Astonishing as it may seem to some people, there once was a time when Woody Allen was a funny, likeable and endearing entertainer whose unique brand of comedy in the 1960s and early 1970s was eagerly anticipated and enjoyed by television audiences.
Back in 1960, Allen Stewart Konigsberg left a lucrative $1,700 a week job as a writer on the Garry Moore TV show with a desire to perform his own jokes. After a tough first year as a standup comic in Greenwich Village clubs working for free, the act performed by this unassuming nerdy, short guy with red hair and big glasses - a unique blend of observations about sex, politics, machines, crime, religion, psychiatrists and urban living - took form making Woody Allen, as he would state, "Successful at comedy beyond my interest in comedy."
Spurred on by his managers Jack Rollins and Charles H. Joffe, Woody then accepted offers to appear on any kind on television program in the 1960s.
The list of these shows is amazingly diverse: Ed Sullivan, David Susskind, Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin, Jack Paar, Joe Franklin, Virginia Graham, Steve Allen, Mike Douglas, John Gary, Dick Cavett, Andy Williams, Dean Martin, Joe Namath, Hootenanny, Hippodrome, Hullabaloo, I've Got A Secret, What's My Line, Password, Kraft Music Hall, That Was The Week That Was, Candid Camera and even the 1964 New York Mets post-game show.
On all of these shows Woody Allen standup routines such as 'the moose story,' 'Neanderthal man in the lobby' and 'thugs invade Shakespeare in the park' are all done with enthusiasm and cheerfulness.
Here is a look of his best television work from what is nostalgically referred to as 'Woody Allen's Early/Funny Years.'
CAMERA' (1961, CBS)
JACK PAAR SHOW' (December 14, 1962, NBC)
GOT A SECRET' (April 19, 1965, CBS)
ALLEN' (February 17, 1965, GRANADA)
WAS THE WEEK THAT WAS' (1965, NBC)
BEST ON RECORD' (May 18, 1965, NBC)
KELLY IN NEW YORK, NEW YORK'
Here, Woody receives the most elaborate introduction of his show-business career as a troupe of a dozen singers and dancers parade down Bleeker Street in Greenwich Village and march into the Bitter End nightclub singing "WOOODDDEEEEE ALLLLLLENNNNNN!!!!" before they collapse on the club's floor. The monologue Woody then delivers is important historically in that none of the material was ever released on a comedy album. It's an hilarious account of Woody's family tree starting in ancient Rome ("The Allens were orgy caterers who made wild things out of potato salad."). An Allen was the first comic who, after receiving the 10 commandments told Moses to, "'Take these two tablets and call me in the morning.' Moses was so amused that he could hardly smite him."
Other Allens included the inventor of cowardice, a Jewish Indian tribe and a strange relative who thought he was a 500 pound block of ice. Later in the show Kelly encounters Woody at part of his residence - a double decker British bus parked on 44th street. He explains to Gene that his kitchen is on Staten Island and his bedroom is in a sleazy Times Square hotel.
When Gene asks Woody if he ever feels that he's a bit unusual, Woody replies, "Yes, that's what kept me out of the Army. They wrote on my induction form 'This boy is a little unusual. Don't let him fight for our country.'"
Just before the big musical finale, the British singer Tommy Steele finds Woody playing a grand piano on the sidewalk in front of the Plaza hotel on 59th Street. Atop the piano is Yetta, a stunning blonde. Steele asks Woody, "How do you get a grand piano on a 59th Street sidewalk?" "You rent one," replies the tuxedo clad comedian.
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Woody Allen - Part One
Woody Allen's TV Shows - Part Two
Woody Allen on TV - Part Three
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