Today, had he lived, would have been Moe Howard's 112 birthday. Longevity, however, was never a Stooge's destiny. Instead, Moe, who died in Los Angeles in 1975, will be forever known as the frontman of the Three Stooges — the man whose attempts to bring order out of chaos by knocking heads  together only created more chaos. The pre-WWII milieu of Moe, Larry and Curley, or Shemp, was filled with crooks, art snobs, spies, foreign refugees, rebellious machines and spiteful wildlife. That world and its workings made no sense to the boys, and neither did the Stooges' anarchic responses to their hostile planet fit our notions of clownish humility.

Lacking the social undertones of Chaplin or the existential friendship of Laurel and Hardy, the Three Stooges are either loved or hated by those who watch their movie shorts on TV. Without reading too much into their characters, it might be said that Moe was the first modern authority figure to be shown as a desperate failure — a fact that can be taken as an American metaphor or discarded as easily as a banana peel. Here's to you, Moe. Wake up and go to sleep!

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