Fools and Jesters in Literature, Art, and History: A Bio-Bibliographical Sourcebook

By Vicki K. Janik; Emmanuel S. Nelson | Go to book overview

Woody Allen
The Clown as Tragic Hero

( United States: 1935- )

Douglas Brode

The child-molestation scandal that all but destroyed Woody Allen's career in the early 1990s appears, at first glance, to have come from nowhere. Before the accusations, there was Allen the writer, director, and star of contemporary comedy, the clown prince as existential philosopher and acute social observer who over three decades had transformed himself from a popular stand-up performer to the artist behind some extraordinarily funny films, even being named the American Ingmar Bergman, as if Lear's Fool had somehow transmogrified into the King himself.


BACKGROUND

The modern myth of Woody Allen began on December 1, 1935, when a son, Allen Stewart, was born to Martin and Nettie Cherry Konigsberg of Flatbush, a lower-middle-class section of Brooklyn. As a little boy, Allen barely tolerated his family, preferring to steal off to his room, where he would eat alone, then practice magic tricks and teach himself the clarinet by listening to classic jazz records and jamming along with them. Allen's father worked at many jobs, and his mother was a bookkeeper in a Brooklyn floral shop. They were religious, so young Allen attended Hebrew school for eight years. To his chagrin, Allen's only sibling, a sister, became a teacher. He disdained formal education and claimed of his days at Midwood High, "I loathed every day and regret every day I spent in school. I like to be taught to read and write and then be left alone."

In the meantime, he avoided extracurricular activities that bright students are

-25-

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