Lou Costello cared about what kids across the country thought of his act
Image credit: The Everett Collection
Lou Costello was commonly known as the loving goofball and more good-nature half of the legendary comedy duo Abbott and Costello. Costello was known for his slapstick humor, physical humor, and a childlike, innocent persona, which he also reflected offstage.
His childlike persona stemmed from his love for his own children: Patricia, Carole, Lou and Chris. Although the comedian always seemed silly, he was very serious about providing children a safe space to consume entertainment.
Costello put heavy pressure on himself to make sure children had options on TV for safe viewing, without violence, drugs or sex.
He worked hard to keep his promise both onscreen and in real life, and he felt that other performers should have done the same.
Costello and Abbott were veterans in performing by the time The Abbott and Costello show aired in 1952. Before TV the duo was on radio, and before radio the team had a burlesque routine. Costello said once they made it to television, their old act was over.
According to a 1952 interview with the Arizona Republic, Costello said his biggest pet peeve was comedians who had raunchy or off-color material on television. He added that crime shows in which no scene was complete without a mangled body was another pet peeve.
Costello said he was bending over backwards to make sure his material was 100% pure.
"I never have done anything on radio, television, or in pictures that was off-color or that would start kids thinking the wrong things," Costello said.
Costello didn't care about what the parents or adults thought about his material, as long as he was a hit with the kids, Costello was happy.
According to the interview, Costello said he was sold on kids being his primary audience because a performer gets a new crop of fans every year or so, and his movies Abbott and Costello Go To Mars and Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd were aimed perfectly for younger viewers.
"The awful part of it is, the comics who use these feminine impersonations and off-color stuff in their acts don't need it at all," Costello said. "They're all funny guys who can murder them without it."
Lou and Abbott even founded a foundation for rheumatic fever survivors which was named the Lou Costello Jr. Youth Foundation. It still exists in Los Angeles today. Costello loved helping children in anyway he could.
"I've had friends tell me that their kids try to imitate some of that junk," Costello said. "That's terrible. The way I figure, if kids — even a few kids — are going to make a hero out of an entertainer, the guy owes it to them to give them something nice to imitate."
Costello even vowed that kids would never see him smoke or drink in any of his films or TV series.
"And I've even cut down to 12 cigars a day in real life," Costello said.