“ Genre: Comedy / Author: Woody Allen / Audiobook published 1999-06-15 by Rhino Entertainment Company „
"Woody Allen, Stand-up Comic" is a 1999 CD collection of 25 routines from his nightclub days as a young comedian in the sixties. I know I'm the only person in the world who likes Woody Allen but I shall venture forth again regardless. It all began in 1952 when - at the age of seventeen - Allen began sending out jokes to New York newspapers, aware even then that his inventive sense of humour was most likely to be his passport to fame and security. In November of that same year, his first ever published joke appeared in Walter Winchell's column; "Woody Allen says he ate at a restaurant that had OPS prices - over people's salaries!" It was the start of an extraordinary rise. By the beginning of the next decade he was being payed $1,700 a week to write for The Gary Moore Show, having already written for Sid Caesar. Inspired by the crumpled and intellectual stand-up comedian Mort Sahl (who eschewed the more bombastic and slick approach to his art and would wander on stage casually dressed with a newspaper tucked under his arm), Allen was ready to tentatively explore the notion of performing his own material as a stand-up comic. By the time he neared his thirtieth birthday he was firmly established as one of the most sought after comedians on the American circuit, earning $10,000 (a lot of money in those days) for a personal appearance and becoming a fixture on television with his inventive and somewhat cerebral style. This CD captures the young Allen in the years when he was simply a comedian and contains some very clever and funny stuff.
What is worth a mention here? Private Life has Allen telling the audience about his personal life and taking an abstract philosophy course at New York University. "I was thrown out of NYU my freshman year, I cheated on my metaphysics final in college.. I looked within the soul of the boy sitting next to me. They threw me out, and my mother, who is a really sensitive woman, when I got thrown out of college, she locked herself in the bathroom and took an overdose of Mahjong tiles." He goes on to tell us he was Captain of the "latent paranoid softball team" and played in the traditional "nailbiters against the bedwetters" match. The Army has Allen attempting to join the armed forces ("I was classified 4-P... in the event of war I'm a hostage...") and in My Grandfather Allen tells us about his late grandfather and the watch he always remembers him by. "It's a gorgeous gold pocketwatch. My grandfather, on his deathbed, sold me this watch..." My Marriage is interesting because Allen is making light of his short lived marriage to Harlen Rosen. "She was violated and I said, knowing my wife, it was probably not a moving violation..." Rosen didn't find it very funny though. She sued Allen in 1967 for "scorn and ridicule" after his inclusion of jokes about her and their marriage in his act.
There is some excellent stuff in My Marriage though. Allen says that because New York State required adultery as grounds for divorce he decided to volunteer for it himself. "So I called Nancy Astor and asked her if she would have adultery with me. And she said, 'Not even if it would help the space programme'". NYU is about Allen's first courtship and again very clever. "She was an atheist and I was agnostic. We didn't know what religion not to bring the children up in." I really like too A Love Story, where Allen talks about an affair he had with a beatnik girl. "She lived with a sort of post-impressionist mock pseudo-psychotic, neo-quasi-cretin painter who tried to cut his ear off with an electric razor..." Brooklyn I find quite interesting because it seems to slightly foreshadow Allen's 1985 film Radio Days. He wonders if, during his childhood in the early forties, German U-Boats lurked around Coney Island - as the children liked to speculate. He believes though that if they did the pollution must have destroyed them! Allen tells us that he was never one for the beach. "I don't tan, I stroke." One other bauble worth a mention is Las Vegas, where Allen hits the craps tables and fails to get any girls on his sojourn to the famous town. Funny bit where he talks about placing a large bet on a racehorse. "And the horses come out, and mine is the only one with training wheels..."
Woody Allen, Stand-up Comic is a nice collection on the whole. Bit hit or miss in places but many of the routines are very sharp and funny throughout. This is especially the case with The Moose, a famous routine where Allen talks about a moose who ends up at a fancy dress party by accident. Sounds daft but Allen spins a great tale with it. "Twelve o'clock comes - they give out prizes for the best costume of the night. First prize goes to the Burcowiches, a married couple dressed as a moose. The moose comes in second. The moose is furious. He and the Burcowiches lock antlers in the living room..." This is abridged so you don't get all of these routines in their entirety but it's still a nice purchase if you don't any of these in other formats. There are many other routines in the collection I never got around to mentioning and, while I'm not a huge fan of stand-up comedy, I personally find Allen's early flights of fancy are worth a listen because he's so clever. Of course it's rather dated and there are a few bits that don't work quite so well but it's still a lot of fun. The only downside to this collection is that - at the time of writing - it only seems to be available used for £20.