Which sofa is the world's most famous? And
where is it located?
The answer lies in North London, at the Freud
Museum, 20 Maresfield Gardens, Hampstead, London. This is where
Sigmund Freud made his home (and set up his famous consulting rooms
and couch), after he fled the Nazi annexation of Austria - the
Anschluss - in 1938. Preserved at the museum is Freud's study, just
as he left it after many years receiving patients, and located in
the study is the world's most famous sofa, source of numerous
complexes, butt of countless cartoons and jokes.
Like Freud, the world's most famous sofa didn't
start its life in London. It began its climb to fame in Austria, in
its original location at Berggasse 19 in Vienna. This was the
address of Freud's original home when he was researching and
devising his ground-breaking psychological theories.
The sofa itself - covered in rugs and looking
comfortable, casual and inviting - is understandably famous, given
its critical role in the development of psychoanalysis. What is
probably much less well known is the fact that Sigmund Freud's own
chair is also preserved in the study. This chair, described as
having a 'green tub' design, is where he discreetly positioned
himself, out of sight of his patients on the sofa, while they 'free
Psychoanalysis, free association, sofas and all
the other terms commonly linked to Freudian psychoanalysis, have
been a rich source of jokes for comedians, cartoonists and others
for decades since, and no-one has been more active on this front
than Woody Allen, a patient, student and observer of psychoanalysts
- better known as shrinks - for around 40 years.
'I was in analysis. I was suicidal. As a matter
of fact, I would have killed myself, but I was in analysis with a
strict Freudian and if you kill yourself they make you pay for the
sessions you miss.'
In a scene from "ANNIE HALL":
WOODY ALLEN: I got time. I've got nothing 'til
my analyst appointment.
DIANE KEATON: Oh? You see an analyst?
WOODY ALLEN: Just for 15 years.
DIANE KEATON: Fifteen years!
WOODY ALLEN: I'm going to give him one more
year and then I'm going to Lourdes.
'The... the other important joke, for me, is
one that's usually attributed to Groucho Marx; but, I think it
appears originally in Freud's "Wit and Its Relation to the
Unconscious", and it goes like this - I'm paraphrasing - um, "I
would never want to belong to any club that would have someone like
me for a member." That's the key joke of my adult life, in terms of
my relationships with women.'
Woody Allen is not the only celebrity to find
humour in psychoanalysis, psychoanalysts and their sofas.
Dave Barry says: 'My therapist told me the way
to achieve true inner peace is to finish what I start. So far
today, I have finished 2 bags of M&M's and a chocolate cake. I
feel better already.'
Michelle Pfeiffer says: 'Like all parents, my
husband and I just do the best we can, hold our breath and hope
we've set aside enough money for our kid's therapy.'
Another observes: 'A woman took her husband to
the psychiatrist's because he thought he was a dog. "Why don't you
sit on the couch?" the psychiatrist said when they arrived. "Oh,
no" said the woman. "He's not allowed on the furniture."'
But perhaps the final word belongs to John
Wayne, who didn't have much time for sofas and psychoanalysis: 'I
stick to simple themes. Love. Hate. No nuances. I stay away from
psychoanalyst's couch scenes. Couches are good for one thing.'