.D.
Written by Johnny Kearney   
Friday, 20 November 2009 00:41
 
Vaudeville and comedy icon Lou Costello won the hearts of America with his childlike, silly and clumsy mannerisms. Unfortunately; recent studies show evidence that Lou Costello, beloved comedic actor, suffered from an early form of Attention Deficit Disorder. The disorder is painfully evident in almost all of Costello’s filmed performances. However, Costello's A.D.D. is especially prominent in the Baseball Hall of Fame classic “Who’s On First.”

The confusion for Costello begins when he asks Bud Abbott about the names of the baseball team he is managing, the St. Louis Wolves. Bud Abbott explains that his ball players have unique nicknames. The names of the players are primarily common words that function as interrogative indicators in English linguistics---except for third base.

Almost immediately, Costello becomes extremely frustrated with his own lack of comprehension, and his inability to communicate the source of his confusion to Abbott. Because Abbott does not have the necessary training to recognize or interact with a person with A.D.D., Abbott reacts to Costello’s confusion by publicly yelling at him and slapping him while onlookers laugh at Costello, thus adding humiliation to his cognitive burden.

Costello’s frustration becomes so severe during this incident, that he accidentally hits himself in the head with the baseball bat, and knocks his hat off his head. However, what the audience perceives is a moronic act, instead is a horrifying reality. In an interview with retired Universal Studio’s prop-master Jimmy Sherman, Mr. Sherman recounts collecting the props after filming wrapped up for the day.

“There was blood on the bat! And some blood on the inside of Costello’s derby too… I cleaned it up and the next morning Mr. Costello asked me if I was going to go to the ballgame today. I said yes and gave him his hat back,” Sherman recalled.

Although the choices for the nicknames are obscure, they are comprehensible to anyone with normal intellectual capabilities on any educational level. However, as noted by film historian Randolph Nolan; Costello’s success did not rely on any comedic talent, but rather on the consistency of his misunderstanding.

“He didn’t have the ability to focus his memory, and they made millions off him for it,” notes Nolan. “The closest Costello ever came to understanding a ball-players name was when he thought that ‘Naturally’ was playing first base. It’s such a shame because he really liked baseball.”
Last Updated on Saturday, 21 November 2009 17:12
 

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