Jewish Journal


June 22, 2009

Allen David Stern


I went to see Woody Allen’s movie “Whatever Works” yesterday, watching Larry David do Woody Allen on screen.

Only Richard Corliss in Time magazine got it right.  This is a terrific movie.  Kenny Turan at The LA Times,  Anthony Lane in The New Yorker, the guy in The New York Times, especially Benjamin Ivry in The Forward— they should apologize for their reviews of this movie. The audience applauded at the end. At the screen. They knew no one up there could hear them, and they still troubled themselves to clap. Believe me, that wasn’t happening over at “The Proposal.”

So go see it.  And if you’re a Stern fan, you’ll sit there and be struck at how much the David/Allen character reminds you of Howard.  It could only have been more perfect if Woody had named the character Allen David Stern.

Woody Allen. Larry David. Howard Stern.  Allen David Stern.

They are, when you think about it, one man.

Sons of battered immigrants, marinated in mother guilt, fascinated and fearful of the outside world, sickly ambitious and hence resolutely disciplined and productive, heavily therapized, prone to anhedonia

…And funny as shit.

It always bothered me when Stern railed against Woody Allen.  It felt like the folks were fighting. That was back when Allen left Mia Farrow for her


(CORRECTION: adopted daughter) Soon Yi.  I got the sense Stern was not just legitimately outraged by Allen’s behavior, but that he was personally friendly with Farrow (Stern-the-professional clearly has a web of personal entertainment industry connections that play into how Stern-the-entertainer reacts on air.)

To me, it felt like fratricide, like the scene in Avalon when the two uncles couldn’t sit at the same table (“YOU CUT THE TURKEY!!!”)  After all, Stern and Allen are two men who couldn’t be more similar in their backgrounds, their humor, their brilliant use of satire, and their impact on the larger culture.  Then comes Larry David, the third musketeer. Call them the latter day Marx Brothers, except they’re not Groucho, Harpo and Chico,they’re Groucho, Groucho and Groucho.  They’re not the Three Stooges, they’re Moe, Moe, and Moe.

Like Groucho and Moe, they’re the big brothers, the leaders, the ones who at the end of the day need only their brains, words and wit.  Each of them is, as Larry David’s character in Whatever Works says, “a man with a huge worldview.”

It’s the worldview of the eternal outsider, no matter how much fame and money and critical success they achieve.  It’s how come on today’s show, when Howard was interviewing Lydia Hearst, the model/actress/heiress to the Hearst fortune, and he asks her what kind of provisions her parents have set out in her trust fund, he quickly adds, “Obviously, no Jews, right?”

That’s the humor of someone who no matter how much they’ve arrived, will never fully feel like he’s arrived.

Thank God.

And thank God for our culture Allen David Stern has a son, and his name is Sasha Barron Cohen.


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