Straight man (stock character)
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The straight man is a stock character in a comedy performance, especially a double act, sketch comedy, or farce. When a comedy partner behaves eccentrically, a straight man's response may range from aplomb to outrage, or from patience to frustration, but never laughter, making the partner look all the more ridiculous by being completely serious. The ability to maintain a serious demeanor in the face of even the most preposterous comedy is crucial to a successful straight man. Whatever direct contribution to the comedy a straight man provides usually comes in the form of deadpan. A straight man with no direct comedic role has historically been known as a stooge.
In vaudeville, effective straight men were much less common than comedians. The straight man's name usually appeared first and he usually received 60% of the take. This helped take the sting out of not being the laugh-getter and helped ensure the straight man's loyalty to the team. Abbott and Costello, one of America's most popular comedy duos of the 1940s and 50s in radio, film and television, began as nightclub performers when the straight-faced Bud Abbott contrasted against the bumbling Lou Costello.