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The Last of the New York Jewish Movie Comedies?

posted by Nell Minow

New York Magazine uses the upcoming release of a new film by Woody Allen to consider whether this may be the last of the kind of comedy he exemplifies, the New York Jewish schnook, nebbish, and shlemiel comedy, focusing on “a brand of Jewish humor that has, in recent years, been all but scrubbed out–neurotic, depressive, abrasive, excluded.”
The movie is “Whatever Works,” directed by Allen and starring Larry David, like Allen a witer/director/performer specializing in being “neurotic, depressive, abrasive, [and] excluded.” The film is a throwback to Allen’s earlier films. It is his first movie in years to be set in New York, the location for his best-loved movies. Allen not only named one of his most acclaimed films “Manhattan” but made the city one of the most appealing characters in the movies. Often his lead characters’ only unconflicted affection is directed at the city.
And those nostalgic for Allen’s earlier work have a special treat in store.


Whatever Works, which opens June 19, is both a greeting and a farewell, a film that marks Allen’s return to the city he abruptly abandoned, cinematically speaking, several years ago, as well as a reminder that a certain kind of comedy of which he was once the undisputed master has vanished and is being resurrected only because of an unlikely convergence of circumstances. Remember the Woody Allen of the seventies, the guy who several generations of New Yorkers decided was the comedic poet laureate of their era of the city? The man with whom they had a great first date (1973’s Sleeper) that deepened into a full-on relationship (1977’s Annie Hall) and then further enriched itself into true love (1979’s Manhattan), because we always fall in love with the one who makes us laugh? Whatever Works is, in essence, the missing movie from that period–the film that would have rounded out the New York phase of Allen’s early career if only he had made it.

The whole article is well worth reading and I especially enjoyed the chart with the history of almost 6000 years of Jewish humor.

  • Alicia

    That was a marvelous article (“Twilight of the Tummlers”) – thanks for linking to it.

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