I will answer the last question presented by WIO and then I'll wrap up my debate with a summary of all points/questions asked.
When Shemp was a solo performer, he was usually put in features as a supporting player and/or comic relief. If he had never left the act, as the question for this debate was worded, and the same path in history was to take place where they signed at Columbia, it is doubtful that Harry Cohen would have moved them to features.
Once again, the debate subject is: "If Shemp never left"...my opponent has not succesfully answered this question. As I stated before, for the purpose of this debate, we have to assume that Curly would never enter our minds because he would not have existed. So, the work of M, L and S in the shorts have to be judged on their own. They do hold up and they are fondly remembered. If you never heard a N'yuk before, you never would have missed it. All of the classic bits of the Stooges would remain in only Shemp shorts existing--all of the fast pacing; cartoon violence; more action and less "plot"; great sound effects; all of those Stoogeisms and snappy one liners. If "eeps" only existed along with Shemp's wise cracker character, you'd never miss the high squeaking and bark like a dog mannerisms of Curly. Just because chocolate ice cream was invented doesn't mean vanilla tastes bad. If you only knew from vanilla, you'd NEVER miss chocolate.
To prove my point further, how many film and TV franchises bit the dust when key characters were replaced or simply left? "News Radio" comes to mind--when Phil Hartman was gone and they replaced him with Jon Lovitz, it was never the same. When Ron Howard left "Happy Days," it sank like a stone.
However, when Shemp was re-introduced, they never skipped a beat. They continued their popularity. Even my opponent sites Shemp as his favorite. If we are going down the "compare" road, each 3rd Stooge had their classic and weak films. There are enough classic Shemp shorts to have cemented them in pop culture. If those were the only shorts running 5 days a week after school, then I know we'd still be rushing home to see them, and I did. The Stooges (with or without Curly) were the closest thing we saw that resembled live action cartoons. The 17 minute running times kept you focused and didn't lose steam with romantic sub plots and gooey, dated musical numbers.
So, WIO: I hope it doesn't seem like I'm brushing off your question, but for the purpose of this debate, we have to go with what unfolded (sans Curly). The shorts became their savior. Those numerous in-and- get-out 2 reelers helped cement them in history. The shorts were like great pop songs--repeated viewings made them all the more familiar to us and made them quotable. Had the Stooges made features, they would have most likey fallen into the same category as Abbott and Costello. And that would have happened with or without Curly. You'd remember classic bits (like A&C routines) but they wouldn't have been seen as often as the shorts, which fit better in the sitcomesque format.
But the debate is asking if history stayed the same and they went down the 2 reeler path at Columbia with ONLY Shemp, would they be remembered? And the answer is yes. All of you who have posted with excitement about Volume 6 have proven my point.