Before Woody Allen set his sights on becoming the next Ingmar Bergman, he made a fleeting (but largely successful) attempt at becoming the next S.J Perelman. Side Effects, his third and final collection of humor pieces, shows his efforts. These essays appeared in The New Yorker during the late 1970s, as he showed more and more discontent with his funnyman status. Fear not, humor fans-Allen’s still funny. He is less manic, however, than in his positively goofy Getting Even/Without Feathers days, and this makes Side Effects a more nuanced read. Woody picks and chooses when to flash the laughs, as in an article discussing UFOs:
[I]n 1822 Goethe himself notes a strange celestial phenomenon. “En route home from the Leipzig Anxiety Festival,” he wrote, “I was crossing a meadow, when I chanced to look up and saw several fiery red balls suddenly appear in the southern sky. They descended at a great rate of speed and began chasing me. I screamed that I was a genius and consequently could not run very fast, but my words were wasted. I became enraged and shouted imprecations at them, whereupon they flew away frightened. I related this story to Beethoven, not realizing he had already gone deaf, and he smiled and nodded and said, “Right.”
Though not as explosively, mind-alteringly funny as his earlier books, Side Effects is still loaded with chuckles; the much-anthologized “Kugelmass Episode” is worth the price of the book. For fans of his films-or for anyone who wants a final glimpse of Woody in his first, best role as court jester, Side Effects is a must-have. -Michael GerberA humor classic by one of the funniest writers today, SIDE EFFECTS is a treat for all those who know his work and those just discovering how gifted he is. Included here are such classics as REMEMBERING NEEDLEMAN, THE KUGELMASS EPISODE, a new sory called CONFESSIONS OF A BUGLAR, and more.