Woody Allen, or Master Woodrow Konisberg the III (as he so blatantly refers to himself) is here at his best. This album truly defines the word "classic," weaving bits that span five years and three comedy clubs seamlessly into one production. Although Allen has been quoted as saying he hated working nightclubs, you wouldn't know it from this recording. Allen sounds poised and confident, or as much as his bespectacled, nerdy persona allows him to be. You can hear the fans in the audience (root word: fanatic) smiling. They fall for this mastermind's bits hook, line, and sinker. His non-threatening stage presence does not attempt to evoke sympathy from the audience, rather, it creates a sort of rapport with the spectators that says, "Hooray for the Little Guy." Doesn't everyone feel like a Woody Allen at some point or another? Most like to keep it hidden, but Allen showcases his vulnerability, exploits it for a few good laughs.
The Stand-Up Comic album, covering the years 1964-1969, consists of the typical rigmarole that can be found in most of his movies: the cause of his neurosis in the past, current states of neurosis, and childhood memories that will undoubtedly lead to future neurosis. And, of course, don't forget a true hallmark of Allen's: "Woodrow's" lack of luck with the ladies.
Woody Allen sets up a bit something like this. "My parents have two values in life: God and carpeting." This is then followed by a short seemingly serious story about what it is that makes him say that. "I told my parents about my divorce/my mother walked over to the stove/(comedic pause)/she opened it up/(more brilliant timing)/and she got in." Explosive laughter. Allen keeps his audience's eyes propped wide open with delight, just waiting for the punch. You can hear a pin drop in the moment before he delivers, and yet, he still manages to sneak up on them. The receptive audiences recorded on this album induce waves of nostalgia that make it even ever so much more enjoyable to listen to. It is reminiscent of a time before comedy club audiences were reduced to a common denominator, relying on scatological humor to bond together. Even though the material is "dated" per se, Allen's untimely references to things like the Warren Report can be easily overlooked in lieu of his hilarious and rhythmic speech patterns, Walter Mittey-esque-bordering-on-ridiculous scenarios, and characters and set-ups that can only be a product of the mind of a comic genius. Hate him? You'll reconsider. Even if you think you can't stand Woody Allen, you will be pleasantly surprised at this collector's item of a record. His charming, self-effacing, catch-you-off-guard-type humor will lure you in to the point of saying, "Hm. Maybe that Annie Hall wasn't so bad after all." Classic. Vintage. And pretty darn funny, too. ~ Sandy Lawson