Abbott and Costello were the most popular comedy duo during the 1940s and also a top ten box office draw for ten years between 1942 and 1952.
Their original names were William 'Bud' Abbott and Louis Francis Cristillo. Coming through the ranks as burlesque entertainers, they first worked together on 1935 at the Eltinge Burlesque Theater, on 42nd Street. Following advice from the other performers in the show, which included Bud Abbott's wife, they decided to form a partnership, with Lou Costello getting the laughs and Bud Abbot playing the straight man.
In February, 1938 they made what is thought to be their radio debut on The Kate Smith Hour. This earned them roles in the Broadway revue The Streets of Paris in 1939. The next year they were signed by Universal Studios for supporting roles in the film One Night in the Tropics. After stealing the show, they were the summer replacement, on radio, for Fred Allen and a couple of years later they had their own NBC show.
In 1941, the release of their second film, Buck Privates made them box-office stars. Between 1940 and 1956 the duo made 36 films.
In the 1950's their popularity was waning. In 1956 Bud Abbott retired from performing and the next year the partnership was formally dissolved.