Bud Abbott believed that the phrase ''the show must go on'' was hurting entertainers
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Bud Abbott was just one half of the iconic comedy duo, Abbott and Costello. Their work in comedy, film, radio and television made them the most popular comedy team during the '40s and '50s.
Their names went together like peanut butter and jelly, and most couldn't say "Abbott" without thinking "Costello." Abbott and Costello took their talent to The Abbott and Costello Show (1952), which was loosely based on their radio broadcast.
According to a 1953 interview with The Alva Review-Courier, Abbott said he had decided that the legendary saying "the show must go on" was hurting the physical and mental health of comedians all over the country.
Once Abbott realized that people must take care of themselves first and put their art second, he vowed to live a more relaxed lifestyle.
The pace of keeping up with television, especially with any sort of variety show, landed Red Skelton, Milton Berle, George Jessel and eventually, even his own comedy partner, Lou Costello, in the hospital.
During the time of this interview, both Abbott and Costello said they would much rather be soaking up some sun or golfing instead of doing any sort of business in Hollywood.
"We do two pictures a year at Universal, and our television show on The Colgate Comedy Hour is about every six weeks," Abbott said. "We're supposed to do personal appearances to plug our new movie, but we cancelled them. Too much work!"
Abbott said he believed that Al Jolson was one of those performers who were killed by "the show must go on" mentality. The mentality meant that no matter the circumstances, the performer must dedicate themselves to the audience, even if it's too much for the performer to handle.
Abbott said he figured that most entertainers endanger their lives because of the glamour and fame that comes with having success in the entertainment industry.
"They want that glamour," Abbott said. "They want to be before the public. Anybody who does that, I think they're crazy! Take Jolson. He didn't have to take that last tour to Korea, at his age. Somebody else could have gone. He'd be doing more for his country as a live singer here than a dead hero."
Television was taking a toll on many performers all around the country in the 1950s. He said that television is a grueling medium that won't allow stuntmen or easy retakes. He added: "(Milton) Berle spends half his life in the hospital and the other half on TV."
"Is that a good way to live?" Abbott questioned. "You can make the public laugh without knocking yourself out. Television is rough. If you've got eight lives, okay, but you've only got one, so take care of it."
He would know, too. Bud Abbott had a long and successful career that expanded from 1940 all the way to 1967. Some of his most popular films and TV series included: Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, Hold That Ghost, Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy, General Electric Theater and many more.
Abbott and Costello's "take it easy" method really seemed to pay off for the popular comedy duo. At the time of this interview in 1953, Abbott and Costello were still among the top 15 stars at theater box offices.
They didn't overwork, or underwork. They simply found the best work-life balance they could and put self-care first.
"That 'show must go on' idea is supposed to be the rule," Abbott said. "But why does the show have to go on? We try to get the laughs without killing ourselves over it."