Stan's father was an actor and a theater manager and his mother was an actress. Stan made his acting debut on stage at the age of 16 at Pickford's Museum in Glasgow, Scotland. He traveled with Fred Karno's vaudeville troupe to the U.S. in 1910 and 1912. On this last trip he decided to stay in the U.S. where he became an understudy to Charlie Chaplin and sometimes did imitations of him. He made several films with Metro, Hal Roach, Universal, and Vitagraph Studios. He performed in vaudeville while still doing part-time work making screen shorts. He wrote several of his comedy routines and also helped with directing. He endeared himself to audiences with his many mannerisms such as the amusing scratching of his head, crying and a strange eye blink.
Stan first came into contact with Oliver Hardy when he did a short comedy flick in 1919 called Lucky Dog. Stan played the lead and Oliver played a small, but important part. In 1926 director Leo McCarey of the Hal Roach Studios, convinced Stan and Oliver to team up. They usually portrayed two naive guys who kept getting in trouble, usually because of one of Stan's dumb stunts. The more they tried to get out of trouble, the deeper they got. Also, the fact that Stan was thin and Oliver was fat made an interesting contrast on the screen. Laurel and Hardy left Hal Roach Studios thinking they would have freedom to do more in the movies. But, their association with 20th Century-Fox and MGM didn't produce the good films they were used to making and they quit making movies in 1945. They did make one final movie, Atoll K in 1950, but it failed. In the early 50s they planned to make a come-back with color films, but Hardy suffered a stroke from which he never recovered. When Hardy died in 1957, Laurel said he would never perform again. However, he did continue to write comedy material until his death in 1965. The combination of Laurel and Hardy was probably the best comedy duo ever created.