Friday, August 07, 2009

The Feast of Saint Steve

My Fellow Comedists,

This week we see the feast day of Saint Steve. Steve Martin will be 63 years old. Born in Southern California, he was an actor and magician before heading to San Francisco in the late 60s to start his stand-up career working small coffee houses often in front no one but a hippie or two.

He wrote for the Smothers Brothers before deciding that he was going to start writing and performing anti-comedy. He observed the old Borscht Belt comics who were so professional that they played their audiences in a way that was mere formula, not real comedy. So, like the Dada artists and atonal composers of the early 20th century who took the state of art as their topic, making surreal art about art, so Steve Martin started doing surreal comedy about comedy, inverting joke structures and playing with the usual timing.

It worked. He became wildly successful on his own with a series of magnificent comedy albums and regular spots on the Tonight Show and the earliest days of Saturday Night Live.

But then came "King Tut" and suddenly there he was in the same place he saw the greats of the last generation, getting laughs that he did not earn. So, he turned away from stand-up and started doing films. The Jerk, Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid, The Man with Two Brains, good stuff all. After that, his work wedged in the mainstream was still magnificent.

The man is smart, talented, and truly one of my favorite comedians of all time. I had all of his albums memorized in high school. There was a bit he did somewhere that I have not been able to find where he was a tv reporter reporting a sighting of the abominable snowman that made me giggle for years. But perhaps the classic is the "Grandmother's Song."

Thank you Steve Martin for all the years of being obsequious, purple, and clairvoyant.

So, what are your favorite Steve Martin bits?

Live, love, and put a live chicken in your underwear,

Irreverend Steve