Clip: Woody Allen Vs. William F. Buckley

In this clip from a 1967 episode of The Kraft Music Hall, Woody Allen invites William F. Buckley to help field questions from the audience. I love it because a 9-minute Q&A segment would be unthinkable on network television today and because it reveals so much about both the times and the two hosts. It actually reminds me a bit of Jon Stewart’s appearances with Bill O’Reilly.

One thing you notice is how skilled Woody Allen is at hosting, deploying a consistently funny response to each question, with playful digs at Buckley like, “Mr. Buckley can’t do any dance invented after 1860.” Buckley, meanwhile, leers hideously, eyes unexpectedly widening to the size of dinner plates, and gives multiple troubling responses. For example, when a young woman asks, “Mr. Buckley, do you think miniskirts are in good taste?” he answers, “On you they are,” and looks at her in a way I would describe as “predatory”.

But the juiciest dramatic irony comes when someone asks whether the Israelis should give back the land they won from the Arabs. While Allen gives a facetious answer, Buckley describes how war, though messy, often settles things, predicting the Arab nations will eventually recognize Israel’s claim and the region will calm down. Oh so wrong. Deliciously, horribly wrong about everything all at once.

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