So, what in the name of all that is Stoogey is a Fake Shemp,
you ask? Goes like this...
The Three Stooges were a
major influence on Sam Raimi, Scott Spiegel, and Bruce Campbell (probably the
whole lot of the Ren Men, actually, but this is the group the term originated
with), and in watching these wonderfully wacky works they noticed something
The Stooges (Moe,
Larry, and Shemp... oh, and often Curly... then there's also Curly Joe... etc.)
would often use whatever standing sets were available from the A pictures being
made at Columbia to make their B, short pictures. They'd do this in such a
fashion where they'd shoot all the principal photography, and do the pick-up
shots much later on. Allowing them to work on mutlitple projects at one time.
The shorts were in black and white, and the Stooges never changed much, so they
were easy to intercut. Well, poor Shemp Howard died before they had actually
finished off a few of these shorts. Eventually, Moe and Larry had to go back
and complete these things without Shemp. In order to do this they used a
stand-in, a fake Shemp, and then would proceed to work him out of the scene in
some cheesy manner. The fellas found this to be hilarious, and adopted the term
"Fake Shemp" into their own super 8's, and eventually their feature
films, to mean anyone whose face you didn't see. Someone in heavy make-up, a
hand, a foot, someone who doesn't have lines -- the stand-in's and
But please, don't limit
your usage of the word to mean only faceless onscreen talents! Bruce says:
It became an expanded term-- "What are you
doing on Saturday night?" "Nothing, I'm just shemping."
"Let's go shemp around somewhere," "What's the guy like, is he
an idiot?" "Nah, he's just a shemp,' meaning he's no big deal.
"Did you have a good time?" "It was sort of a shemp time, we
didn't really do anything." So the term became synonymous with things that
aren't substantial, or are fake, or whatever. We've been trying to spread it on
different film shoots out here, and it works well, cause you can go, "Ah,
shemp that thing over about a foot," or whatever. ¹
Likewise, we here have adapted the term to suite our own ridiculous purposes.
Using the term has become shorthand to refer to that great group of filmmakers
who coined the phrase, and implement the title in their credits -- and who
often are credited as Fake Shemps themselves.
¹ Quotes from the
Dark Horse Comic, AOD #2 of 3, interview with Bruce Campbell
Q: WHAT IS THE MEANING BEHIND "SHEMP?"
A: We were all big fans
of The Three Stooges growing up (Sam Raimi, filmmaker friend Scott Spiegel and
In learning more about
the Stooges, we found that when they made their films (or "shorts" --
20 minutes in length), they not only made one at a time, but two or three --
thereby capitalizing on standing sets from the big, Columbia "A"
pictures, currently in production. This allowed them, for example, to use a
large Castle set (and shoot a pie fight or something) before it was torn down.
As a result, they were always shooting pieces of shorts as well as complete
Well, one fateful day,
Shemp (the really ugly one with the long, stringy black hair) was incapacitated
by a heart attack, and the rest of the Stooges, distraught as they were, had to
finish a number of Shorts. So, they brought in a "Fake Shemp." The
double(s) they used were often the wrong height/weight and lacked in the true
Shemp mannerisms. Even in high school (in the mid-70's), distracted by
commercials, eating bowls of Captain Crunch, we could tell whenever the
obviously fake Shemp made his appearances -- which is in about 3 or 4 shorts --
and we were amused to no end.
We then began to use the
term "Fake Shemp" for a any actor (in our early Super-8 flicks) who
didn't have any lines, or was doubling for another actor or who was just way in
the background doing ridiculous things. This happened a lot when you couldn't
pay an actor to stay around.
So, in the first
"Evil Dead" film, we decided to designate Fake Shemps as an official
credit category. The names listed were people who we shot "parts" of
-- a hand, a foot, someone under heavy make-up, etc. It seemed to be handy,
since films (particularly low-budget ones) are usually pieced together in many
different ways over a long period of time.