The Three Stooges: The Truth Behind the Laughs of Moe, Shemp and Curly Howard

In the Three Stooges’ timeless physical-comedy shorts, Moe Howard was always the mean one. But in real life, “I was the most spoiled kid in the world,” his daughter, Joan Maurer, revealed to Closer Weekly in an exclusive new interview, on newsstands now. “The minute I said something like, ‘Oh, I’d love a jump rope,’ off he’d go and it would appear that same day.”

Moe was born Moses Harry Horwitz, the fourth of five brothers to Lithuanian-Jewish parents in a hardscrabble section of Brooklyn at the turn of the 20th century. “I used to fight my way to school, in school and back home from school,” Moe, who dropped out of high school after two months, one said. Added Joan, “He had a deep desire from the time he was very young to be in show business.”


Along with older brother Shmuel Howard (a.k.a. Shemp) and younger brother Jerome Howard (a.k.a. Curly), Moe formed the Three Stooges, which also featured friend Larry Fine. “He was a very loving, giving, emotional type of character.”

Moe married Helen Schonberger, a cousin of Harry Houdini, in 1925 and lived a life of wedded bliss for 50 years until his death in 1975. “He was on the road a lot, and he felt guilty about being away from my mother so much,” said Joan. “He worried about me and my brother, and that’s one thing I got from him — how to worry!”

His younger brother had a less stable family life. “Curly was very handsome and quite the ladies’ man,” said grandson Brad Server, who does tribute videos on YouTube.

In fact, Curly was married four times. “There really wasn’t much of a home for him,” said Joan, who remembers her uncle coming over to swim in her family’s pool. “He was a great comedy diver. My dad kind of fathered Curly, who was like a big kid.”

Curly had two kids of his own, but he didn’t get to spend much time with them. “My mom divorced him when I was 5, so I only saw him on weekends occasionally,” older daughter Marilyn Howard Ellman shared with Closer. “He was pretty much like any other father.”


She has fonder memories of Uncle Shemp. “He was amazing — wonderfully sweet, loving and funny,” Marilyn gushed. “He would do little tricks and pull money out of his ears.”

Larry engaged in more mature pursuits. “He loved the track, and he liked women,” said Joan. “He was married, but he knew how to enjoy life and not worry like my dad!”

Curly gave Moe reason to worry after he had a stroke in 1946. Shemp replaced him onscreen, and Curly died after another stroke in 1952. “When you live through a few years of being very sick and die at 48, you don’t have the blessing to look back,” said Marilyn.

Thankfully, Three Stooges fans can look back at their work — and laugh. “They were just so unique,” raved Paul. “They were lovable, magical personalities.”

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