Wednesday, December 01, 2010


Today is Woody Allen's 75th birthday. What an amazing comedy legend he has become. A student of Danny Simon's, Woody has long ago acknowledged dear Danny with this quote: "I've altered a few things and changed a few principles around, but unequivocally everything I ever learned about comedy writing, I learned from Danny Simon- and he's a nice man too! After Woody's false starts at NYU and City College, he became a full-time writer for Herb Shriner, earning $75 a week at first.] At the age of 19, he started writing scripts for The Ed Sullivan Show, The Tonight Show, specials for Sid Caesar post-Caesar's Hour (1954–1957), and other television shows.[ By the time he was working for Caesar, he was making $1500 a week; with Caesar he worked alongside Danny Simon. In 1961, he started a new career as a stand-up comedian, debuting in a Greenwich Village club called the Duplex. Examples of Allen’s stand up act can be heard on the albums Stand up Comic and Nightclub Years 1964–1968 (including his classic routine entitled “The Moose”). Allen wrote for the popular Candid Camera television show, and appeared in some episodes. Together with his managers, Allen developed a neurotic, nervous, and intellectual persona for his stand-up routine, a successful move which secured regular gigs for him in nightclubs and on television. Woody started writing short stories and cartoon captions for magazines such as The New Yorker; he was particularly inspired by the tradition of four prominent New Yorker’s humorists, S. J. Perelman George S. Kaufman, Robert Benchley and Max Shulman, whose material he modernized. Woody is also an accomplished author having published four collections of his short pieces and plays. These are Getting Even, Without Feathers, Side Effects and Mere Anarchy. His early comic fiction was heavily influenced by the zany, pun-ridden humour of S.J. Perelman. Allen brought significant innovation to the comedy monologue genre and his stand-up comedy is considered highly influential He also became a successful Broadway playwright and wrote Don't Drink the Water in 1966. It starred Lou Jacobi, Kay Medford, Anita Gillette and Allen’s future movie co-star Anthony Roberts. A film adaptation of the play, directed by Howard Morris, was released in 1969 starring Jackie Gleason Because he was not particularly happy with the (1969) film version of his play, in 1994 Allen directed and starred in a third version for television, with Michael J. Fox and Mayim Bialik.The next play Woody wrote that was produced on Broadway was Play It Again, Sam, which he also starred in. The play opened on February 12, 1969, and ran for 453 performances. It also featured Diane Keaton and Anthony Roberts. Allen, Keaton and Roberts would reprise their roles in the film version of the play, directed by Herbert Ross. For its March 21 issue, Life featured Allen on its cover. He has written several one-act plays,including 'Riverside Drive' and 'Old Saybrook' which both explore well-known Allen themes. They have been produced in England for the first time by The Nuffield Theatre, a south-coast art house theatre, Southampton (September 2010) and directed by Patrick Sandord. So Happy Birthday, Woody. John and I are looking forward to the auditions this Sunday for "The Bremen Town Boys". We need more men to apply however-- sure hope that happens!


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