Curly Howard, born as Jerome Lester Horwitz (1903-1952), was one of the Three Stooges, along with brothers Moe Howard and Shemp Howard, and actor Larry Fine, although Curly was more or less the breakout character. Curly is generally considered the most popular and recognizable stooge of the trio.
He is well known for his high-pitched voice, chuckling laugh (commonly rendered as “nyuk-nyuk-nyuk!”), and excited yell (commonly rendered as “woo-woo-woo!”). Family members recalled in print that Curly borrowed the “woo woo” from “nervous” comedian Hugh Herbert, but was otherwise an original and inspired performer. According to Moe, Curly was never very good with written dialogue, and whenever he got stuck, he would improvise some visual or vocal nonsense that the directors usually kept in the finished film.
Curly Trivia & Such…woo woo
• Curly’s movements were said to have inspired Disney animators for some of the choreography in the mushroom dance in Fantasia.
• Curly purchased a house from child star Sabu and later sold it to Joan Leslie. Curly also bought a lot next door to Moe Howard’s palatial home on Toluca Lake, expecting to build on it, but never did. It was eventually sold to film director Raoul Walsh.
• The 1983 song “The Curly Shuffle,” recorded by the Chicago-based Jump ‘N The Saddle Band, expressed admiration for the Stooges and included several Curly imitations in the chorus. The song originally was released in 1983 by Chicago-based Acme Records, but was reissued by Atlantic Records and became a national hit in 1984 (A recording of the song by The Knuckleheads was released simultaneously in Canada by Attic Records in 1983). A portion of the song’s lyrics “Well, me and my friends, we all love to see Comedy Classics on late-night TV.” make specific reference to the Three Stooges shorts airing on Chicago television. Channel 32 aired the shorts in a late-night time slot under the title Comedy Classics.
• The cartoon character Jabberjaw is based heavily on Curly, including an imitation of Curly’s voice, his “woo-woo” sound when alarmed, and the famous “nyuk-nyuk” laugh.
• Doctor Zoidberg from Futurama makes Curly’s trademark “Woo, woo, woo” sound when running away from trouble (sometimes after squirting ink).
• On the MTV show Celebrity Deathmatch, Curly is the only survivor of a fight between The Three Stooges and The Three Tenors, and is thus declared the winner.
• A Far Side cartoon showed Curly’s mother getting an ultrasound while she was pregnant with Curly. The ultrasound showed him spinning around and saying “woo! woo! woo!”
• Homer Simpson, Bart Simpson and Bill Clinton have done imitations of Curly on The Simpsons. Early on, his name appeared as “Curley” on marquees. That spelling also was used in the opening titles of the first 14 Columbia Three Stooges shorts (from Woman Haters through Half-Shot Shooters).
• He never made a public or on-camera appearance out of character, which means he seldom used his real voice on screen. It could be heard on occasion, mostly in the first eight Columbia shorts they made and in the early, pre-Columbia shorts like Plane Nuts (with Moe, Larry and Ted Healy) and in the bizarre, Technicolor short Roast Beef And Movies, a solo appearance with dialect comic George Givot. Even after his character was fully developed in the familiar Columbia series, he would occasionally drop his high, comic voice. In one instance he played his own father (speaking in his normal voice) with long sideburns (3 Dumb Clucks), and in his last films of 1946, filmed during his illness, Curly sometimes lapsed into his own lower-pitched speaking voice.