September 22 is the anniversary of the most widely known version of an old vaudeville routine – the “Slowly I turned” shtick.
In this classic comedy bit, the name of a certain place causes a husband to recall how his wife ran away with another man and how he took his revenge on the wife-stealer when he found him.
Today, most people know what comes after “Niagara Falls,” even if they never saw that Stooges film:
“Niagara Falls! Slowly I turned, step by step, inch by inch…”
As he says these words the husband gets so worked up he starts demonstrating on an innocent listener how he smacked, poked, punched and otherwise took his revenge on the wife-stealer. When the poor listener is reeling from the blows, the husband suddenly realizes what he’s doing, stops and apologizes.
Ah, but then, the listener accidentally mentions the place name again – triggering another “Slowly I turned” rant and another beating.
In Gents Without Cents, the Stooges do a stage show in which Moe and Larry both get triggered by “Niagara Falls” and Curly is the recipient of their smacks, pokes and punches.
Other comedians, such as Joey Faye and Abbott and Costello, did their own versions of the routine before and after the Stooges, using other trigger words.
But, for some reason, the Three Stooges’ Niagara Falls version is the one that has stuck in our language and brains. Along with those eloquent words: “Nyuk! Nyuk! Nyuk!”
Here are some of the other famous quotes and phrases linked to SEPTEMBER 22:
• “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” – The famed words of Nathan Hale before he was hung as a rebel spy by the British on September 22, 1776. Hale was a school teacher before the American Revolution and was probably inspired by a line he knew from Joseph Addison’s play, Cato (1713): “What pity is it, That we can die but once to serve our country!”
• “Thou, too, sail on, O Ship of State!” – The most quoted line from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “The Building of the Ship,” which he composed on September 22, 1849.