Woody Allen as Charlie Chaplin (photo by Irving Penn, 1972)



“People have trouble with conceptual comic ideas. I come up with one like a giant breast (in Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex, But Were Afraid to Ask, a marauding 15-foot-tall breast terrorizes the population until Allen’s character lures it into a two-story-high bra) and they have trouble with it. They find it hard to say, ‘My God, what a funny concept that is, an enormous breast. It’s so ridiculous.’ They laugh joke by joke within it. So I feel discouraged in terms of presenting funny conceptual notions.

Actually, I have a conceptual notion that I get a machine that projects me into a work of fiction because I’m in love with Anna Karenina or something, and I have an affair with her there, and finally she comes to New York and I stash her in a hotel room in town and cheat on my wife with her. I’ve been toying with that idea in different forms – that my wife is involved with J. Alfred Prufrock and I go to find her, or this guy has a machine that will project me into Anna Karenina, for instance, or Madame Bovary because I’m in love with her and it goes wrong and projects me into a French grammar book by mistake and there are no humans but only verbs and other parts of speech.*

The problem with doing it is you say the concept in one line and it’s funny, but to show the concept you ultimately have to proceed joke by joke. You wind up still having to do a million jokes. It’s not that the audience says, ‘Oh, my God, how funny this idea is, to be in Anna Karenina.’ They say, ‘Oh, yeah, we’re there. Now what? What’s the joke?’

-Woody Allen, 1974.

*The finished story, The Kugelmass Episode, can be read here.

Johannes Florenus Guidantus (Italian, 1687–1760)

Viola d’amore, 18th century


Spruce, maple, ebony; 7 15/16 x 22 5/8 in. (20.2 x 57.5 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Amati Gifts, 2009 (2009.41)

The viola d’amore, or viola “of love,” is a bowed stringed instrument which gained great popularity in the eighteenth century. Much of its history, including the derivation of its name, is unknown. It has many characteristics of the viol family such as a flat back, ribs that are flush with the top and back, and a rosette in addition to sound holes. Yet, like a violin, it is unfretted and held under the chin while played. Violas d’amore typically have seven playing strings, though instruments with other numbers of strings are not unusual. Perhaps the most distinguishable characteristic of the eighteenth-century viola d’amore is the presence of sympathetic strings, which are not played but located behind the bowed strings and vibrate “in sympathy.” The sympathetic strings contribute to produce a tone that is clear and often described as “silvery,” as well as creating a more resonant sound with a longer decay. The viola d’amore was popular with eighteenth-century composers and can be found in the works of J. S. Bach, Vivaldi, Telemann, Haydn, and Locatelli.

This festooned viola d’amore survives in its unaltered, original condition. This example has seven playing strings that are bowed, and behind the tailpiece and fingerboard are seven sympathetic strings that ring “in sympathy” with the bowed strings. Violas d’amore often have carved figural heads, usually with either a blindfold or shut eyes—a reference to the adage “love is blind.” metmuseum