Steve Martin: A Wild And Crazy Guy

steve-martin.jpgIf you polled my peers asking for the top comedians of my generation, Steve Martin will in everyone’s top 2 or three. He was not just funny but funny in a different way. In the early years of his success he would come out in a white suit looking quite dapper and then make you laugh uncontrollably through the mix of wit and absurdity of both his words and movements. To get the full effect of a Steve Martin gag it had to be seen as well as heard.

I saw him live in the late 1970s at the height of his popularity as a stand up performer.  He was not so well known at that moment that people would call out the punch lines before he could say them. Phenomenally funny was he. Like many of the best of his day I quietly mourned when the comedian felt a need to move on to greater things, starting as a comic actor in movies and then eventually feeling the need to prove themselves as a great actor by doing something serious. Like Woody Allen and Robin Williams, Steve had success but it was no longer all about the laughs. (Woody more than the other two provided uproariously funny movies for awhile.) I liked some of the Steve Martin movies such as Parenthood and Roxanne. However for pure funny his best work came in sketches on SNL.

He has recently written a book titled, “Born Standing: A Comic’s Life”. This book describes his years as a stand up comic and why he chose to move on at the height of his fame. Here are a couple of quotes from an interview on NPR that I found interesting:

“I just believe that the interesting time in a career is pre-success, what shaped things, how did you get to this point?”  “I think it’s somehow an American story in a strange way, because I started untalented. I didn’t have any gifts except perseverance.”

And from his book:

“My most persistent memory of stand-up is of my mouth being in the present and my mind being in the future: the mouth speaking the line, the body delivering the gesture, while the mind looks back, observing, analyzing, judging, worrying, and then deciding when and what to say next. Enjoyment while performing was rare…” (emphasis added)

I am going out to read this book. I do not like to analyze what makes something funny– that tends to take the funny out of it. I do however like to know what makes certain people funny especially those able to make a career and a life out of it. (One of the lives I lead in some alternative universe.)

So whether as King Tut, the pairing with Dan Akroyd as the Wild and Crazy brothers on SNL or as the highest paid balloon artist of all time, think of Steve Martin. It is sure to make you laugh.

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About 48facets
What you read is what you get.

2 Responses to Steve Martin: A Wild And Crazy Guy

  1. Frank says:

    Man, he’s my all-time favorite. I saw him a few times in 1978-79. Once at the International Amphitheatre (while it was at its worst, and Steve Martin was at his best). Man, it was A Wild and Crazy Guy times. Everyone knew every word.

    I didn’t know he wrote biography (I read his other stuff….like Cruel Shoes). I’ll have to get that. Thanks for the flashback to some really great laughs.

  2. 48facets says:

    Frank, he was a very funny guy. I have not read Cruel Shoes. I have read books by Woody Allen and other comedians but i never found them to be as funny as their routines. The only one I liked was a book of letters written by Groucho. Did you like cruel shoes?

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