Woody Allen Amuses Himself by Giving Untruthful Answers in Unaired 1971 TV Interview

Celebrities tire of giving interviews. I’ve learned this by spending most of my career conducting interviews myself, and thus desperately trying to master asking the questions that wake up a weary interviewee, getting them engaged enough to cast aside the boilerplate and speak like a conversing human being. But what about the celebrities themselves? What can they do to spice up their experience? In 1971, the oft-interviewed Woody Allen sat down with Granada Television and took a bold move to keep things interesting, apparently challenging himself to reply to each question as untruthfully as possible. Though the conversation never aired, Allen did manage to keep up the routine for quite some time, and you can watch nearly forty minutes of it in the clip above.

The interviewer asks Allen for a synopsis of his new picture. “It’s a drama about human emotion in the United States,” the director flatly replies. “It deals with the tragedy of divorce as it relates to the children and those who have to suffer continually from the effects of an unhappy home.” So it contains no comedy whatsoever, then? “No, I try and keep as much comedy out of my films as possible.” The film ostensibly under discussion: Bananas. Asked question after broad, brief question, Allen lobs back ever drier and more implausible fabrications. His dedicated fans, though, will notice that he does slip in a factual statement. Asked if he watches his own films, he says no; and indeed, he famously never looks back at past work. The increasingly nervous-sounding interviewer (who may be in on the joke?) asks why. “Because I don’t have the patience to sit through them.”

h/t @lit_hum

Related content:

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Woody Allen Boxes a Kangaroo, 1966

Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on literature, film, cities, Asia, and aesthetics. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.



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  1. Jeff says . . . | April 26, 2013 / 7:14 am

    Great interview. Really funny. Is there any chance that we can watch the unaired “Harvey Wallinger Story”… Out of the Paley Center in NYC, I was never able to see it.

  2. John Gutierrez says . . . | April 28, 2013 / 2:31 pm

    Dear Lord, that’s as hard as I’ve laughed in a long time! Just a terrific interview. Bravo to Woody for never breaking character.

  3. Joe says . . . | April 28, 2013 / 7:25 pm

    The word genius is overused, but not here.

  4. Alibrando says . . . | April 28, 2013 / 7:35 pm

    I can almost see the conversation in his head thinking “How dumb is this interviewer?” I think Woody Allen is intellectually challenged by how amazingly this interviewer keeps asking him incredibly lame questions without any sign of realizing Woody Allen is not serious so it turns into a marathon sarcasm that is incredible. Lots of laughs.

  5. Wesley says . . . | April 28, 2013 / 8:30 pm

    This is really great to watch, but how can any of you think the interviewer is NOT in on this, when at 12.13 he breaks out laughing and asks to take a break.

  6. Daedalus says . . . | April 30, 2013 / 7:47 am

    The interviewer is not in on it, but there’s no way in all of hades the interviewer didn’t get what was going on after ten seconds of that interviewer. Because he’s very, very good at what he does, he’s rolling with it.

  7. Walter says . . . | May 4, 2013 / 10:33 pm

    Brilliant! After the interviewer asks for a break at 12:13, you can clearly see Woody break character.

  8. Lawrence Bayne says . . . | May 13, 2013 / 10:32 am

    Alibrando, I fervently hope you are being sarcastic from start to end of your contribution.

  9. Mr LaJavanaise says . . . | May 15, 2013 / 8:56 am

    The interviewer in this clip is actually Johnnie Hamp, the producer of ‘Cinema’ who also produced ‘The Woody Allen Show’ on British TV in ’65. He has given an exclusive interview to comedian Matt Roper revealing the background to this session: http://www.cinemasauce.com/all-about-woody

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