Woody Allen may now be best known as a serious director, but in the early ’60s, he was the Jim Gaffigan of his time. Or maybe the Larry David. Whoever is his modern-day analog, back in the day — before Annie Hall or Blue Jasmine, —Allen was a stand-up comic.
Allen’s routines were not rapid-fire bits lobbed at the audience; instead, he told long-form jokes that were more akin to short stories, a form he perfected in his collections Without Feathers and Getting Even. He related complex, clever tales with a perpetually straight face and his tongue firmly in his cheek. There were punchlines, but they were peppered throughout the stories, and Allen barely paused for the audience to catch their breath from laughing before he volleyed another.
While Allen has been off the comedy circuit since his directorial career took off with his 1969 film Take the Money and Run, his routines were recorded and released as Woody Allen: The Stand Up Years, comprised of his three earlier stand-up comedy albums. Recorded at three locations – Mr. Kelly’s in Chicago in March 1964; The Shadows, Washington D.C., April 1965; and Eugene’s, San Francisco, August 1968 — the album captures Allen’s best routines, including the infamous bit “The Moose.”
On November 25, Razor & Tie is set to release a two-disc set of Woody Allen’s The Stand Up Years, including exclusive material from the original vinyl recordings not available on any previous reissues. In addition, the set will include 25-minutes of audio excerpts from Woody Allen: A Documentary. and liner notes by Robert B. Weide, who produced and directed Woody Allen: A Documentary as well as Curb Your Enthusiasm (perhaps Larry David is the correct choice after all).
The news of the re-release comes on the heels of speculation that Allen may return to stand-up. Last year, he told New York Times reporter Dave Itzkoff that he has been “toying with the idea” of developing new standup material. Allen was inspired by watching 86-year old comedian Mort Sahl perform: “Watching him, I had the same feeling now, in 2013, as I had when I saw him in 1950-something. Of, ‘Hey, I’d like to get back onstage and do standup again.'”
That said, those comments surfaced last year, and Allen was already concerned about the effort, telling Itzkoff, “Just getting together an hour of stuff to talk about would be a lot of work.” Perhaps a new generation of fans will just have to make due with memorizing his old routines, which — luckily — still hold up.