Woody AllenIf you are male, wear glasses, have Jewish features, play the clarinet, plus are known to be funny too. For the rest of your entire life you will be visually associated with one man, and one man only – Woody Allen. And do you know why that is? No? Then watch this 67 minute episode of a 1971 American talk show hosted by Dick Cavett, to find out why.

Dick Cavett - Woody Allen

After his usual comedy monologue – in which Dick explains the unusual sequence that this program will be broadcast in – he introduces an up and coming comedy superstar, Woody Allen, to his live studio audience.

Now in fine fashion Woody takes to the stage and starts’ this interview by jovially jibing with all in sundry, before he then takes a seat and is asked numerous questions posed by Dick. Some of these questions involve such subjects as his breakfast – his healthy living – his two failed marriages – and his views of psychiatry (a medical endeavor that he has attended for thirteen years by this point). This then segways into a clip of Woody's recent film (Bananas), which is a comedy that emphasizes his views on psychiatry in a much more blatant manner.

Next, Dick tests Woody in a questionnaire – which again, Woody has fun with – just like he has fun with his subsequent clarinet demonstration. Initially in a very whimsical way with himself. And subsequently in a very jazzy style with the house band.

The last quarter of this show focuses on Woody’s creativity, on such topics of note as his filmic inspirations, his popularity in the media, his literary skills, and his views on comedy in general. Again, This also segways into a clip of his first film (Take the Money and Run). Though, as usual with Woody, he ends this show with his views on his favorite subject – Death – as well as giving him the platform to promote his up and coming film project (All You Ever Wanted To Know About Sex, But Where Afraid To Ask) and his book (Getting Even).

Here are a couple of Woody quotes from this show:

  • People call me Woody Herman after the famous musician. Or Mister Woodpecker.
  • I can't take disease. I feel ill people are weak.
  • It takes two consenting adults to play the game. You need a puna and a punie.
  • I avoid all comedies that influence me.
  • I like my films to be sloppy.
  • I have written a script that is trashy, and is a exploration of sexual depravity as if the Marx Brothers were doing it.

Woody Allen. Comedian. Film star. Director extraordinaire. Literary loon. Stand-up genius. Plus so much more. Since I was a kid I always liked this Jewish joker. He had, and still has, that way about him that's one half reckless and one half nut.

And do you know what? Woody was the same way with his relentless comedic posturing from start to finish in this program. It almost appears as if he could not help but always say the first thing that jovially jumped out of his mouth. He admits this fact too during his interview with Dick. Blatantly broadcasting that whatever he says, does, or writes, always comes out as being ‘funny’, if he likes it or not.

Woody Allen Shopping

Now Dick does not help matters much either, because he constantly appears to ply Woody with set-up lines for him to follow through on. OK, so this is just fine within the scheme of things, as it does lend itself to the hilarity of the show. Though, I have to admit, I would have liked to have seen the 'serious side' of Woody as well. Just so he could show his other face. The creative and analytical one. 

Why was that I wonder? Why was Woody just so used to becoming a constant clown that he could not help himself? Was it something that Dick tried to detract from within the confines of this show? Well, they both do share a history in comedy together. Or could it be that this wasn't the right time or the right place for Woody to highlight his serious side?

Woody Allen on Dick Cavett

Granted, given my benefit of hindsight, I think that this is most probably the case. This was Woody in his ‘comedy years’ – where all of his project just had a gay abandon of quick one-liners and side-splitting psychiatric prose. This is illustrated in a very blatant way within this interview – as with everything that Woody says always seems to ends with a – boom-boom – gag. Heck, even when he was playing the Clarinet – which was very good at by the way – he could not help but turn it into... errr... how did he put it? “A masterpiece of comedic satire”.

Oh! That reminds me, this was another thing that showed up in this show too – Woody’s confidence. He must have been on cloud nine to say some of the things that he said, because he had an almost debonair attitude about his failed marriages and his work in general. To juxtapose this point however, was Woody's fear of death – which he illustrated by conveying how he keeps a ‘strict regime’ of healthy living, whilst trying to stay away from ‘sick people’ or ‘bad habits’.

Woody Allen Buy My Book

But this is what the man was like at this time, huh? Like it or lump it. Personally speaking, I liked it – and that is probably why I wanted to know more about the man behind the funny face. This is a good show, and is well worth a watch if you are a fan of Jewish humor, smutty innuendo, Jazz, and of course... Woody Allen. Funny interview.