Brad Server grew up watching the Three Stooges on TV not knowing he was related to one of them.
Jerome Howard, best known as “Curly,” passed away in 1952 at age 48. The beloved comic suffered a stroke in 1946 and had been coping with ill health during his final years. Howard was married to Elaine Ackerman, Server’s grandmother, from 1937 until 1940. His daughter Marilyn Ellman, Howard’s first daughter, is Server’s mother.
While Server wouldn’t learn about his family’s secret until his teens, he’s now determined to keep the late star’s legacy alive. Today Howard’s grandson produces comic skits on social media as “Curly G” to “keep the laughter alive.”
Server spoke to Fox News about learning about his grandfather’s identity for the first time, why he’s performing as Curly G today and what the star’s final years were really like.
Fox News: You were in your teens when you first learned about the identity of your grandfather. What was that experience like?
Brad Server: It’s interesting, I grew up with the Three Stooges and loved them. I never suspected Curly could actually be related to me, let alone my grandfather. My brother and I would rush home from school every day and watch them. Then one day, my grandmother Elaine took my brother to see his first Broadway show, which was “Fiddler on the Roof.”
On the way home, he told my grandmother the show was the most amazing thing he’d ever seen and how he wanted to be an actor. My grandmother goes, “It’s probably because your biological grandfather Curly was in the Three Stooges.” Of course, my brother comes home and tells me this. We were both in shock because our hero Curly was now our family. He was our grandfather.
We were so excited to learn this but we certainly couldn’t tell people. No one would believe us. And asking our mom would be difficult. Her father, Curly, passed away when she was just 14. She had a new father, who was our grandfather, the only grandfather we ever knew. So out of respect for him, we couldn’t really ask about Curly. But our lives completely changed after that.
Fox News: Was there ever a moment where you sat down with your grandmother and went, “Tell me everything you know about grandpa?”
Server: There wasn’t because we were told not to really talk about it. We couldn’t talk about it in front of my other grandfather. My grandmother didn’t really want to talk about it because she just felt it happened so long ago in her life. And we were just kids back then.
As for our mother, remember, Curly passed away when she was just 14. And before he died, Curly was often on the road. So she only got the chance to visit him maybe two weekends a month. So she doesn’t have a lot of recollections of him. But she always described Curly as a good father, a man who was sweet and kind to her and other people. But sadly, there weren’t a lot of stories she could have shared.
Fox News: How does your mom feel about your work today?
Server: She’s very proud that I’m helping to keep her father’s legacy alive. She encourages it, and I think it’s great. She’s proud of all her kids. I know it means a lot of her.
Fox News: Does she have any memories of what Curly’s final years were like?
Server: Yes. He had complications from prior strokes. I believe he had a total of three strokes. My mom remembers visiting him at the motion picture hospital for the last couple of years. He was walking with a cane and wasn’t doing too well. It was a very sad time, but he still kept a very happy presence around her.
My mom vividly remembers how much he loved animals. She would always play with a dog he had. And he absolutely adored this dog that stood by him until the end. You know, despite my grandfather’s big personality on screen, I learned he was actually a shy, quiet man in private. However, he truly loved making people smile and it’s something he always tried to do.
Fox News: What are some fun facts about your grandfather that would surprise fans today?
Server: That’s a tough one because Stooge historians know everything, even the reason why he walked a certain way — that was due to a hunting injury by the way. But that’s all public knowledge. But I am in contact with most of the relatives from the other Stooges. There’s a whole generation of loved ones out there like me who are determined to keep the Stooges’ legacy alive. We’re all putting the pieces of this great puzzle together.
Fox News: Why do you believe audiences are still captivated by your grandfather?
Server: I think all the Stooges had their own unique charms. But with my grandfather, he was just so lovable. His facial expressions, his talents — they all draw you in. It takes incredible talent to deliver comedy that’s so timeless. And his work, even today, still speaks for itself. It’s an honor to share a connection with my grandfather and it’s one I hope to share with others.
Fox News: How are you keeping your grandfather’s legacy alive?
Server: For the last five, six years, I’ve had a large presence on social media where I create a lot of video content. I do slapstick comedy as Curly G, which stands for Curly’s Grandson. It’s all physical humor, which I find very enjoyable. I also attend a lot of meet-and-greets, where I get the chance to interact with Stooges fans and hear their stories about how my grandfather impacted their lives. That has been incredibly rewarding for me.
I’ve had everyone from people in their 70s to young kids approach me about discovering my grandfather for the first time. It’s shocking I’m getting so much attention from my work but I’m really grateful to help bring that period of time again to fans. It’s something I want to continue to do. And if it helps people get reacquainted with my grandfather, then it’s all worth it. I think he would be proud.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.