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Abbott and Costello heirs claim Broadway poaching


Critics have praised the Tony Award-nominated play “Hand to God,” but judging by a recent lawsuit, not everyone thinks it deserves a standing ovation.

Bud Abbott and Lou Costello’s heirs filed a suit Thursday for copyright infringement over the play’s use of the “Who’s on First?” sketch, which has been reprised and parodied a number of times since audiences first heard it nearly 80 years ago.

According to the complaint, the sketch takes place about 15 minutes into “Hand to God” and is performed “for an extended period without interruption or any other action taking place in the scene, and any other comedy routine would simply not have the same impact or appeal.”

The dark comedy centers on a shy small town teen named Jason and his hand puppet alter ego, Tyrone.

Without the scene, “the much darker tone of the rest of the play would be very difficult for the audience to handle,” the complaint states.

Gross ticket sales from “Hand to God’s” Broadway run total more than $2 million, according to the complaint, which also says “a portion of these sales is directly attributable to the unauthorized infringing performance of ‘Who’s on First?’ ”

As a result of copyright infringement, the vaudeville and movie comics’ heirs “have been damaged in an amount to be ascertained at trial,” the complaint states.

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