Honest to God
, Steve Martin
is a huge part of who I am today.
That may seem disturbing but let me explain. Basically, I've been a fan of his since I was 9 years old. I actually got my older brother to buy me the album Wild and Crazy Guy so I could listen to it over, and over, and over. I still have the album largely memorized--and at the age of nine, I didn't quite understand all the jokes.
There was something about Steve's off-the-wall, completely crazy humor that spoke to me as a nerdy, out of place nine year old from Long Island who was now living in Oklahoma. My friends and I used to do his skits, recite them, honor them, even started a Steve Martin Fan Club in our 4th grade classroom.
Of course, I continued to follow his movie career starting with The Jerk, and on through The Man With Two Brains, All Of Me, Roxanne, L.A. Story, and most recently Bowfinger, (I merely mention here some of the high points) and have read extensively his books "Cruel Shoes" and "Pure Drivel" and consider them masterpieces of humor writing, and his novella Shopgirl which is a delicate postmodern statement about life in L.A..
Most of all, there's ultimately a warmth and compassion in his works that ultimately shows through, no matter how silly he can seem on the surface.
I was recently watching The Jerk and it was freaking my wife out--she was saying things like "Oh my God, that's how you dance!" and such. She understands how deeply this is ingrained in my psyche.
Many of my speech patterns, mannerisms, and turns of phrase are derived from countless hours of reviewing Steve Martin material in one way or another. I don't think I'm an obsessive fan or would want to stalk him or anything like that, but it's a fact that a lot of who I am today is because of his performances. Is that weird? Maybe, but I don't think so. I think if we all look closely, we'll realize that how we act has been influenced by a few critical people over the years. Steve Martin happens to be one of mine, along with Phil Hartman, Robin Williams, and Tom Servo. So what.
Stephen Glenn Martin was born on August 14th, 1945
in Waco, Texas
. While he was young his family moved to Los Angeles
and he went to school there. He went to college
at Cal State University--Long Beach, studying philosophy
, which he considered as a career. He had been working at Disneyland
in a magic shop
on Main Street
An early part of Steve's comedy career was working as a writer for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour which earned him an Emmy. He also occasionally appeared on the show as a repertory player at times.
Steve was a frequent guest and performer on Saturday Night Live, most notably where he and Dan Aykroyd played two "wild and crazy guys" from Czechoslovakia. He also performed the song "King Tut" on the show, as well as his stand-up act. Contrary to popular belief, he was never one of the "Not Ready for Prime-Time Players" and was only credited as a special guest.
In the mid 1970s he started on a stand-up comedy career. His style of comedy was absurdist and unique--obviously influenced by his study of philosophy--and was quite popular and standing in stark contrast to his contemporaries of the time. In 1977 he released Let's Get Small, his first comedy album, which was nominated for a Grammy.
In 1978 we got A Wild and Crazy Guy, which was his most successful comedy album, with the hit single "King Tut" on it as well as comedy. It won the Grammy for best comedy album that year. Side 2 of A Wild and Crazy Guy was recorded live at Red Rocks--he was the headliner.
1979 brought us his first full-length movie role (he starred as well in the 1977 short film The Absent-Minded Waiter, a role which he reprised in the Muppet Movie in a cameo--"Would you like to smell the bottlecap?") in The Jerk, where we see the beginnings of a largely successful movie career. Also released was the book Cruel Shoes a compliation of short writings, poetry, and some of his skits, with photos of his arena-filling performances.
1980 brings another album, Comedy Is Not Pretty. In 1981 he releases The Steve Martin Brothers, an album which is one side comedy and one side instrumental banjo music. Did I mention that Martin is an accomplished banjo player?
1981 also brought Pennies From Heaven, a sort of musical co-starring Bernadette Peters where the singing is old 20's and 30's standards. A complete departure for Martin, as well as 1982s Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid which presents Martin as a private eye interacting with actual characters from 1940s film noir pictures by clever splicing of scenes.
1983 we're brought back to another Carl Reiner collaboration in The Man With Two Brains. This is an amazaingly funny movie, stupid and absurd, but completely intoxicating in its frivolity. Steve does a brilliant job as Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr, the mad brain surgeon who falls in love in Anne Uumellmahaye, a brain in a jar.
1984 Co-stars in All Of Me with Lily Tomlin, a showcase for Martin's prodigious physical humor.
1986 Co-stars, with Chevy Chase and Martin Short, in Three Amigos! a not very good movie overall, and a singing role as the dentist in Little Shop of Horrors.
1987 brings Martin in Roxanne and Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. He wrote the screenplay for Roxanne.
1988 Co-stars with Michael Caine and Glenne Headly in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. I still can't say the word Oklahoma properly anymore thanks to Ruprecht the Monkey Boy.
In 1989 he begins a string of more serious and thoughful movie roles (okay, one can argue it started with Roxanne and Planes, Trains, and Automobiles) with his performance as a father in Parenthood.
Then, for some reason, in 1990 he plays an East Coast gangster in My Blue Heaven.
In 1991 we see what I consider one of his best movies, L. A. Story. He would go on to marry Victoria Tennant after this movie. It's funny yet serious, and touching. The Enya music helps a lot. Also he takes another "serious role", and a beard, for Lawrence Kasdan's Grand Canyon.
Oh yeah, Father of the Bride came out that year too. I guess it's a good movie, and he's funny in it, and he works with Martin Short again, so that's cool.
1992 brings the goofy HouseSitter with Goldie Hawn and Dana Delany, and Steve as a faith healer with Debra Winger in Leap of Faith.
1994 brings the serious A Simple Twist of Fate and the mediocre Mixed Nuts.
In 1995 he stars in Father of the Bride II. The original cast is reunited, and there's babies in this one. What more do you want?
1996's tour-de-force would be Sgt. Bilko with Dan Aykroyd and Phil Hartman.
In 1998 he played the voice of Hotep in The Prince of Egypt. Kind of brings him full-circle from "King Tut".
1999 brought the very funny Bowfinger--a return to form--and a remake of The Out-Of-Towners--a return to Goldie Hawn.
In 2001 Steve hosted the Academy Awards--which I thought he did brilliantly--and starred in Novocaine which resulted in an off-screen relationship with Helena Bonham Carter.
2003 started with Bringing Down the House with Queen Latifah, again hosting the Academy Awards, playing the villian in Looney Tunes: Back In Action, and in a starring role in the family-friendly slapstick in Cheaper By The Dozen. Recently on the Late Show with David Letterman, he lamented how until 2003 his career had been ramping down, and now he's all busy and has to promote films and whatnow.
He's also released two novellas, Shopgirl and The Pleasure of My Company as well as Pure Drivel (which consisted largely of New Yorker articles he had written), and has written a play, Picasso at the Lapin Agile performed on Broadway and like Shopgirl to be made into a movie in 2004.
Certainly Steve Martin is one of the most talented humorists of the 20th and 21st centuries.