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‘Who’s On First’ lawsuit rejected by federal court

Abbott and Costello are shown in an

Abbott and Costello are shown in an undated photo. Photo Credit: Handout

A federal appeals court in Manhattan on Tuesday rebuffed an effort by descendants of the comedy duo Abbott & Costello to sue over the use of their famous “Who’s on First?” comedy skit in a Tony-nominated Broadway play.

The Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said it was not “fair use” when the main character in the play, “Hand to God,” performed with his handpuppet a one-minute segment of the 1940s comedy routine.

But the court nonetheless denied the claim. It said descendants of comics Lou Costello and Bud Abbott did not have a valid copyright to the sketch itself, but were relying instead on copyrights from movies in which it was used.

“Who’s on First?” is a vaudeville routine based on a confused conversation about a baseball team that has a first baseman named Who, a second baseman named What, and I Don’t Know on third. Time once called it the best comedy sketch of the 20th century.


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