e can only presume that Steve Martin enjoys the work he's been doing on "The Pink Panther" and "Cheaper by the Dozen" films, but after having absorbed his wonderful memoir, "Born Standing Up," where he provides a funny and fascinating look back at his life as a stand-up comedian, we nonetheless have to wonder, "What happened, Steve?"
Martin was born in Waco, Texas, on Aug. 14, 1945, but he was raised in Garden Grove, Calif. It was a location that served him well, allowing him the opportunity to have a first job that precious few boys can claim: working at Disneyland. It wasn't terribly glamorous at first (he sold guidebooks), but he spent a great deal of time hanging around Merlin's the Magic Kingdom's magic shop. His fascination with the various tricks and illusions eventually resulted in scoring a job at the shop itself. (It also no doubt had a lot to do with the creation of one of his most famous routines, The Great Flydini.)
It wasn't until after he graduated from high school, however, that Martin truly began to pursue any sort of a career in show business. While attending Santa Ana Junior College, he participated in several productions at the Bird Cage Theater, inside Knott's Berry Farm. After transferring to UCLA, he switched his major from philosophy to theatre, began performing at local clubs, and – in a moment which still occasionally pops up on YouTube to this day – appeared on an episode of "The Dating Game." With his interest in show business growing with each performance, Martin left college and, thanks to Mason Williams, found a job as a writer for "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour." From there, he secured writing jobs for other variety series of the era, including "The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour" and "The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour." It wasn't until the mid-1970s, however, that he truly began to make an impact as a stand-up comedian.
Between appearances on "The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson" and "Saturday Night Live," Steve Martin soon became one of the most recognizable faces in stand-up comedy, earning a million-selling album (A Wild and Crazy Guy), a hit single ("King Tut"), and catch-phrases that were uttered a million times over by guys at least a thousand times less funny than Martin himself. (Has anyone other than Martin ever successfully gotten a laugh out of saying, "Well, excuuuuuuuuuuuuuse meeeeeee"?) His work in stand-up was often as much about his actions and sight gags as his actual punch lines. But the combination of his eccentric phrasings, his ability to blend intelligent jokes with pure silliness, and his consistently brilliant timing still hold up today, both on record and on video.
As his interest in stand-up waned, Martin slowly but surely transitioned into film work, but it wasn't what you'd call the easiest transition. While 1979's "The Jerk" was a huge hit, Martin made a couple of odd choices, including a musical ("Pennies from Heaven") and a comedic tribute to film noir ("Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid"), neither of which served to produce any career momentum. Indeed, it really wasn't until 1984's "All of Me," co-starring Lily Tomlin, where he finally managed to blend his gift for slapstick with a solid acting performance and convince audiences that he was more than just a wild and crazy guy.
After teaming with Chevy Chase and Martin Short for 1986's "Three Amigos," Hollywood began to realize that Martin could do well in both buddy comedies and ensemble pieces, thereby paving the way for "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles" (1987), "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" (1988) and "Parenthood" (1989). Meanwhile, his abilities as an intelligent screenwriter were also beginning to be recognized. "Roxanne" (1987) was easily his most mature comedy to date, and it provided the opportunity for Martin to follow with another self-written vehicle, "L.A. Story," in 1991. But let's be honest: '91 was also the year that Martin first began to slide into the dreaded world of family films, courtesy of "Father of the Bride," which proved successful enough to warrant a sequel in 1995.
Since then, classic Steve Martin films have been somewhat hard to come by. His dramatic work in 1997's "The Spanish Prisoner" and 2001's "Novocaine" were extremely memorable, and although opinions vary wildly about "Bowfinger," it's still the funniest Eddie Murphy film of the past decade. (Okay, so it's not that significant an accomplishment.) Martin's attempt to capture the spirit of Phil Silvers with "Sgt. Bilko" was a noble failure, his work with Goldie Hawn has been decidedly uneven ("Housesitter" and a remake of "The Out of Towners"), and as far as "Bringing Down the House" goes, any film where Eugene Levy gets more laughs than Steve Martin has gone terribly wrong somewhere.
Still, let's give the man some credit for his work over the course of the last decade. The "Cheaper by the Dozen" films are pleasant family fun; it was nice to see him taking a small but still funny role in "Baby Mama;" and "Shopgirl" has a good chance of being rediscovered in the future as an underrated classic. But as for these "Pink Panther" films? Well, at least we've still got Martin's stand-up.
If you're only going to own one Steve Martin album, then it should clearly be 1978's A Wild and Crazy Guy. For one thing, it contains his lone hit single, "King Tut," but more importantly, the title cut is a classic. If you remember him solely for the bunny ears and balloon animals, and have convinced yourself that Martin's comedy is way too visual to work on an album, this will disprove that theory handily. When A Wild and Crazy Guy won the Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album the following year, it was a well-deserved victory.
Let's Get Small (1977)
A Wild and Crazy Guy (1978)
Comedy is Not Pretty (1979)
The Steve Martin Brothers (1981)
"The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour" (1967-69)
"The Ray Stevens Show" (1970)
"The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour"
"The Ken Berry 'Wow' Show" (1972)
"The Smothers Brothers Show" (1975)
"Saturday Night Live"
"The Tracey Ullman Show" (1987)
"And the Band Played On" (1998)
"The Simpsons" (1998)
"30 Rock" (2008)
"Cruel Shoes" (1979)
"Picasso at the Lapin Agile and Other Plays" (1996)
"Pure Drivel" (1998)
"Kindly Lent Their Owner: The Private Collection of Steve Martin" (2001)
"The Underpants: A Play" (2002)
"The Pleasure of My Company" (2003)
"The Alphabet from A to Y with Bonus Letter Z" (2007)
"Born Standing Up" (2007)
"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" (1978)
"The Muppet Movie" (1979)
"The Jerk" (1979)
"Pennies from Heaven" (1981)
"Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid" (1982)
"The Man with Two Brains" (1983)
"The Lonely Guy" (1984)
"All of Me" (1984)
"Movers & Shakers" (1985)
"Little Shop of Horrors" (1986)
"¡Three Amigos!" (1986)
"Planes, Trains & Automobiles" (1987)
"Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" (1988)
"My Blue Heaven" (1990)
"L.A. Story" (1991)
"Father of the Bride" (1991)
"Grand Canyon" (1991)
"Leap of Faith" (1992)
"A Simple Twist of Fate" (1994)
"Mixed Nuts" (1994)
"Father of the Bride Part II" (1995)
"Sgt. Bilko" (1996)
"The Spanish Prisoner" (1997)
"The Prince of Egypt" (1998)
"The Out-of-Towners" (1999)
"Joe Gould's Secret" (2000)
"Bringing Down the House" (2003)
"Looney Tunes: Back in Action" (2003)
"Cheaper by the Dozen" (2003)
"Cheaper by the Dozen 2" (2005)
"The Pink Panther" (2006)
"Baby Mama" (2008)
Now let's repeat the non-conformists' oath: I promise to be different! I promise to be unique! I promise not to repeat things other people say!
You know, a lot of people come to me and they say, 'Steve, how can you be so fucking funny?' There's a secret to it, it's no big deal. Before I go out, I put a slice of bologna in each of my shoes. So when I'm on stage, I feel funny.
I used to make a lot of sex jokes during my show, and I've pretty much cut it out, and I'll tell you why. I think the reason I made the jokes is because I was insecure, and I've grown more secure. As a matter of fact, I quit using the amateur-phylactics. I only use the prophylactics now.
That's a myth about entertainers: they always think you meet girls. And you don't. Because here I'm in town for nine days, and you don't have time to get to know anybody. And I'm not into that one-night thing. I think a person should get to know somebody and even be in love with them before you use and degrade them.
I like a woman with a head on her shoulders. I hate necks.
If I'm in a restaurant and I'm eating and somebody says, 'Hey, mind if I smoke,' I always ask, "No, mind if I fart? It's one of my habits. Yeah, they got a special section for me on airplanes now. I quit once for a year, you know. But I gained a lot of weight. It's hard to quit, you know? After sex, I really have an urge to light one up!'
Hosting the Oscars is like making love to a beautiful woman — it's something I only get to do when Billy Crystal's out of town.
It's so hard to believe in anything anymore. I mean, it's like, religion, you really can't take it seriously, because it seems so mythological, it seems so arbitrary...but, on the other hand, science is just pure empiricism, and by virtue of its method, it excludes metaphysics. I guess I wouldn't believe in anything anymore if it weren't for my lucky astrology mood watch.
I used to smoke marijuana. But I'll tell you something: I would only smoke it in the late evening. Oh, occasionally the early evening, but usually the late evening - or the mid-evening. Just the early evening, mid-evening and late evening. Occasionally, early afternoon, early mid-afternoon, or perhaps the late-mid-afternoon. Oh, sometimes the early-mid-late-early morning…but never at dusk! Never at dusk. I would never do that.
Hey, does anybody know where I can get some cat handcuffs? I've gotta get a pair of cat handcuffs. Either two little ones like this, to go around the little paws, or a big one that hooks onto my arm and then hooks onto the cat. I found out my cat was embezzling from me. I found out that when I'm away, he goes to the mailbox, picks up the checks, take them down to the bank and cashes them. The way I caught him, I went out to his little house, where he sleeps at night, and there was like $3,000 worth of cat toys out there. And you can't return them, because they have spit all over them! I don't know where he is now. I guess he went out to Catalina, or something like that, I don't know. No, he bought a catamaran and went out…no, he got it out of a catalog. This is a catastrophe! Hey, just remember: comedy is not pretty!
|Eddie Murphy||Sam Kinison||Steve Martin||Bob Newhart||Don Rickles|
|Richard Pryor||Rodney Dangerfield||Bill Cosby||Lenny Bruce||Bill Hicks|