I’ve been to that part of the country several times, but never to Niagara Falls. Was telling my brother the other day about the trip, and he immediately responded in a way that might be familiar to many...
“Niagara Falls!” he said, interrupting me. Some of you might know instinctively what came next.
“Slo-o-o-wly I turned, step by step, inch by inch...”
I joined in before he finished and we both laughed. Do you recognize what he was saying?
There’s probably a cutoff age for folks to recognize the reference to what was originally a famous vaudeville sketch, much reprised by many performers during the first half of the 20th century and into the early era of television.
It’s kind of a goofy bit involving a couple of strangers (or in some variations more) meeting with one telling a sad story about an unfaithful lover. When he gets to the part of the story in which his beloved left him for another at Niagara Falls, the name of the place triggers a violent reaction with his innocent interlocutor the undeserving victim.
From there the skit continues, with every mention of “Niagara Falls” again igniting slapsticky violence. The bit is so famous there’s a Wikipedia page dedicated to it.
Both Abbott and Costello and the Three Stooges did it during the mid-1940s, and I think it was the Stooges’ version my brother and I saw multiple times as impressionable young’uns. Here it is as it turns up in the Stooges’ 1944 short film Gents Without Cents in which the trio plays a group of performers with the sketch comprising their triumphant stage show:
There was a variation in an I Love Lucy episode, the show which was featured in the latest episode of my infrequent podcast, The Hard-Boiled Poker Radio Show. I also seem to remember it coming up in a cartoon somewhere, which may well have been the version my brother and I remember, but I can’t put my finger on which one it might have been.
Good thing the memory of “Niagara Falls” makes us all grin and chuckle rather than start throwing punches at the nearest poor sap!