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Getting Even Mass Market Paperback – August 12, 1978
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After three decades of prodigious film work (and some unfortunate tabloid adventures as well), it's easy to forget that Woody Allen began his career as one heck of a great comedy writer. Getting Even, a collection of his late '60s magazine pieces, offers a look into Allen's bag of shtick, back when it was new. From the supposed memoirs of Hitler's barber: "Then, in January of 1945, a plot by several generals to shave Hitler's moustache in his sleep failed when von Stauffenberg, in the darkness of Hitler's bedroom, shaved off one of the Führer's eyebrows instead..."
Even though the idea of writing jokes about old Adolf--or addled rabbis, or Maatjes herring--isn't nearly as fresh as it used to be, Getting Even still delivers plenty of laughs. At his best, Woody can achieve a level of transcendent craziness that no other writer can match. If you're looking for a book to dip into at random, or a gift for someone who's seen Sleeper 13 times, Getting Even is a dead lock.
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I do believe Woody was making an attempt to be funny in this book but he didn't come through for me. The "humor" was so dry it was brittle like a bread crumb that had been sitting out all night. Maybe old old schoolers will get it.
If you want a fun book to read that will make you laugh maybe try Larry David or David Brenner ?
Allen is a master of parody. The pseudo-intellectual silliness in the review of "The Metterling Lists" and the life of the Earl of Sandwich in "Yes, But Can the Steam Engine Do This?" are laugh-out-loud hysterical. "Conversations with Hemholz" is a lesser light about one of the alleged founders of psychoanalysis and the petty rivalries that tickle the funny bone. "Schmeed's Memoirs" about the top Nazi barber is a miss.
The "Hassidic Tales" are also top-rate Allen on display. The interpretations of rabbinical misfits by his "noted scholar" are wonderfully absurd justifications for equally absurd behavior. His "Death Knocks" is a weak first encounter with one of his most famous and laughable fears.
The other pieces in the collection from chess-by-mail to encounters with Hemingway, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas all have their moments. One can foresee the germination of "Bananas" in "Viva Vargas" and "Play it Again, Sam" in "Mr. Big." Curiously, in this volume sex takes a holiday since there are no pieces on his second greatest obsession next to death.
If you are an Allen fan this small volume is well worth buying at the price for which it is now selling. Since it is a collection of separate pieces you also have the luxury of reading each in any order at any time. I enjoyed reading early Woody, not only for the laughs but also for a view of the potential that would make him a legend later.