RARA-AVIS: Hard-boiled Stand-up Guys: Ray and Woody

From: Kevin Burton Smith ( kvnsmith@thrillingdetective.com)
Date: 05 Mar 2008

Where discussion of Woody Allen does belong on this list is where his work crosses with hard-boiled and noir fiction.

Like his short stories "Mr. Big" or "The Whore of Mensa," both featuring his P.I. Kaiser Lupowitz. Sure, they're parodies, but his riffs on the genre are dead on. And those are both literary, printed on paper and everything, so they're safe to discuss.

But even in his cinematic forays, like his 2001 film, "The Curse of the Jade Scorpion," Allen still displays a pretty developed and nuanced understanding of the hard-boiled and noir genres -- even if he is playing it for laughs. My guess is he's a long time fan of the genre, and is confident enough of its tropes to have some fun with them.

In fact, I'd go as far as to say that there's something sorta nebbishly hard-boiled and almost Chandleresque about the nature of much of Allen's work; a sort of brooding intellectual cynicism wrapped around a heart of mush. Sound familiar?

But then again, I've always sorta thought Chandler would have made a great stand-up comedian, as smart but uncomfortable in his own skin as Allen in his stand-up days. It's easy enough to picture Chandler's similes being delivered as one-liners.

"I tell ya, this dame, well, I'm not saying she was hot, but she could make a bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window."

"This guy was so ugly, man, he had a face like a collapsed lung."

The act practically writes itself.

Thank you, I'll be here all week....


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