Sunday, May 31, 2009

I don't think "Tummler" means what NY Magazine thinks it means

New York magazine came out last week with a cover story asking if the age of the Woody Allen schlemile is over.

As a professional schlub, I suppose I should weigh in on this. My considered answer is: No.

Of course, there is only one Woody. There will never be another.

And even though I acknowledge that a modern day funnyman like, say, Seth Rogen is not Woody Allen by any stretch, they're of a similar species. Rogen might not be as neurotic or apologetic as Woody Allen, but he's got the self-effacing quality down. Other comedians can come up with Woody's brand of heady, intellectual jokes.

In short, there will be similar variations on the Woody Allen persona for as long as Jews are doing stand-up comedy (which I think should be until the earth falls into the sun.) A "nebbish" and "schlemile" (which is essentially Woody Allen's schtick) are classic Jewish archetypes. Why would they disappear with Woody?

There is one other thing about the article that I'd like to point out:

The inside headline is "Twilight of the Tummlers." Now, I appreciate that you have to cut a headline a little slack, but Woody Allen isn't really a tummler.

A tummler, according to the great Leo Rosten, is:

1. One who creates a lot of noise (tummel) but accomplishes little.

2. A funmaker, a "live wire", a clown, a prankster, the "life of the party."

3. The paid social director and entertainer in those Catskill resorts that constitute "the Borscht Belt."

In other words, not Woody Allen or Larry David.