Saturday, June 12, 2010

Comedy Favorites: Woody Allen and Mel Brooks

No big ideas today. I'm a fan of comedy, and Woody Allen and Mel Brooks are two favorites.

Here's the wonderful opening to Annie Hall:

I like several aspects of Woody's bit. I especially like how the second joke--the Groucho Marx/Sigmund Freud one--expresses a condition that seems so human to me. Think about it: why wouldn't someone want to be part of a club that would have him as a member? It's a joke about doubt and self-esteem. It's also a joke about the communities and granfalloons to which we belong--and those to which we think we might want to belong. I wonder if other animals besides humans have similar thoughts that our group isn't so cool as that one.

Woody's brilliance is to make the joke personal and intimate. I hear in the joke the echoes of something that might be  true for people generally: that many of our "wounds"-- our troubles and worries--are self-inflicted and not nearly so significant as we make them out to be. Not that these wounds don't deserve attention and care, but they could perhaps not be accompanied by so much drama. The irony, of course, is that the drama accompanying the wounds of Woody's character wind up being the substance of a classic movie, a movie that ends with Woody's character having written a play about his experiences.

Here's a terrific interview with Mel Brooks, though it's more like a monologue:

Mel so obviously loves being in front of an audience. He wants to talk with them and perform for them. He tells stories and sings songs; he's not just firing off jokes. And he's tangential: it seems he could go to almost any subject or mode from wherever he is at the moment. I love how he talks over the interviewer, not out of rudeness but rather out of just being excited to say whatever it is that's come into his mind. Mel is simply a treasure.


  1. I saw "Whatever It Takes" a few Months ago.

    Over all, it was abominable morally and I do weigh that it assessing a movie, but of course it had with a decent amount of comedy. I have to hand it though with what I thought was a great description of entropy as the reaason for the lead character's inability to get toothpaste back into the tube.

  2. correction, the movie title is "Whatever Works".

  3. Favorites! My grandpa loved Mel Brooks, too--Blazing Saddles. Mine is Young Frankenstein--one of the funniest films *ever*, greatly helped of course by the comedic talents of Gene Wilder, Madeleine Kahn and Cloris Leachman. You have good taste in comedies, Mr. Tanner:))


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