Sunday, May 31, 2009
Saturday, May 30, 2009
Friday, May 29, 2009
Thursday, May 28, 2009
When they stopped, after about a quarter of an hour, the cabaret ended, and that was just as well, for nobody could have followed them . . . Moss Hart was heard to say that the act was the funniest fourteen minutes he could remember. The room buzzed with comment, yet hardly anyone seemed to know who the little maestro was. Diligent quizzing revealed that he was a thirty-three-year-old television writer, that he had spent most of the preceding ten years turning out sketches for Sid Caesar, and that his name was Mel Brooks . . . All I knew...was that [this] stubby, pseudo-Freudian [Brooks] was the most original comic improviser I had ever seen.
During the fifties, we spent our days inventing characters for Caesar, but Mel was really using Caesar as a vehicle. What he secretly wanted was to perform himself. So in the evening we'd go to a party and I'd pick a character for him to play. I never told him what it was going to be, but I always tried for something that would force him to go into panic, because a brilliant mind in panic is a wonderful thing to see.
While we're on the subject, if you're looking for a fantastically funny read: Courtesy of the fan site Brookslyn comes a transcript of Brooks' famous 1975 Playboy interview, another vibrant example of his improvisational gifts. Tynan says it ought to be included in any anthology of modern American humor.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Monday, May 25, 2009
This movie is literally vintage Woody Allen. In fact, it calls to mind a brand of Jewish humor that has, in recent years, been all but scrubbed out—neurotic, depressive, abrasive, excluded. And to serve as its embodiment, he drafted Larry David, the guy who, through six seasons of HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, has done more than anyone—even Allen—to keep that sensibility alive for a generation to whom it’s now almost completely foreign.
Whatever Works, Woody Allen’s 40th movie as writer and director, begins with a ghostly visitation from the distant past of Jewish-American comedy, so distant it predates not only Allen’s career but also his birth, in 1935. The lights dim, we see the familiar white-on-black credits unspool in the same font we've been looking at for nearly four decades (it’s Windsor Light Condensed, by the way) … and then we hear the voice of Groucho Marx, Allen’s anarchic spiritual grandfather, singing lyrics he first performed in Animal Crackers in the infancy of sound cinema.
Hello, I must be going
I cannot stay, I came to say
I must be going
I’m glad I came but just the same
I must be going