With his childlike innocence, high-pitched voice and nonsense catchphrases like “nyuk-nyuknyuk!” and “woob-woob-woob!” Curly Howard became the most popular of the Three Stooges among children — including his own grandson. “Curly was definitely my favorite,” Bradley Server, who was a fan before he knew they were related, tells Closer.

Family always lay at the heart of the Three Stooges comedy act, which began on the vaudeville circuit as Ted Healy and His Stooges, but saw its peak of popularity between 1934 and 1946 when Columbia Pictures released more than 90 short films starring Moe Howard, his brother Curly and Larry Fine.

Curly, born Jerome Horwitz in Brooklyn, had been a high school basketball star, singer and a ballroom dancer before he was called upon to replace his older brother Shemp Howard in the Stooges act in 1932. “He was extremely close to his brothers,” explains Bradley, whose grandmother was Curly’s second wife, Elaine Ackerman.

Blessed with excellent comic timing, Curly often improvised on camera. “It was all about his boyish charm,” says Bradley. “He was just brilliant in his mannerisms. He brought stuff to the table that was beyond what anyone else was doing.”

Curly’s sweetly goofy Stooges persona contradicted his real life as a four-time married ladies’ man. “My grandfather was very outgoing when he was in public,” Bradley says. “He loved to go out and have his drinks and cigars.” There was also a softer side to Curly, who doted on his children and was a great friend to animals. “When he wasn’t on the road performing, he’d be in his backyard with his dogs. He always had dogs,” says Bradley, whose mother, Marilyn Ellman, recalled Curly as kind but busy during his peak Hollywood years. “She remembers getting a lot of presents from him,” says Bradley. “He was very generous and a good dad, but he was on the road so much. They were extremely popular, so she didn’t see him a lot when she was a kid.”

Three Stooges on set
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Fans Forever

Bradley’s grandmother told him he was Curly’s descendant when he was 5. “It was a shock,” admits Bradley, who notes that he and his brother inherited some of Curly’s knack for performing. “We were both at the top of our choir. My brother is also an extremely talented self-taught piano player,” he says. “We were born with gifts that come from Curly. There is something very special running through our veins.”

Though Bradley never met his grandfather Curly, who died in 1952 at age 48 after a long convalescence, he’s made an effort to connect with other descendants of the Three Stooges. “When I went to my first Stooges convention, I met my Aunt Joan, who is Moe’s daughter. I call her my aunt, but she is actually a cousin,” says Bradley, who has also become close with relatives of Larry and Shemp. “It all happened organically.”

Today, Bradley carries on his grandfather’s legacy on YouTube, where he hosts Stooge Talk Live on Thursdays. He also participated in The Three Stooges in the Fast Lane, a 2023 show on the YouTube channel The Three Stooges+. “We feel like we’re giving back by promoting slapstick comedy,” Bradley explains. “People absolutely adore what we’re doing.”