Learning a Language Through Laughter: Using Online Comedy Materials


  • The Official Abbott and Costello Website offer scripts and audio recordings of the popular routines created and performed by Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. The scripts don’t always use standard spelling, and the audio recordings tend to show their age; however, some of the materials can still be put to good use in the ESL/ EFL classroom.
  1. Who’s On First – The script to this classic routine could be used for oral readings. An actual video recording would expose students to an extremely fast rate of speech, but one they could digest more easily after gaining familiarity with the script. The humor is based on the idea of confusion and clarification, which illustrates the importance of sentence stress and intonation.
  2. I Ordered a Strawberry Sunday & Loafin’ – Short excerpts from these two routines teach the importance of context when dealing with homophones. The audio files are clear, but the rate of speech is fast. Could your students complete a gapped text and then discuss the humor?

MODEL: I Ordered a Strawberry Sunday

[  ] = words to omit

Abbott: I ordered a [strawberry sundae.]

Costello: You did? [What day is it today?]

Abbott: [Friday.]

Costello: You got [two more days] to wait.

(Retrieved from The Official Abbott and Costello Website)

  • Bill Cosby is a favorite of mine. In terms of being appropriate for the classroom, Cosby’s routines are never vulgar, and his speaking style is clear and slow. I’ve used his routines for listening, pronunciation, and conversation practice. The topics, such as parents v. children, are easy to understand and comment on. My pattern has been the following:
  1. Initial Q&A can prepare students to listen to a routine.
  2. A gapped text challenges them to catch details.
  3. Further discussion allows students to make a personal connection to the material.
  4. Oral readings give practice with suprasegmental features such as sentence stress, thought groups, reduction, linking, and intonation.

Recommended routines:


Kill the Boy


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