Fake Shemp or simply, "Shemp," is the term for someone who appears in a film as a replacement for another actor or person. Their appearance is disguised using methods such as heavy make-up, filming from the back, or perhaps only showing an arm or a foot.


The term references the comedy trio The Three Stooges. In 1955, Stooge Shemp Howard died suddenly of a heart attack. At the time, the Stooges still had four shorts left to deliver (Rumpus in the Harem, Hot Stuff, Scheming Schemers, and Commotion on the Ocean), by the terms of their annual contract with Columbia Pictures. By this point in the trio's career, budget cuts at Columbia had forced them to make heavy use of stock footage from previously completed shorts anyway, so they were able to complete the films without Shemp. New footage was filmed of the other two Stooges (Moe Howard and Larry Fine) and edited together with stock footage. When continuity required that Shemp appear in these new scenes, they used Shemp's stand-in Joe Palma to be a body double for him, often appearing only from behind or with an object obscuring his face.[1] Palma became the original "Fake Shemp," although the term was not officially in use at the time.

The Stooge filmsEdit

Rumpus in the HaremEdit

For Rumpus in the Harem, Palma is seen from the back several times. The first time occurs in the restaurant when Moe declares that the trio must do something to help their sweethearts. Larry then concludes the conversation by saying "I've got it, I've got it!" Moe inquires with "What?" Larry replies, "a terrific headache!" Later, Palma is seen from the back being chased in circles by the palace guard. A few lines of dialogue appear — "Whoa, Moe, Larry! Moe, help!" — by dubbing Shemp's voice from the soundtracks of Fuelin' Around and Blunder Boys. Palma was later seen from the side when staring up at the Harem girls (they allowed half his face to be shown because he was farther from the camera than Moe or Larry).

Palma is seen one final time, making a mad dash for the open window, and supplying his own yell before making the final jump. This was one of the few times during his tenure as Shemp's double that Palma was required to speak without the aid of dubbing.

Hot StuffEdit

For Hot Stuff, Palma is seen several times. The first time occurs when the Stooges, disguised in beards, are trolling through office hallways. Moe instructs Shemp to pursue a suspicious looking girl, to which Palma grunts "Right!" He then walks off-camera, allowing Moe and Larry to finish the scene by themselves. This is the only time Palma allowed his face to be seen on-camera. As he was purposely wearing a beard, his face is successfully concealed.

Later, Palma is seen from the back while the boys are locked in the laboratory. Palma attempts to imitate Shemp's famed cry of "Heep, heep, heep!". Again, Moe directs Shemp, this time to guard the door. Palma obliges, mutters a few additional "Heep, heep, heeps!," and conveniently hides behind the door. This was another one of the few times during his tenure as Shemp's double that Palma was required to speak without the aid of dubbing.

Scheming SchemersEdit

For Scheming Schemers, Palma appears for the shot of "Shemp" honking a truck horn. Palma then gathers several pipes, obstructing his face. Palma then gets a line of dialogue—"Hold yer horses, will ya?"—by dubbing in Shemp's voice from the soundtrack of The Ghost Talks. Shemp is absent from several scenes. In one scene, upon hearing that a valuable piece of art has been stolen, Larry whispers to Moe, "Where's Shemp? He likes pictures!"

Commotion on the OceanEdit

For Commotion on the Ocean, Palma appears in only one new shot during the newspaper office scene. After Larry says, "Oh, I know Smitty: 'Under the spreading chestnut tree, the village smitty stands'," Moe slaps him. Palma gets involved in the slapstick exchange and shields himself in defense, obstructing his face. Other new footage throughout the film consists of Moe and Larry working as a duo, often discussing Shemp's absence aloud:

  • Moe: "I wonder what became of that Shemp?"
  • Larry: "You know he went on deck to scout out some food."
  • Moe: "Oh, yeah. That's right."

First usageEdit

Aspiring filmmaker Sam Raimi, a professed Stooges fan, coined the term in his first feature-length movie The Evil Dead.[2] Most of his crew and cast abandoned the project after major delays (mostly due to budget issues) pushed production well beyond the scheduled six weeks. He was forced to use himself, his die-hard friends Bruce Campbell, Rob Tapert, Josh Becker, assistant David Goodman, and brother Ted Raimi as "fake Shemps".[3]

Sam Raimi's later productions in film and TV have also often used the term to refer to stand-ins or nameless characters. For example, 15 fake Shemps were included in the credits for Army of Darkness, Raimi's second sequel to The Evil Dead.[4] The description is sometimes modified in the final credits; in Darkman, Bruce Campbell's quick cameo in the final scene is credited as "Final Shemp", and Campbell was also credited as "Shemp Wooley" (a pun on singer Sheb Wooley) when doing the voice of "Jean-Claude the Carrier Parrot" in the short-lived TV series Jack of All Trades.


Fake Shemp comic

Article from WikiWorld

There have been many Fake Shemps over the years. The most notable ones are Bruce Campbell, A. L. Bakst, and Ted Raimi, who have Fake Shemped frequently throughout their careers and have had Fake Shemp cameos in nearly all of Raimi’s movies, most notably in the Spider-Man franchise. Campbell is known to Fake Shemp in many Coen brothers movies. The Coens were involved in the editing process of The Evil Dead.


  1. Lenburg, Jeff; Howard Maurer, Joan; Lenburg, Greg; (1982). The Three Stooges Scrapbook, Citadel Press. ISBN 0-8065-0946-5
  2. David Germain (Aug 10, 2004). "Should the Stooges get a little brighter?; New DVD lets viewers see colourized version Modern directors decry new-look numbskulls". Toronto Star: p. D.08.
  3. Campbell, Bruce; (2001). If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor, St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-24264-6
  4. staff (February 19, 1993). "A Trip Into the Macabre With 3 Stooges". Philadelphia Inquirer: p. 03 (weekend features section).

External linksEdit

See also Dark Horse Comic, AOD #2 of 3, interview with Bruce Campbell