6.12.2015

Abbott and Costello Heirs Sue Playwright and Others Over Use of "Who's On First?"

Broadway hit "Hand to God," which came up empty at the Tony Awards this weekend despite five nominations including Best Play and Best Actor, now finds itself facing a federal copyright suit over its use of the famous Abbott and Costello baseball comedy routine, "Who's on First?"
The suit, brought by the comedians' heirs in the Southern District of New York, alleges that playwright Robert Askins and the show's producers and promoters violated the comedy tandem's copyright by incorporating a portion of the classic routine into a performance by the show's teenaged protagonist, delivered via sock puppet while attempting to woo a female friend. The estate says its cease-and-desist letters have been ignored since the play's Broadway debut in April.
According to an attorney for the heirs, "'Hand to God' is using 'Who's on First' not just to get laughs from the audience but also to get people to buy tickets." A spokesman for the production disputes that timeline, however, and insisted this week that "The lawsuit is baseless; the material in question is in the public domain, and the show's producer carefully vetted" it with the production's lawyers.
Lead producer Kevin McCollum agreed, telling reporters in an email this week: "Filing a lawsuit on the eve of the Tony awards is obviously nothing more than a stunt. Frankly, we welcome the attention."

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