Most people know that Woody Allen was a stand-up comedian before he was a filmmaker, but what you may not realize is that he basically described the plot of Midnight in Paris in his act 50 years ago. The audio clip (discovered by Nerdist), “Lost Generation,” from the album Standup Comic, is above, which I’ve helpfully transcribed for you below (yay, prepositions!):
“I was in Europe, I was in Europe many years ago with Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway had just written his first novel, and Gertrude Stein and I read it, and we said that it was a good novel, but not a great one, that it needed some work, but it could be a fine book. And we laughed over it, and Hemingway punched me in the mouth.
That winter, Picasso lived on the Rue de Bach. And he had just painted a naked dental hygienist in the middle of the Gobi Desert. Gertrude Stein said it was a good picture, but not a great one. And I said it could be a fine picture, and we laughed over it, and Hemingway punched me in the mouth.
I remember Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald came home from their wild new year’s eve party. It was April. Scott had just written Great Expectations, and Gertrude Stein and I read it, and we said it was a good book, but there was no need to have written it, because Charles Dickens had already written it, and we laughed over it, and Hemingway punched me in the mouth.
That winter we went to Spain to see Manolete fight. And he looked to me 18, and Gertrude Stein said no he was 19, but that he only looked 18, and I said sometimes a boy of 18 will look 19, and other times, a 19-year-old can easily look 18, and that’s the way it is with a true Spaniard. And we laughed over that, and Gertrude Stein punched me in the mouth.”
I’m a little conflicted hearing this. On the one hand, I don’t think it’s the funniest bit ever – I don’t mean that as an insult, it just seems like a bit designed more for applause than for laughter, for the audience to be more impressed than amused (it is impressive). On the other, I’m jealous of an audience (supposedly recorded at Mr. Kelley’s in Chicago in 1964, the Shadows in DC in 1965, and Eugene’s in San Francisco in 1968) sophisticated enough to go nuts for comedy based entirely on literary references. Being a some-time stand-up myself (COME SEE ME IN LA THIS WEEK! TIP YOUR SERVERS, TRY THE VEAL, WHAT’S UP WITH AIRLINE FOOD!), I can tell you first-hand that I’ve tried literature-based material on contemporary audiences before, and the response I got was more along the lines of (*confused silence*) and “F*CK YOU, F*GGOT!”
Now I mostly just shout “pussy” and talk about my dick a lot. Oh, the creative process.