He was born in Asbury Park, in the state of New Jersey. He was destined to be in show business from the moment he was born. Both of his parents worked for the Barnum and Bailey Circus. His mother, Rae (Fisher) was from Maryland with a German Jewish heritage and his father, Harry was from Pennsylvania with his parents being British. Rae worked in the Barnum and Bailey Circus as a bareback rider and Harry worked as a publicist.
Bud Abbott suffered from epilepsy his entire life. He dropped out of school when he was in the fourth grade and got a job at Coney Island. His father was working at the Columbia Burlesque Wheel and when Bud turned 16, his father got him a job at the box office in the Casino Theater. He was the assistant treasurer and anytime he could, he would watch from backstage, such stars as, Fanny Brice, W.C. Fields and Bert Lahr, perform. Soon after this, Bud began organizing tours for burlesque shows.
In 1918, while working at the National Theater, which was a burlesque house, Bud met Jenny Mae Pratt. On stage, she was known as Betty Smith. She was a dancer and a comic. Within a week, they were married and headed to Cleveland. He borrowed 1500 dollars from his uncle and produced his own show, Broadway Flashes, which toured and featured 10 chorus girls, a comic and a dancer. To save money, he played the role of the straight man.
While touring with his show, they ended up in Detroit, at the National Theater and staged a show each week. This is where Bud Abbott learned and polished his straight man act, learning from every one that he could.
During the 1930’s, Bud met Lou Costello. At this time, Costello was a rising comic and they teamed up in 1936, performing in cinemas, minstrel shows, and vaudeville. They performed the now famous, “Who’s On First,” during a guest spot on the Kate Smith Radio Hour. In 1940, Universal studios signed Abbott and Costello and gave them a minor role in the film, “One Night in the Tropics.” They stole the show by doing their classic routines, including, “Who’s on First.”
They became the the most popular stars during World War II, as well as, the highest paid actors of the day. Between 1940 and 1956, they churned out 36 films. They had their own radio show from 1942 to 1949 and soon after this, made their television debut on the live television show, The Colgate Comedy Hour. The Abbot and Costello Show followed soon, thereafter.
As the 1950’s were drawing to an end, so was the popularity of this comedic duo. Their relationship became strained and in 1957, they officially split. Two years later, Lou Costello died on March 3, 1959.
Bud attempted performing with a new partner in 1960, Candy Candido and although the team got good reviews, Abbott quit, stating that no one could ever take Lou’s place. In 1961, Abbot starred in a General Electric television episode, taking on a serious role. During the late 60’s, Hanna-Barbera produced a cartoon series, Abbot and Costello. Abbot provided his voice for his part and Stan Irwin stood in for Lou Costello.
Bud and Betty Abbott remained married to each other for 55 years. They adopted two children, a son, Bud Jr. in 1942 and a daughter, Vickie in 1949.
To cover the effects of his epilepsy, Abbott took to drinking and fought a life-long battle with alcoholism. In the early 1960’s, Bud had the first of many strokes. He died on April 24, 1974, at the age of 78 from cancer.