While I was aware of the Stooges by the time I was about 10 (early 1970s), my earliest definite memory of actually seeing Stooges shorts comes from about 1980. I was at a friend's house with a bunch of other friends, and two Stooges shorts played on TV. I didn't watch them closely and ended up only remembering small parts of them.
In later years, having become interested in Stooges history, I wanted to identify these shorts. I found that the first one would have been either SING A SONG OF SIX PANTS or RIP, SEW AND STITCH. I thought the second one was a Curly short, so I looked for it in that era. To my surprise it turned out to be QUIZ WHIZZ, a Joe short.
QUIZ WHIZZ kicks off the second half of the Besser era. All the shorts from this point on were released after the Stooges had already been unceremoniously fired from Columbia.
The second half of the era has as many ups and downs in quality as the first half did. I consider QUIZ to be a definite "up"; this is easily one of the best Bessers. Joe has a part that's suited for him and he does a good job.
The first half of the short is the best part:
- Moe describing the "missing" Joe on the phone while looking at him ("5 foot 5 by 5 foot 5! Color of hair? Skin!").
- "Consolidated Fujiyama California Smog Bags… filled with smog!" (What are those supposed to be, anyway?)
- "That was sold last week." (Moe bites coffee cup.)
- "Did he introduce you to Pocahontas?" "Somebody told ya."
- "Incidentally, do barbecue have pits?"
- Moe tries to grab the others by their hair, but Joe doesn't have any to grab.
Many Stooges shorts have first halves with lots of mayhem that brings laughs but doesn't advance the plot. It is to this short's credit that the first half is still funny and has a lot going on, but the story never stops moving along.
The second half isn't quite as good, although it does hearken back to the crime-related stories of the Shemp era. The ending, with the check "divided" between them (and with "income tax" taken out) is a classic of Stoogian logic. But, as has been pointed out, the whole idea of the Stooges playing "kids" to be adopted is a big, whopping non sequitur; how was that supposed to address the issue of their stolen money?
In QUIZ Joe gets nearly as much abuse as Larry. He gets double-slapped (with Larry), bonked on the forehead, grabbed by the nose, and kicked in the rear (all by Moe). He also crashes into the blinds (with the others) and gets fed cigars by Mr. Montgomery.
Ah, yes, the infamous cigar-eating scene. Not to fault Joe's performance on this part, but I personally don't consider it a comedic highlight of the short. Joe does a good job with the facial expressions, etc., but I imagine that one of the others would have done even better; I could picture Larry, especially, going to town with this part. Note, though, how subtly Joe's fondness for cigars is established near the beginning, so that his excitement over finding one later makes sense.
- Why is Larry wearing a "gentleman" hairstyle while Moe isn't?
- There's one rather strange exchange between Moe and Joe near the beginning: "Why didn’t you tell us you were home?!" "I’m no snitch." Moe shouldn't have to ask since he saw Joe come in, and Joe's response doesn't really make sense either.
- Joe’s "root-doot-doo" as the boys skip into the room is an improvement over his similar vocalizing in MUSCLE.
- I find it interesting that it’s "childish" Joe whose very adult vice (cigars) threatens to blow the Stooges' (nonexistent) cover.
- It doesn't make sense for Greta Thyssen to say "Oh, that's a kids' game" when she's pretending she thinks the boys are kids.
- Greta's squeals after getting the cake in the face don't match her movements, and go on too long.
- I think this is the first Stooges short where Joe's last name is said and/or shown.