Thursday, March 27, 2008


During last year's Comedians of Comedy show at The TLA, Eugene Mirman did a bit making fun of a ska/reggae band that had messaged him on Myspace. He played one of their songs and as a way to insult them, said that it is what he thinks about when he wants to hold out in the middle of the dirty dance in the sack. "Sorry, baseball," he concluded.

A reference to a Woody Allen joke? Maybe, maybe not. And did the audience laugh because they got the reference? Maybe, maybe not.

Nevertheless, here is Woody Allen performing that bit. It's part of the track "Second Marriage" and was recorded in San Francisco in 1968 for debut album, Woody Allen, which was re-packaged on a two LP set The Nightclub Years 1964-1968 in 1972 by United Artists Records and then as part of a single CD, Standup Comic, by Rhino Records in 1999. This is only a portion of the specific track and you should really buy the CD if you want all 25 tracks.

Woody Allen's stand-up demeanor was very much like in his films: the ultimate neurotic and completely self-conscious. Always talking about himself, he seems vulnerable but always in control. In the 1960s, he was a unique stand-up character, according to Gerald Nachman in his book Seriously Funny: The Rebel Comedians of the 1950s and 1960s:

The waiflike Allen's mere presence on a nightclub stage in the early 1960s was in itself funny, even startling. He exuded what one writer termed a "wistful futility"; critics referred to his "lemur-like" visage. Apart from Wally Cox, there had never been anybody in nightclubs who remotely resembled Allen, a pipsqueak with the chutzpah to invade the territory that had for decades been the province of brassy guys in tuxes. Even Mort Sahl, who altered the stand-up dress code and elevated the intelligence quotient, was brash and frenzied. Woody Allen was none of that. He looked like a bookworm in a green corduroy suit who, blinking at the light, seemed to have just crawled out from the library stacks, unprepared to meet the world.

Yet something unlemur-like happened when Allen stumbled onstage and began to talk. People paid attention, if only out of curiosity. Audiences took pity on him. Anyone who saw Allen in those first weeks at the tiny room upstairs in a Greenwich Village club called the Duplex must have thought, There seems to be some mistake, and wondered what time the real comedian came on. He wasn't a wuss, like Cox and Jackie Vernon, who traded on meekness. If you felt sorry for him, it was only because he was so uneasy onstage. But the strenth of his jokes sustained him over those first shaky months, when Ralph J. Gleason wrote warily, "Woody Allen might be worth hearing more than once."
RELATED: Woody Allen performing another classic, "The Moose" on English television in 1965.

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