John Grant (screenwriter)

John Grant (December 27, 1891 November 19, 1955) was a writer best known for his association with Abbott and Costello. Lou Costello called him their "chief idea man".[1]

John Grant
Born(1891-12-27)27 December 1891
Tarentum, Pennsylvania, United States
Died19 November 1955(1955-11-19) (aged 63)
Spouse(s)Dorothy Maye Grant


Grant was a burlesque comedian, straight man and producer. He worked for the Mutual Burlesque wheel and the Minsky's in the 1930s. In 1938, after Abbott and Costello joined the Kate Smith radio program, they hired Grant, who was then working in Toronto, to be their head writer. The team performed their signature sketch, Who's on First?, on the program in March, 1938. Grant contributed to the sketch and every other Abbott and Costello routine on radio and, later, films. He also wrote for the Colgate Comedy Hour as well as authoring many screenplays.

Grant's gags were also performed by the teams Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis and Ma and Pa Kettle.

Grant usually contributed to the Abbott and Costello films after other writers had done a first or second draft. He would go through the script and see where he could inject comedy routines. He usually worked alone and most of his material would be included in the final film because he was the only writer Abbott and Costello listened to. He was often on the set during filming.[2]

During the Red Hysteria of the early 1950s, Lou Costello became convinced there was a communist conspiracy to infiltrate the film industry and demanded that his employees sign a petition swearing that had no part in any Communist work or organization. Grant would not sign and Costello fired him, meaning Grant did not work on Lost in Alaska. Grant was not blacklisted and went on to work for Martin and Lewis on Sailor Beware. Costello felt that the script to Lost in Alaska suffered because of Grant's absence and rehired him for Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd.[3]

Along with his Abbott and Costello films, he wrote Ma and Pa Kettle at the Fair (1951), Martin and Lewis's Sailor Beware (1952), Spike Jones's and Buddy Hackett's version of Fireman Save My Child (1954), and the detective drama Ring of Fear (1954) featuring Pat O'Brien and Mickey Spillane. Grant, himself, acted in "The Noose Hangs High" (1948).

Grant died after writing Abbott and Costello's second-to-last movie as a team, Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy. He left behind a wife, Dorothy, a brother and three sisters.[4]

Grant's contributions to Abbott and Costello


Grant's love of burlesque and vaudeville was passed down to his daughters. He also inspired his great-grandson, Ken Drab, who in 2008 became created a webcomic artist and has authored and illustrated several children's books.

He was married to former burlesque star, Dorothy Maye Grant.


  1. THE 'HOKIEST OF THE HOKE': Stepping Out of the Old Joke Book, Abbott and Costello Clown On the Air in Unrestrained Fashion By R.W. STEWART. The New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York City, New York] 11 Aug 1940: 110.
  2. Furmanek p 23-24
  3. Furmanek p 224
  4. Furmanek p 255
  • Furmanek, Bob and Ron Palumbo (1991). Abbott and Costello in Hollywood. New York: Perigee Books. ISBN 0-399-51605-0
  • John Grant on IMDb
  • - Bound and Gagged in Hollywood by Donald W. McCaffrey
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