One of my earliest movie-going memories (and I don’t think my parents realized that a four-year-old would be able to recall a random night at the drive-in) is going to see Woody Allen’s film, Everything You Want to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask) somewhere around 1976. (It was part of a double feature at our local drive-in theater, but I can’t remember what the A-feature was anymore!!! Maybe The Front? Or some other, non-Woody Allen comedy? Who knows…) In the final segment of Everything You Want to Know About Sex, a giant, disembodied female breast goes skooching across the countryside milking people to death. That visual, that CONCEPT stuck with me, for some reason. Body parts with minds of their own… The man responsible for that film (and that memory) also wrote books. This is one of them.
Woody Allen – Getting Even (1971/1978)
I’m a fan of absurdism (if that isn’t obvious to anyone who has seen my drawings or read my stories), and one of the experts and most prolific proponents of this style is Woody Allen. Yes, I know his personal life, as reported in the scandal-obsessed media, has caused more than a few eyebrows to twitch, and stomachs to churn, but his movies are often quite enjoyable, and can even be on the border (or full-fledged citizens) of genius. Love & Death, Take the Money and Run, Sleeper, Zelig, Deconstructing Harry, What’s Up Tiger Lily, Bananas, Small Time Crooks, Midnight in Paris—I could go on—these are some of the greatest comedies ever put on film, and I will always love and appreciate these films, whether their director is considered a sicko or not…
Now this book that I’m reviewing, Getting Even, is a collection of early writing from Mr. Allen’s career, with some of these pieces first seeing publication as far back as 1966. Interestingly, some of the gags and concepts that would later show up in films like Bananas and Love & Death were first worked out in these intriguing tales. It’s a fact that the full blue-print for Midnight in Paris (which wasn’t released until 2011) can be found in one of Woody’s ancient stories, presented here as “A Twenties Memory,” which was published a solid 40 years before the movie hit theaters to tons of critical acclaim!
Movie anecdotes aside, the stories in this collection are all short, usually focused on a single theme (organized crime, literary criticism, psychiatry, Count Dracula…), and all pack a joke into about every third line. His humor here, as in the early movies, is farcical and ridiculous, and it really does hold up well in written form. I still laughed loud enough to bug my wife while reading this book in bed over the last few nights, and I would definitely recommend the book to anyone who’s seen the funny films a hundred times, loved them, and wants some new(ish) jokes to chew on in Allen’s unique style. This really is a very fun, extremely funny book, but if you don’t like Woody Allen, or other things that are genuinely clever and funny, you might want to look elsewhere for your reading material—although to do so means you are missing out on some great laughs, which EVERYONE can use now ‘o’ days…
—Richard F. Yates
(Primitive Thoughtician and Supreme Bunny Lord of The P.E.W.)
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