NR Digital

Bureaucratic Warfare

by Kyle Smith

Circa 1965, when the War on Poverty was just about to be won and total federal spending stood at $118 billion, a Woody Allen routine called “The Police” went as follows: “I was once sitting home in my house, and a lot of cars pulled up around the house. They shined in searchlights, and I heard a voice over the loudspeaker say, ‘We have your house surrounded. [Pause.] This is the New York Public Library.’”

Here the audience on a classic recording of the act can be heard breaking into laughs, which grow as Allen waxes ever more absurd: “They wanted their books back. . . . The little librarian was lobbing grenades over the house. . . . They took me down to the main branch on Fifth Avenue in New York, and they took away my glasses for a year.”

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