Is 2013 the Year Comedy Legends Come Back to Stand-Up?

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Maybe stand-up comebacks of legendary comics will be the hot trend of 2013, if we're lucky. A number of first ballot comedy hall-of-famers are loudly debating returning this year to the joke routines that made them famous after, in some cases, decades doing other things. 

Woody Allen has spent most of the last 40-odd years doing movies and avoiding the cold crowds and hot lights of the stand-up circuit. But in a recent interview with The New York Times' Dave Itzkoff, the comedy legend said he's mulling a comeback to the comedy club stage. While promoting his new movie Blue Jasmine, starring comics Louis C.K. and Andrew Dice Clay, Allen sat down with Itzkoff to talk primarily about the evolution of women in Woody Allen movies.

But it didn't take long for the two to get off topic, naturally, and in a sidebar the director/writer revealed he was recently longing for the intimacy of the stage: "I’ve just been toying with the idea," Allen said of a potential comeback. "I would love to see if I could. Just getting together an hour of stuff to talk about would be a lot of work," he added. Allen explained the small hint of inspiration came from seeing one of his old comedy idols perform well beyond the age of retirement: 

I was inspired the other night – in the other room here where I play [the Cafe Carlyle at the Carlyle Hotel], I saw Mort Sahl. He flew in from San Francisco, and he worked three late shows and he was wonderful. He’s slowed up a little now because he’s 85. He’s not as rapid as he was when he was 35. But all the stuff is still there. Watching him, I had the same feeling now, in 2013, as I had when I saw him in 1950-something. Of, “Hey, I’d like to get back onstage and do standup again.” He inspired me then to be a standup comic, and all these years later, I thought of it again because of him. He makes that phenomenon so enticing.

The best part: Allen is far from the only comedian talking openly about picking up the microphone again. There's that Dave Chapelle comeback tour, possibly with Chris Rock, who may just break out on a tour of his own, coming within the next 12 months. Keenan Ivory Wayans said he and Eddie Murphy, who has publicly mulled a comeback for a few years now, were going to workshop some new material this year to see if they still had the magic touch. That's an interesting pattern of old guys who have proven themselves and don't need the money wanting to perform stand-up comedy, as unforgiving a creative outlet as they come, for no reason beyond being funny for the sake of being funny. We know Chapelle and Rock are happening for sure, at least alone, and maybe together. Hopefully the other three follow through, too.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.