WOODY WEDNESDAY Woody Allen: The Stand-Up Years 1964-1968 (Part 9)

 

Woody Allen Stand Up Comic 1964 1968 24 Down South

Woody Allen’s Stand-Up Memories

New album is most complete anthology yet of the comedian’s nightclub performances

Woody Allen in the 1965 Variety show ‘The Woody Allen Show,’ above. The new album, right. ENLARGE
Woody Allen in the 1965 Variety show ‘The Woody Allen Show,’ above. The new album, right. REX FEATURES/ASSOCIATED PRESS

“The Stand Up Years,” a new album of 1960s nightclub performances by Woody Allen, is the most complete anthology of Mr. Allen’s stand-up work so far. By including audio of recent interviews, it is a sort of mini-documentary, a worthy package for Woody fans and students of an explosive era in intellectual comedy.

The album offers recordings culled from the three comedy LPs that Mr. Allen released in 1964, 1965, and 1968. Tracks from those records have been collected in two prior double-album anthologies. Both of them (now out of print) used pared-down versions of routines from the original vinyl, with material edited out by Mr. Allen himself.

“The Stand Up Years” doesn’t deliver any previously unreleased comedy. But it adds back some material cut from the prior anthologies and supplements vintage recordings with 25 minutes of interviews Mr. Allen did with filmmaker Robert Weide for the 2012 film “Woody Allen: A Documentary” (some of it never used in the film). In these talks, Mr. Allen discusses his beginnings as a TV writer in the 1950s, his initial reluctance to perform on stage (he wanted to write Broadway shows), and the sensation he became as a comedian.

“I kept saying, ‘I’m not a comic,’” Mr. Allen explains in one interview. “I don’t like the hours. I’m shy. I don’t like standing in front of an audience. I mean, there was nothing about it I liked. I kept succeeding in spite of myself….I would go into a club, and they would want to book me in six other clubs.”

“The Stand Up Years” will be available on CD and by download on Jan. 13 ($11.99 from Razor & Tie). It won’t come with a ringing endorsement from Mr. Allen, who approved the project but remains “actively disinterested” in revisiting those stand-up years, Mr. Weide says.

“As uncomfortable as he is watching his old movies, he’s 10 times more uncomfortable with his old stand up,” says Mr. Weide. “It really pains him. To the point where when I did the documentary—a three and a half-hour documentary—all he asked was that I take out a couple of stand-up bits.” Mr. Allen declined to be interviewed.

The new album includes Mr. Allen’s legendary one-liners and neurotic urban tales, as well as material that hasn’t aged so well. There’s his line about getting kicked out of New York University for cheating on his metaphysics final (“I looked into the soul of the boy sitting next to me.”) There’s “The Moose,” a routine about strapping a hunted moose to his car, having it wake up in New York City, and dropping it off at a costume party.

“If you’ve never seen neurotics play softball,” he says in another bit, “I used to steal second base, and feel guilty and go back.”

There also are misfires where he gets too cute (one tale features a buddy named “Eggs Benedict” who suffers from pain in the “chestal area.”) Some of his spiteful jokes about women got laughter in the mid-1960s but seem wrong today (“I ran into my ex-wife, whom I did not recognize with her wrists closed.”) And there are hints of the silliness that would infuse early films like “Take the Money and Run” and “Bananas”—and influence generations of humorists. In the bit that closes the album, taken from a 1968 performance at a fundraiser for presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy, he says he dreamed he was being chased by a giant “NO,” kept trying to slow its pursuit with commas, and finally hid safely inside parentheses.

Mr. Allen was drafted into an NBC writer-development program at age 18. Around the same time, he changed his name from Allan Stewart Konigsberg to Heywood “Woody” Allen, in an era when “Allen” was a sort of brand name for comedy (Fred Allen, Gracie Allen, Steve Allen, Dayton Allen, Marty Allen). His NBC bosses urged him to check out comedian Mort Sahl at a Greenwich Village club, and Mr. Allen was floored.

“Everything about him was different,” Mr. Allen says in one of the interview tracks. “The way he dressed, the way he spoke, his vocabulary, the rhythm of jokes. The references were all literate. We weren’t really interested in the comic’s mother-in-law or his inability to find a parking space. We were interested in what Mort Sahl was talking about—the variables of women’s moods, artistic things, politics, the flourishing of psychotherapy. It was just dazzling.”

As a writer going on stage, Mr. Allen had assumed he could simply read funny material to the audience. Jack Rollins, his co-manager with Charles Joffe, encouraged him instead to develop a likable stage persona. The character that emerged, as Mr. Weide puts it in the album’s liner notes, was “the overwrought urban outsider (read ‘neurotic, New York Jew,’) partial to delusions of grandeur, constantly cut down to size by a hostile universe populated by sadistic bullies, indifferent women, and adversarial mechanical objects.”

“It is absolutely the beginning of what would be known as the Woody Allen film persona,” Mr. Weide says.

“A big thing I had to learn was to enjoy the moment…to have fun in the show,” Mr. Allen says in one of the interviews. “And I eventually almost did.”

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Woody Allen Stand Up Comic 1964 1968 21 N Y U

I have spent alot of time talking about Woody Allen films on this blog and looking at his worldview. He has a hopelessmeaningless, nihilistic worldview that believes we are going to turn to dust and there is no afterlife. Even though he has this view he has taken the opportunity to look at the weaknesses of his own secular view. I salute him for doing that. That is why I have returned to his work over and over and presented my own Christian worldview as an alternative.

My interest in Woody Allen is so great that I have a “Woody Wednesday” on my blog www.thedailyhatch.org every week. Also I have done over 30 posts on the historical characters mentioned in his film “Midnight in Paris.” (Salvador DaliErnest Hemingway,T.S.Elliot,  Cole Porter,Paul Gauguin,  Luis Bunuel, and Pablo Picassowere just a few of the characters.)

Woody Allen – “The New Comic” from The Stand-Up Years

Published on Dec 4, 2014

Woody Allen – “The Stand-Up Years” Available January 13, 2015. Pre-order on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/The-Stand-Up-Ye…

-INCLUDES ALL THREE LIVE STAND-UP ALBUMS RECORDED BETWEEN 1964-1968
-REMASTERED AND AVAILABLE ON CD AND DIGITALLY
-BONUS MATERIAL INCLUDES: AUDIENCE Q&A AND OVER 20 MINUTES OF AUDIO EXCERPTS FROM WOODY ALLEN: A DOCUMENTARY

______________________

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