I was talking with a group of people a while back (pre-pandemic) when someone mentioned the Three Stooges.
“Does anyone even know who the Three Stooges are anymore?” asked one ignorant soul.
I decided to find out.
Apparently, they do, according to a poll I dug up from a couple of years ago. The Zogby International poll surveyed Americans’ understanding of pop culture, and how it compared to their general knowledge of civics, literature and science.
For instance, of the 1,200 adults surveyed, 60% were able to name Bart as Homer Simpson’s son on “The Simpsons” television program. Meanwhile, just over 20% were able to identify one of Greek poet Homer’s epic poems.
The same 60% knew Superman’s home planet (Krypton) but only 37% knew Mercury was the planet closest to the sun.
Nearly 80% of respondents could name at least two dwarfs from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (Doc, Grumpy?) while only 24% could name two U.S. Supreme Court justices (Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Grumpy?).
And the one that had me glowing with pride: 74% of Americans surveyed could identify Moe, Larry and Curly as the Three Stooges, while only 42% could identify the three branches of the U.S. government.
This poll had all the bloggers blogging and the columnists columnizing about how “stupid” Americans are, and how we are dumber than the rest of the world, and how we are stupid dummies, and stupidheads, dumpid stummies and stupid dummies, too, and other words I found too hard to read and stuff.
Allow me to offer some alternative observations.
First of all, one reason more people could name the Three Stooges than the three branches of our government is that the Stooges are much more competent than our government is. Americans recognize and appreciate competency unless, of course, they are voting.
Secondly, 42% knew the three branches of the government to be the, uh, (pause for Googling) ah, yes, executive, legislative and judicial. I think that’s great! That’s almost (Googling again) half!
But I was absolutely elated that 74% could name three of the Stooges. Curly died in 1952 and last appeared in a Three Stooges feature in 1947, and people still recognize him nearly 60 years later. There was a Three Stooges movie a number of years ago, but only a handful of people (myself included) actually saw it, apparently. To still be that popular is quite a legacy, and quite a memory for those of you who answered it correctly – congratulations!
My third observation is that the question itself is rather deceptive, and thus, the results highly questionable.
For instance, if you answered “Moe, Larry and Joe Besser,” was that considered correct? Or instead of Curly, you responded with Shemp or Curly Joe? All of those answers are, literally, right, although Shemp, Curly Joe and Joe Besser were poor excuses for Stooges, and certainly not in Curly Howard’s comedic category.
The Three Stooges movie, by the way, only included Larry, Moe and Curly — as it should be. Even Americans know that.
Len Robbins is the editor of the Clinch County News.