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‘Who’s On First?’ The Sign Language Version

Filed by KOSU News in Art & Life.
July 22, 2012

Abbott and Costello’s famous “Who’s on First?” routine still stands as one of the greatest comedy sketches of all time. It was a feat of rapid-fire dialogue, flawless comedic timing and devastating wit.

But could you do it without saying a word?

The answer appears to be yes. After Jerry Seinfeld broke down the classic skit on the MLB Network recently, NPR’s Mike Pesca wound up with a peculiar email in his inbox.

It was a link to an American Sign Language (ASL) version of the skit, sent by a friend. It was amazing, Pesca says.

“There are parts where you don’t really understand what’s going on, but if you know the routine, you can pretty much tell what they’re talking about,” Pesca tells Weekend Edition Sunday guest host Linda Wertheimer.

“Then there are certain instances where you know exactly what they’re saying [and] it gets huge laughs from the audience,” he says.

The fact that the routine survives without spoken words is a testament to its brilliance, Pesca says. “It’s math. It really is musical, and it works really well.”

Chris Benderev is a producer for Weekend Edition Sunday. [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]

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