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William Alexander “Bud” Abbott (October 2, 1895 – April 24, 1974) was an American actor, producer and comedian. He is best remembered as the straight man of the comedy team of Abbott and Costello, with Lou Costello.

Early life

Abbott was born in Asbury Park, New Jerseymarker into a show business family. His parents worked for the Barnum and Bailey Circus: his mother, Rae (née Fisher), was a bareback rider and his father, Harry, was an advance man. Abbott dropped out of school as a child and began working at Coney Islandmarker. When Bud was 16, his father, now an employee of the Columbia Burlesque Wheel, installed him in the box office of the Casino Theater in Brooklynmarker. Eventually, Abbott began putting together touring burlesque shows. In 1918, he married Betty Smith, a burlesque dancer and comedienne. Shortly after his marriage, Abbott and his new wife began producing a vaudeville "tab show" called Broadway Flashes. This show toured on the Gus Sun Vaudeville Circuit. Around 1924 Bud started performing as a straight man in an act with Betty. As his stature grew, Abbott began working with veteran comedians like Harry Steppe and Harry Evanson.

Lou Costello and Hollywood

Abbott crossed paths with Lou Costello in burlesque in the early 1930s. Abbott was producing and performing in Minsky's Burlesque shows, while Costello was a rising comic. They formally teamed up in 1936 and performed together in burlesque, vaudeville, minstrel shows, and cinema.

In 1938 they received national exposure for the first time by performing on the Kate Smith Hour radio show, which led to the duo appearing in a Broadway musicalmarker, The Streets of Paris. In 1940, Universal signed Abbott and Costello for their first film, One Night in the Tropics. Although Abbott and Costello were only filling supporting roles, they stole the film with their classic routines, including an abbreviated version of "Who's On First?" A common misconception is that Abbott and Costello are the only two non-baseball players who have been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Famemarker. The comedic duo are not members of the Cooperstown society anymore than the sports writers and broadcasters who are acknowledged by separate awards. However, a plaque honoring and a gold record and transcript of their famous sketch has been included in the museum collection since 1956, making them one of the few non-baseball players or managers to have a memorial in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

During World War II, Abbott and Costello were among the most popular and highest-paid stars in the world. Between 1940 and 1956 they made 36 films, and earned a percentage of the profits on each. They were popular on radio throughout the 1940s, primarily on their own program which ran from 1942 until 1947 on NBC and from 1947 to 1949 on ABC. In the 1950s they brought their comedy to live television on The Colgate Comedy Hour, and launched their own half-hour series, The Abbott and Costello Show.

Norman and Betty Abbott, the children of Bud Abbott's sister Olive, started on their own careers with help from their uncle: Betty as the script girl on Breakfast at Tiffany's and Norm and who directed live TV. After Olive's husband abandoned his family (allegedly going for a pack of smokes and never coming home), Abbott supported them. Bud changed everyone's name back to Abbott and raised them as his own children. He also adopted two children with his wife Betty.

Abbott's great-grandniece and granddaughter of Norman Abbott, Kathleen Abbott aka Lisa Bay, was born to Chrissy Abbott in 1966, while Chrissy was attending Beverly Hills High School, and is the adopted sister of director Michael Bay.

Split up

Relations between the two partners had been strained for years. In their early burlesque days, their salaries were split 60%-40%, favoring Abbott, because the straight man was always viewed as the more valuable member of the team. That was changed to 50%-50% after they became burlesque stars.

However, other accounts state that the 60%-40% split was Costello's idea. "A Good Straight Man is hard to find" is attributed to Costello. Yet, the sixty-forty split had long irked Costello. Later, after Buck Privates made them movie stars, Costello insisted that the split be reversed in his favor, and it remained sixty-forty for the remainder of their careers. Costello's other demand, that the team be renamed "Costello and Abbott," was rejected by Universal Studios. The result was a "permanent chill" between the two partners, according to Lou's daughter Chris Costello, in her biography Lou's on First. The partners' relationship was also strained by Abbott's battle with alcohol, which began when he took to heavy enough drinking in order to combat the effects of epilepsy. Abbott's alcoholism did not please Costello either, considering the latter's wife's problem with alcohol.

The team's popularity waned in the 1950s, and they were further bedeviled by tax issues—the IRS demanded heavy back taxes, forcing the partners (both of whom had been serious gamblers) to sell most if not all of their assets (including Costello's rights to their television show). Abbott and Costello parted ways formally in July 1957. Lou Costello died on March 3, 1959.

Later years

Abbott attempted to begin performing again in 1960, with a new partner, Candy Candido, and received good reviews. But Abbott called it quits, remarking that "No one could ever live up to Lou." On TV, he performed in a dramatic episode of General Electric Theater titled "The Joke's On Me" in 1961. A few years later, Bud provided his own voice for the Hanna-Barbera animated series Abbott and Costello, with Stan Irwin providing the voice of Lou Costello.

Bud and Betty Abbott were married for 55 years. The couple adopted two children: Bud Jr. in 1942 and Vickie in 1949. Bud Jr. died on January 19, 1997 at the age of 57.

Bud Abbott has three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Famemarker: the radio star is located on 6333 Hollywood Boulevardmarker, the motion pictures star is located on 1611 Vine Street, and the TV star is located on 6740 Hollywood Boulevard.


Abbott suffered from epilepsy throughout his life. In the early 1960s, he suffered the first in a series of strokes. In 1972, he broke his hip and shortly after that was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Abbott died of the disease at the age of 78 on April 24, 1974, in Woodland Hills, Californiamarker. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered in the Pacific Ocean. His wife Betty died in 1981.

When Groucho Marx was asked about Abbott shortly after his death, his response was that Abbott was "the greatest straight man ever."

Honors and awards

Abbott received the Lifetime Achievement Award for Acting(posthumously) from the Garden State Film Festival in 2006 and was accepted on his behalf by his daughter Vickie Abbott Wheeler.

Abbott is a 2009 inductee of the New Jersey Hall of Fame.


Year Film Role Notes
1940 One Night in the Tropics Abbott Film Debut
1941 Buck Privates Slicker Smith
In the Navy Smoky Adams
Hold That Ghost Chuck Murray
Keep 'Em Flying Blackie Benson
1942 Ride 'Em Cowboy Duke
Rio Rita Doc
Pardon My Sarong Algy Shaw
Who Done It? Chick Larkin
1943 It Ain't Hay Grover Mickridge
Hit The Ice Flash Fulton
1944 In Society Eddie Harrington
Lost in a Harem Peter Johnson
1945 Here Come The Co-Eds Slats McCarthy
The Naughty Nineties Dexter Broadhurst
Abbott and Costello in Hollywood Buzz Kurtis
1946 Little Giant John Morrison/Tom Chandler
The Time of Their Lives Cuthbert/Dr. Greenway
1947 Buck Privates Come Home Slicker Smith Sequel to Buck Privates
The Wistful Widow of Wagon Gap Duke Egan
1948 The Noose Hangs High Ted Higgins Also Producer (uncredited)
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein Chick Young
Mexican Hayride Harry Lambert
10,000 Kids and a Cop Himself Documentary short
1949 Africa Screams Buzz Johnson
Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff Casey Edwards
1950 Abbott and Costello in the Foreign Legion Bud Jones
1951 Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man Bud Alexander
Comin' Round The Mountain Al Stewart
1952 Jack and the Beanstalk Mr. Dinklepuss Also Producer
Lost in Alaska Tom Watson
Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd Rocky Stonebridge Also Executive Producer
1953 Abbott and Costello Go to Mars Lester
Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Slim
1955 Abbott and Costello Meet the Keystone Kops Harry Pierce
Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy Peter Patterson
1956 Dance With Me Henry Bud Flick
1965 The World of Abbott and Costello - Compilation Film
Year Title Role Notes
1952-1954 The Abbott and Costello Show Bud Abbott 52 Episodes
1961 General Electric Theater Ernie Kauffman Episode: "The Joke's On Me" (04/16/61)
1967-1968 The Abbott and Costello Cartoon Show Abbott (Voice) 156 Episodes

As himself

  • ABC 2000: The Millennium (1999) (TV) (voice)
  • The Century: America's Time (1999) (TV Mini Series)
  • This Is Your Life (1956) (TV Series)
  • Toast of the Town (1955) (TV Series)
  • Screen Snapshots Series 33, No. 10: Hollywood Grows Up (1954)
  • News of the Day (1952)
  • The Colgate Comedy Hour (1951) (Host, 1951-1954)
  • Screen Snapshots: Motion Picture Mothers, Inc. (1949)
  • 10,000 Kids and a Cop (1948)
  • Picture People No. 10: Hollywood at Home (1942)
  • Meet the People (1941)


  1. Slide, Anthony. The Encyclopedia of Vaudeville. Westport, Connecticut, Greenwood Press, 1994. p. 1.
  2. Baseball Hall of Fame
  3. Furmanek, Bob and Ron Palumbo (1991). Abbott and Costello in Hollywood. New York: Perigee Books. ISBN 0-399-51605-0
  4. New Jersey to Bon Jovi: You Give Us a Good Name Yahoo News, February 2, 2009

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