Not all successful business ventures involve the likes of a Richard Branson or a Bill Gates. In fact, it’s not always those legendary headline-grabbing tales about the exploits of millionaires or billionaires that define success at any level.

There are plenty of curiously entertaining tales of talented folks enjoying the fruits of their labor, doing what they love, simply by following some fairly basic rules of business.

Take for example the story of entertainer Shemp Howard – yes, that craggy faced comic who, along with younger brother Moe Howard and colleague Larry Fine, was one of the original Three Stooges – arguably the most enduring comic trio of the last century.

Without any particular theatrical skills or training, he merely took his naturally honed comic talents and wildly amusing appearance first to the vaudeville stage and later movies and carved out a remarkable career that spanned the decades from the mid-20s to his death in 1955.

So what exactly did he do?
  • Relied on his instinctive understanding of what made people laugh.
  • Took chances, accepting all manner of challenges in the cut-throat entertainment world.
  • Gave his audiences what they wanted and much more.
  • Sometimes expanded his career into the unchartered waters of drama.
  • Proved he was an innovative thinker willing to poke fun at himself.
  • Worked hard and succeeded – even during the Great Depression.

Business lesson learned: Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Be willing to look foolish. The worst that can happen is that you re-group and try again.

Outside of being one of the original Stooges, consider his triumphs on the big screen from 1930 to 1947 when rejoined the trio, taking the place of his ailing younger brother Jerome (Curly).
  • Was a key performer in the highly successful Vitaphone shorts of the early 1930s.
  • Worked with greats like Bert Lahr, Jack Haley and Roscoe “Fattie” Arbuckle.
  • Introduced future Oscar winner James Stewart to the world with the actor’s first un-credited role in the 1934 short Art Trouble.
  • Appeared in films alongside such greats as John Wayne, W.C. Fields, Marlene Dietrich, John Barrymore, Sabu and Abbott and Costello.
  • Teamed up with Lon Chaney Jr. as part of a comedy duo.
Business lesson learned: Shemp was an expert at “partnering” long before this was a promoted business practice. Reach out to others who are like-minded. Forge partnerships with your competitors where it makes sense.

As for being an innovator, he concocted the idea of a contest to declare The Ugliest Man in Hollywood. Of course he won, ensuring he was on every filmmaker’s mind when casting a new motion picture.

Legend has it that W.C. Fields and Lou Costello were so concerned that Shemp was stealing laughs in their movies, they had many of scenes edited out of the final product. Yet that didn’t stop Bud Abbott – considered the greatest comic straight man of all time – from calling him the funniest man around. All he needed was a good “straight man.”

Making people laugh was Shemp Howard’s business and he succeeded admirably winning the accolades of both the public and fellow performers, yet to this day he remains The Forgotten Stooge.

Geoff Dale has been an author/writer for the past four decades. He is currently researching material for a biography of Shemp that will put to rest the phrase The Forgotten Stooge. If you would like to be part of this exciting project, please check out the crowd funding site at