There haven’t been many reviews for the new collection of Woody Allen’s stand-up, called The Stand-Up Years 1964-1968, but there have been some great long features about Allen’s years working the clubs in the 60s. Following on from the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal have published a long review.
The piece tells the story of Allen’s stand-up years:
When Mr. Allen began doing stand-up, older comedians like Buddy Hackett, Jack E. Leonard and Phil Foster worked hotels in Las Vegas and resorts in the Catskill Mountains Borscht Belt, while a new breed of comic was on the rise that included (Mike) Nichols and (Elaine) May, The Smothers Brothers, Joan Rivers, and Bill Cosby. They did more personal social commentary, not mother-in-law jokes sold them by gag writers. They flexed their comedic muscles in hipper, smaller rooms, sharing the stage with folk singers. And they taped their live performances, subsequently releasing them as LP records. Those albums became a secondary revenue stream and a PR bonanza, because now comics could be heard across the country.
(Only one person mentioned above would go on to star in an Allen film – Elaine May appeared in Small Time Crooks).
WSJ also covers Allen’s love of Mort Sahl:
Mr. Allen has often said that Bob Hope’s movie persona—the cowardly skirt-chaser who doesn’t get the girl and wisecracks his way out of a beating—was a major influence on him. This may come as a surprise given their different approaches to comedy. And in the discs’ bonus material, Mr. Allen says he was especially fond of the work of Mort Sahl, who changed the face of comedy with his literate references, discussions on the flourishing of psychotherapy, and takes on politics. “The guy’s in his 80s now,” he says. “When I see him in California, when I have dinner with him or speak to him on the phone, there’s more genuine wit than one sees on television in six months.” The first time Mr. Allen tried stand-up, he hated it. He was shy, grumpy, sour at the prospect of having to go on stage, and did it only because he viewed stand-up as a steppingstone. His goal was to write for the theater. At this point he had no interest in writing films.
Read more at the Wall Street Journal.
‘The Stand Up Years 1964-1968’ is out now in the US. You can get it on Amazon.