December 13, 2008

My whole fallacy is wrong?

Allen S. Konigsberg is a musician, a jazz clarinetist, playwright, philosopher, and a most clever writer of jokes. Both the man and his work are either loved or reviled. Mention the name by which he is commonly known to just about any reasonably read person and you’ll witness either a wry smile or disapproving scowl.

Raised in Brooklyn, Konigsberg‘s early education included eight years of Hebrew school. In a piece typical of his style, Konigsberg once wrote that he was “raised in the Jewish tradition, taught never to marry a Gentile woman, shave on Saturday, and most especially, never to shave a Gentile woman on Saturday.” This is the genre of joke that made him popular.

While still in high school he earned a little money selling gags to newspaper columnists. His work was noticed and he was hired to write for some popular radio shows. His client list grew with his reputation, and he was soon writing one liners for the likes of Sid Caesar and Herb Shriner.

Konigsberg is a voracious reader, mostly of texts with at least a passing concerns for philosophy, death and religion, so it is natural that his writing would be related. His humor is best appreciated by those familiar with the religious and philosophical pretentiousness of some of the better known scribes.

Many of his jokes were oriented to his Jewish upbringing. In one of his pieces, Konigsberg offered a parody on Hassidic tales. He concluded the thesis with “Why pork was proscribed by Hebraic law is still unclear, and some scholars believe that the Torah merely suggested not eating pork at certain restaurants.”

He was once quoted as saying “I was raised fairly religiously and never took to it very much. It was more or less a forced religious background.” Over the years, Konigsberg wrote a number of pieces on a variety of topics, but most concentrated on death, religion, or both.

His religious beliefs (or actually lack thereof) have become more evident as he produced more work. Mostly he relates his philosophy and confusion with religious belief systems in the form of humor. “I do not believe in an afterlife, although I am bringing a change of underwear.”

He spoofs his failed attempts at college by telling of the abstract philosophy courses he attended, such as “Introduction to God,” “Death 101” and “Intermediate Truth.” He claims his downfall to be when he cheated on his metaphysics final. “I looked within the soul of the boy sitting next to me.”

The agnostic in his soul is revealed in one of his more popular screenplays, in which he reveals his belief in the possibility that we may not really know it all. In one scene his character Boris asks Sonya “What if there is no God? What if we’re just a bunch of absurd people who are running around with no rhyme or reason?”

Sonya replies: “But if there is no God, then life has no meaning. Why go on living? Why not just commit suicide?”

Boris is flustered by this response and replies: “Well, let’s not get hysterical. I could be wrong. I’d hate to blow my brains out and then read in the papers they found something.”

Later Boris is depicted to be dead as he delivers an epilogue: “If it turns out that there is a God, I don’t think he is evil. I think that the worst thing you can say about him is that he is an underachiever.”

I can’t think of an intelligent person I’ve ever met that didn’t have a favorite film by Allen S. Konigsberg, AKA Woody Allen.

“The faithful who would save my soul tell me God is everywhere and in all things. That would mean that God is in beer. So I reason that the more I drink the holier I will become. As I write this I’m feeling pretty damn holy”

Anhedonia, which means the inability to experience pleasure, was the last proposed title for the movie, Annie Hall



J.R.Shirley said...

" think that the worst thing you can say about him is that he is an underachiever."

While I would say that would be the best thing that could be said of "him".


Mule Breath... said...

Remember, That was Woody's joke, not mine. :>)

J.R.Shirley said...

Yeah, I got that. :-)

Rogue Medic said...

First you are so critical of the movies, then you are writing about . . . the movies? :-)

Mule Breath... said...

No, no, no!

Not the movie. The movie was only the medium. I'm ranting about the messenger and the message

...don't you see... ;>)

Rogue Medic said...

So what is your favorite Marshall McLuhan movie?

Speaking of trivia. :-)

Mule Breath... said...

You do a good job of reading between the lines. I'm impressed.

Pretty trivial alright. Woody preached in McLuhan's favor. They were friends for some reason that I don't remember and Woody took a bullet for McLuhan. I never watched any of the movies, but his books I can tell you about. Somewhere on my shelves is a copy of The Mechanical Bride. Last time I tried to buy a first edition I was rather shocked. Should have kept the one I had way back when. Mine is a paperback reprint, but the first edition came off the presses the same year as my birth. More trivia.

Rogue Medic said...

I was referring to his role in Annie Hall. Speaking of trivia.