Friday, February 26, 2010

Woody Allen shot a moose once

A few days ago I mentioned that when my partner, David Isaacs and I were starting out we used to listen to the Woody Allen stand-up comedy album for inspiration.

Thanks to reader of the blog, blogward, for alerting me to this. Here's one of Woody Allen's classic stand-up routines from the mid 60s. Saturdays are becoming the comedy barometer day. You've seen a classic Honeymooner scene from the 50s, a memorable David Hyde Pierce set piece from FRASIER, a CHEERS episode, and now Woody Allen before he became an artiste. So what do you think?

63 comments:

Get_It said...

Hilarious. I couldn't remember if Woody Allen had been funny at least once, now you made remember his old movies and that he actually was.

telefunkal said...

I ADORE this skit. I heard an audio recording of it first in my comic scriptwriting class in university and have never forgotten it. Thanks for sharing the video.

Damon Rutherford said...

That was quite funny. Better than The Honeymooners and Cheers samples, but Niles's scene from Frasier is still in the lead.

This clip of Woody Allen motivates me to find more of his stand-up material. To the torrents!

BLP said...

Brilliant! Always was-always will be.

Papageiena said...

Oh God. I heard this routine on an iTunes comedy radio channel. It's hysterical!

jeffen said...

Back in the eighties this bit always played on the radio on the Sunday night comedy show alongside "Down South" (which I always thought the funnier bit). Going back to to it now, you can really see what an odd comic rhythm he used from the start. So, yes it's still funny, still original.

Mark said...

Brilliant. Not a wasted word in it. I've been able to recite this monologue word-for-word for a good 30 years now (a friend of mine can do it sounding exactly like Woody). It always kills. "But--I got the Berkowitzes." Killer.

That said, the version that's on his terrific standup anthology album from the '60s is tighter and even better--with a funnier version of the punchline ("And the joke's on them, because it's restricted") and the hilarious interjection that it's illegal to drive in New York with a Jewish couple on your fender Tuesdays, Thursday and ESPECIALLY Saturdays.

As uneven as his recent movies are (not to mention the creepy personal life), you almost forget what a genius Allen was in his early, classic period, and then in the early movies, on up to about "Manhattan." That standup album, recorded 1964-68, is available on CD and is highly recommended. One classic bit after another--it's almost impossible to get all the way through without extreme pain in your smile muscles. Funny, funny stuff.

gottacook said...

Actually, the version on the LP is told better - for example, when he says that the moose "scored" on the LP, it's a one-word sentence with just the right length of pause before it, and gets a bigger laugh than here. I presume the LP version is from slightly later in his stand-up career when his timing had improved.

At around the time of this clip (1965, according to YouTube), I was the proud 8-year-old owner of Allan Sherman's LP My Son the Nut, with orchestral accompaniment. Many tracks on it still make me laugh, although "Hello Mudduh, Hello Faddah" is the best-known. My favorite is probably "One Hippopotami," sung with great fervor (to the tune of "What Kind of Fool Am I") and including the wonderful pun "And when Ben Casey meets Kildare, that's called a pair o'docs" (and a paradox it would be indeed!) Any other Sherman fans here?

Jason Mittell said...

It's been years since I heard this - my vinyl copy of Standup Comic was well-worn. Still quite funny, although I preferred listening rather than watching Woody here - a little too twitchy on stage. I think there are stronger bits on the album, but Woody's standup (and early films) still have a completely unique comedic tone.

A. Buck Short said...

I’ll go with funny. Hell, the story even had 3 acts and a finish.

Tomorrow our daughter has consented to attend one of those “new talent” nights with me at a comedy club. Two people I don’t know who claim to be Facebook friends of mine are appearing and sent multiple e-vites. But I get a $2.50 public broadcasting membership arts discount off the ticket price, so, I mean, how could you not?

Already I’m trepidatious. How bad does a comedy club have to be to be able to give up a Saturday for new talent night? Right, the headliners get Wednesday matinee. But maybe that’s why it’s from 10 -11:30. So who opens for new talent at the dinner show, no talent? But that’s why I asked the daughter. When your wife complains about having to stay up until 11:30 on a weekend (by the time we get home it’s midnight!), you immediately know you’ll have a better time with somebody else.

This will be only the 2nd time I’ve been to one of these joints in maybe 4 years. But it got me thinking. A lot of people say the secret to standup comedy is timing. Other people say it’s incongruity or the unexpected. Of course most people don’t feel the need to offer any opinion whatsoever – which takes a lot of the pressure off. I kind of think the real secret has to be location, location, location, and the only reason most people don’t realize that is real estate brokers took it first. That’s timing.

Now maybe it’s because I haven’t been to a lot of comedy clubs. Here in Texas a lot of our comedy clubs are also dance clubs. Some hombre shoots at your feet and says, “I wanna see ya dance.” But from the comedy clubs I’ve seen on TV, my guess is it must be a little harder to bomb in front of a brick wall – or why would they go to the bother of building one behind the stage. Answer me that.

So I got this idea to be funnier when I go places. I’m getting me one of those 40” x 40” portable pulldown projection screens that open up on a tripod, and gluing a roll of brick wallpaper over the screen; so wherever I go – work, the dentist, on a half empty bus, a bris --whenever I get up with some lame bit, at least I’ve already got the wall to open up behind me.

My Friday question is this. Has anybody already seen anybody do this? Because if you have, it’s a hell of a lot of work and expense to be accused of stealing somebody else’s act for a sight gag you’ve got to lug around like that. Yeh, I know Carrot Top schlepps – but I bet by now he’s got roadies.

Oh, another question. I know Mr. Allen spawned multitudes, but which subsequent comic(s) gave you the same Allenesque vibe when you first saw them, while still coming off fresh and original? For me it was Jake Johannsen.

Ellen said...

Ah, I used to listen to this routine on LP! The version I know was just a little different as he made references a NY audience would know.

Love it. Thanks for posting.

Ben said...

There's your winner, right there. Neither of the two previous "Weekend Wacky" pieces really did anything for me, and while I could see some of Woody's gags coming (the moose coming in second), others caught me by surprise. And a great punchline.

And my word verification: epope. That just seems too easy...

David said...

Hands down best comedy album ever. huge influence on me too.

Michael said...

Years ago, a friend played me The Moose and I laughed so hard that I fell on the floor. I'd also say that Woody Allen is one of the funniest writers I have ever read. I have three collections of his essays, and he has written a couple for The New Yorker recently, including one in which two lobsters meet in a tank in a New York restaurant and it turns out they're old friends, reincarnated--one died of a heart attack and the other committed suicide because they lost their fortunes to Bernie Madoff. And who comes in for dinner? And who do the lobsters attack? It's a riot!

Now, the point is, Woody Allen is a word comic. What we saw on The Honeymooners and Frasier was very much visual comedy, brilliantly done. But a different type of comedy than Allen's stand-up or writing.

Ron Rettig said...

I remember when Saturday nights were ratings battlegrounds between the networks with excellent sitcoms, westerns, dramas and crime/police procedurals. Now Saturdays are truly Newton Minnow's predicted "Vast Wasteland" Why?

Kevin said...

fantastic. this one has woody being woody where most of the other ones (honeymooners, etc.) seemed to be classic because the actors were not doing their regular routine.

remember you explained norton was teaching but usually he isn't. and jackie was dressed unusually.

in cheers, the episode had them leavign the bar to jump out of a plane which but they usually stayed in the bar so if people were unfamiliar with teh common setting they wouldn't get that things were out of place.

even the kramer one was a solo but he was usually the younger brother and played off Kramer.

anyway a little dated but the end was political about the club allowing jews. clever at least.

cheers

Anonymous said...

I cannot stand Woody Allen in any way shape or form. I don't find him funny, I don't find anything he does or writes or directs to be humorous. I hated the character George on Seinfeld at first because he was too Woody-Allen-esque.

Jason said...

Heard it before, clicked play again happily. Great bit.

Alice said...

I love this routine. I absolutely crack up at the "The moose comes in second" bit.

heh,

Tim W. said...

Woody Allen looked young there. I guess he was, wasn't he? As for the routine, it didn't really do anything for me. The delivery of it was pretty good (although I'm glad he learned to stop nodding), but I didn't find any of it all that funny.

willw said...

Of the various examples you have offered up for this treatment, this is the one that hits my personal 'What's not to like?' spot. Better three minutes of Woody at the height of his powers than a season of any TV sitcom so far considered. Sorry.

I had never seen this famous sketch before, only heard it. Obviously it depends hugely on Woody's timing - a lesser man would go faster. He needs to leave a lot of time for the audience to grasp the story, he needs to let his laughs develop. Actually, although he waits, he gets fewer laughs with less force than I would expect - probably I know it so well I am amused in anticipation.

I wish modern stand-ups would learn to write sharp, self-contained, surreal sketches like this. It is a form that is due for revival - at least here in Britain.

Steve B. said...

To me, that is universally funny. Does anyone not find that funny? I don't think you need to speak english to find the humor. Just the sound of Woody saying "Moose" and "Berkowitz" is funny. I bet even Mia Farrow gets a chuckle out of it.

There. That's it. I think I've spoken for everyone. We'll mark down that as "Funny."

Anonymous said...

Great stuff. Very absurd. Love the way he keeps going.

Philip said...

Excellent. Great comic timing and a terrific punchline.

I used to love his comic writing - Getting Even is a classic. The Dracula story, with him waking up by mistake during an eclipse, is hysterical.

A_Homer said...

Great - nice example of early Woody. I'd like to hear what precisely you found in this clip as the funny.

Timing is great, no excess info, and not one but two unexpected twists so that the joke winds up landing on somewhere unexpected. I don't like the camera work because he looks like he's practically wading up to his armpits in high-tide for some reason.

He's still fairly uniform as a stand-up comedian, and acting "on stage" here, mugging even, not so much a comfortable, natural delivery like Jack Benny exudes, and not prowling the stage as he unpacks a theme like Lenny Bruce.

It's not yet that more everyday feeling, neurotic, character he develops for the movies would more easily allow for close-ups and dialog with other characters and so on. That character, circa "Bananas", would allow a new mix of "high" / "low" humor levels.

I think this clip relates to the other clips that were shown so far, in so far as Woody is a bit younger than Gleason, but look at the difference in material. (They even acted together early in "Don't Drink the Water" which wasn't that rewarding really)
But Woody still came from a generation that knew stand-up and early TV comedy, vaudeville, Catskills, and Chaplin / Keaton slapstick and had no problem to utilize that more physical shtick, even pie-in-the-face into his newer "cereberal" work, as a mix. And the kind of movie format he develops specifically allows to incorporate the different levels.

A_Homer said...

(sorry if its double - there were issues with the comments)

Great - nice example of early Woody. I'd like to hear what precisely you found in this clip as the funny.

Timing is great, no excess info, and not one but two unexpected twists so that the joke winds up landing on somewhere unexpected. I don't like the camera work because he looks like he's practically wading up to his armpits in high-tide for some reason.

He's still fairly uniform as a stand-up comedian, and acting "on stage" here, mugging even, not so much a comfortable, natural delivery like Jack Benny exudes, and not prowling the stage as he unpacks a theme like Lenny Bruce.

It's not yet that more everyday feeling, neurotic, character he develops for the movies would more easily allow for close-ups and dialog with other characters and so on. That character, circa "Bananas", would allow a new mix of "high" / "low" humor levels.

I think this clip relates to the other clips that were shown so far, in so far as Woody is a bit younger than Gleason, but look at the difference in material. (They even acted together early in "Don't Drink the Water" which wasn't that rewarding really)
But Woody still came from a generation that knew stand-up and early TV comedy, vaudeville, Catskills, and Chaplin / Keaton slapstick and had no problem to utilize that more physical shtick, even pie-in-the-face into his newer "cereberal" work, as a mix. And the kind of movie format he develops specifically allows to incorporate the different levels.

Jeffrey Leonard said...

This is priceless...
And to think that he once performed out here in Woodland Hills at the "Valley Music Theater" on Ventura Blvd.

Jeffrey Leonard said...

This is priceless...
And to think he once performed out here in Woodland Hills at the "Valley Music Theater" on Ventura Blvd.

Sebastian said...

Hi Ken,

here's a friday question. Wil Wheaton, who was on "Stand by me" and played Wesley Crusher on ST:TNG, is currently recording his second episode as his evil alter ego on "The Big Bang Theory". He's writing about it on his blog, already did so for his first appearance. Here's his last blog-entry:

http://wilwheaton.typepad.com/wwdnbackup/2010/02/notes-on-the-wheaton-recurrence-day-two.html

He writes:

"I know that I - and a lot of other people - would pay a lot of money to listen to Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady and Lee Aronsohn give a seminar on how to write and perform comedy for television. While we were getting notes today, I realized how lucky I am to be on their set, working on their show, learning from them and getting paid to do it."

I simply HAD to think of you then for the obvious reasons :-)

Wil is now making most of his money via writing books about his acting career, ripping apart the first season of TNG in book-form and all in all blogging for a couple of years now and herding over a million sheep who follow him on Twitter.

Now, to make this not look as if I'm trying to lure sheep here, my question is: do you think Wil only gained all these insights because he started writing himself? Do you know actors who were able to understand the rehearsal process without starting to direct/write themselves? Do you know other people who came on shows you wrote for who were equally pleasant as Wil and/or do you know people who are like him other writers could learn from?

Wil is currently writing his speech for PAX East, a gamer convention and complete nerdfest. He's been writing for a couple of weeks, which irritates me because it's a mere 45 minutes and you have to wonder why he takes that much time to come up with what he wants to say. His process involves thinking the whole day about this speech and as some sort of gratification, his brain comes up with, what he claims, are dozens of ideas for other stories. He also says that his process involves stuff that looks like goofing off, but actually isn't. Another question would be - how did you and David write and not look like two guys goofing off? Wil's writing at home, I know you guys had an office - maybe time to re-iterate your relationship with your office assistant and how she perceived you guys :-)

Anyway, I was following your blog before I was following Wil to be honest, but you guys are an equally entertaining read and with you writing a book about you growing up in LA, it's kinda following the same guy in different states of their lives. Although you never acted and Wil never wrote scripts :-)

Micke said...

Unlike the previous scenes this is
still funny to me. 22yr old male, Sweden

Brad said...

I'm in my early 30's and a big fan of Woody Allen's films, though I've heard only a smattering of his stand-up over the years. To me, that stands the test of time. There were a couple of moments that prompted outright guffaws, fairly unusual when I'm sitting alone at my computer. The material was somewhat outshone by the delivery, some of the best moments being Allen's pauses, but that is often how it goes in great stand-up. I also very much enjoyed the Jewish identity and political undercurrent in what is essentially a ridiculous premise.

Anonymous said...

Not funny, McGee.

hollphoto said...

Still funny, but better on the album with improved timing and a little more confidence in the material.

A couple of changes from the Nightclub Years album most notably:

1) He left out the killer line "Tuesdays, Thursdays and (pause) especially Saturdays" on the second trip through the tunnel.

2) The final line on the album "and the joke's on them because it is restricted" works better.

3)The New York Athletic club became the New York Golf Club

Brian Phillips said...

This is a classic. So much so, Steve Allen dissected it in one of his books on humor. I prefer the album's last line to this version, but this was taped in the UK, so he accommodated.

It does everything right, sets a scene, keeps within it's crazed logic and draws the listener in. This is getting rarer in comedy (notable exception, Larry Miller's, "Five Levels of Drinking"). I think that the dominance of radio bred a different type of comic during the rise of the LP.

Also noted in this routine is lack of observational humor ala George Carlin. And yet still manages to make a mild point about anti-Semitism.

For those who enjoy Woody Allen's stand-up, the only cheap way I know to get it is the United Artists LP, "The Night Club Years" and buying his third album fills out his recorded comedy work.

He actually mildly disowns this period; subsequent issues of it get shorter and shorter. Me, I think it is one the best runs of material (three albums) this side of Bill Cosby or one of the pioneers of LP comedy, Shelley Berman.

WV: Sound. Honestly, that's what came up!

Brian Phillips said...

This is a classic. So much so, Steve Allen dissected it in one of his books on humor. I prefer the album's last line to this version, but this was taped in the UK, so he accommodated.

It does everything right, sets a scene, keeps within it's crazed logic and draws the listener in. This is getting rarer in comedy (notable exception, Larry Miller's, "Five Levels of Drinking"). I think that the dominance of radio bred a different type of comic during the rise of the LP.

Also noted in this routine is lack of observational humor ala George Carlin. And yet still manages to make a mild point about anti-Semitism.

For those who enjoy Woody Allen's stand-up, the only cheap way I know to get it is the United Artists LP, "The Night Club Years" and buying his third album fills out his recorded comedy work.

He actually mildly disowns this period; subsequent issues of it get shorter and shorter. Me, I think it is one the best runs of material (three albums) this side of Bill Cosby or one of the pioneers of LP comedy, Shelley Berman.

WV: Sound. Honestly, that's what came up!

Ray Sanford said...

I saw Woody Allen perform standup at Mr. Kellly's in Chicago in the mid-60s. Laughed so hard I fell to the floor, grabbing the tablecloth as I did so and bringing all the plates, glasses and silverware with me.

Probably the only time Woody was upstaged.

Steely Dan said...

I loved it. I'm a huge Woody Allen fan, though (the "Annie Hall" through "Husbands and Wives" years) I've had that routine on my iPod for several years. I've never seen the video of him doing it, though.

37 years old.

WizarDru said...

Kind of a slow burn on that one. I like Allen's early zany movies and this does strike me (at 42) as funny. But not fall-over 'laugh out loud' funny. And judging from the audience reaction, it's about the same.

I mean, compare this with Lenny Bruce's 'masked man' bit and I know which one cracks me up more.

DougJ said...

What a great punchline.

Jonathan said...

Brilliant. It toggles so nicely from the merely silly (Woody Allen hunting) to the absurd ("The Moose was furious."), back to the nearly obvious ("I got the Berkowitzes.") and then to the next level ("And the joke's on them because they don't allow Jews."). His tempo is always spot on.

I read once that he and Bill Cosby would often meet between their respective sets and walk around the block. Whether that's true or not, I can see the connection in their mastery of good storytelling.

Dave said...

Maybe this would have made a good comedy barometer, because I didn't laugh once during this video. I've never been big on Woody Allen though (he just drags on and on), so maybe this is more a personal taste issue. The punchline at the end made me smile however, I will give him that.

Dana King said...

It was a long way to go, but it was worth the wait.

It's interesting to be reminded that comics used to tell jokes. Now they make observations. Not saying either is better, just noting they're different.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant then, brilliant now.

BC in OC said...

I love Woody Allen's movies (at least up to including Bullets over Broadway). Even though I'm a huge fan -- read a biography, book length interview, and tons of criticism of his work -- I've never acquainted myself with his stand-up.

I thought the piece was OK. I smiled, and the punch line was good, but I didn't laugh out loud. I recognize the timing and craft, but it didn't hit me viscerally.

Demography: I'm a 34-year old white male.

Tony M said...

That was funny; made me laugh three times.

However, the way Woody Allen kept bobbing his head reminded me of Kermit the Frog.

-bee said...

I didn't laugh but it was interesting - a kind of intriguing series of surreal juxtapositions used to set up an old-fashioned borscht belt punchline.

I guess maybe in the early 60's the outright referral to anti-semitism might have had some shock value on national TV - but that's just conjecture on my part.

Mike said...

Now THAT is funny.

Kirk Jusko said...

Hilarious. Allen had quit stand-up by the time I was old enough to be aware of him. I was born ten years too late.

Gmajor said...

Pretty good all the way through, just the absurd premise, the mugging looks, but what really made me laugh was the final punchline, and you realize the whole routine was leading to that joke.

alopecia said...

Hmm. Not hilarious (listen carefully: the audience didn't think so, either), but absurdist humor usually isn't. It's certainly chuckle-worthy. It's a beautifully constructed piece, each step leading logically to the next utterly insane step.

On a personal note: it's been thirty-odd years since I heard this routine, courtesy of a high-school friend of mine who was a big Woody Allen fan. It's been too long since I thought of him.

Word Verification: importin. It's a significant can.

Tim Susman said...

I *love* "Stand-Up Comic." The Moose bit is great--Mechanical Objects and Oral Contraception have always been favorites of mine as well.

One note: on the album, he ends with "And the joke's on them, 'cause it's restricted." Here he uses the more explicit "And the joke's on them, 'cause they don't allow Jews." Which is clearer, but I have to say "'cause it's restricted" just flows better and packs a better punch.

In any case, one of the funniest stand-up acts I've ever heard, and I think it holds up very well.

ConnectedLife said...

Ken - if you're a fan of Woody Allen - here's a great essay on his oft-forgotten early years. I enjoyed it - hope you do too.

http://blog.wfmu.org/freeform/2010/02/the-early-woody-allen-.html

Charles H. Bryan said...

Another vote for Funny.

@ A. Buck. I remember feeling that way about Jake Johannsen, and about Steven Wright (although he's not exactly a story-teller). It's been good to see Jake more frequently on Letterman. It seems like there are some others, but they aren't coming to mind now.

Although, amongst stand-ups, my love for Carlin knows no bounds.

echoecho said...

By far the funniest to me of the clips you've posted so far. The gag at the end is good , but the part that really gets me is the plan to ditch the moose at the party.

Jim said...

I come from the UK, and if he'd ended that with "cause it's restricted" then I wouldn't have had the faintest idea of what he was trying to say.

MadAsHell said...

50. It's somewhat unfair to compare a stand-up tall tale to situation comedies, but of course this is, by far, the funniest. I had the routine completely memorized at the age of 12 (didn't really get "restricted" or "scored" then) and haven't forgotten a word.

esme said...

Hilarious. One of the funniest things I've seen. My dad first showed it to me when I was about 8 (I'm 19 now) and it's been a running joke in my family since. Great to see it acknowledged here.

RoyalDude said...

I wonder if he's still on the wall?

Anonymous said...

His albums seem to be out of print. Is there a source for his standup CD's or other formats that don't cost an arm and a al leg?

Rhonda said...

I totally remember listening to this bit. It was because of early Woody and the Dick Van Dyke Show that I told my 8th grade math teacher that I didn't need to learn math because I was going to be a comedy writer.

Bob and Rob Professional American Writers said...

This should be seen by all students of comedy for the lesson it teaches in an all but forgotten art...REAL joke telling.

Patrick said...

LOVE the moose. One of my favorite bits from the album. I'll have to dig that out and throw it on the turntable.

Anonymous said...

_that_ was funny. if I had to criticise it, it'd probably be the same as the other clips; taken out of context, it seems like he jumps from a totally believable story about shooting a moose, to "the moose started mingling at the party". that's the kind of thing that made the other clips completely useless, but in this case, he can totally pull it off; as soon as he introduces the moose to the party host, all is forgiven (and of course if you're already familiar with his act, it works even better).

btw, I wouldn't have known what "restricted" meant for the punchline; another example of context-dependent humor.