"That is really the thrill of my career."
February 19, 2016 3:39 PM   Subscribe

Steve Martin Performed Stand-up Last Night for the First Time in 35 Years "I'll be honest with you, right off the top, because I'm a little upset with the Beacon Theatre," one joke began. "I was backstage and I used the restroom. And there was a sign that read, 'Employees Must Wash hands.'" Pause. "And I could not find [pause] one employee [pause] to wash my hands."
posted by Servo5678 (51 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
 
:O

This happened a block and a half from where I was sitting doing nothing last night.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 3:40 PM on February 19, 2016 [20 favorites]


My god what a thing to see.
posted by shmegegge at 3:45 PM on February 19, 2016


He didn't put the stand behind him, however, as veteran comics do, to signify, I'm not going anywhere. Martin wanted the crutch; he wanted the out.

I've never seen Steve Martin's standup live (too young), but I idolize him, and have watched a lot of his material recorded. He never set the mic stand behind him, even for a full concert. Because he plays banjo, harmonica, uses props, etc., and all that means he can't always hold a mic. It's something unique to his performance style - not an "out."

Fun to read about, though.
posted by Miko at 3:48 PM on February 19, 2016 [17 favorites]


Also, the memoir the author references - Born Standing Up - is informative and a good read, one that brought me to another level of Martin appreciation. I recommend it1
posted by Miko at 3:49 PM on February 19, 2016 [6 favorites]


The Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee episodes referenced in this. Its a delight.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:54 PM on February 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


"Actually, I'm here tonight because of that old showbiz saying: Never lose a bet to Jerry,"

i love him so.
posted by nadawi at 3:55 PM on February 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


When I was in 7th or 8th grade, three friends and I got kicked out of the theater in the museum in Gettysburg National Park because of Steve Martin. No really, follow me here.

We were on an out-of-state, four-day school trip and were 1,300 miles from home and we had to take an airplane to get there and it was so, so cool. The girls in my room and I stayed up late (because we could!) watching Johnny Carson the night before we went to Gettysburg. Steve Martin was the guest. I tell you what, Steve Martin was so funny that he slayed even a bunch of too-cool junior high girls when he was on Johnny Carson. That's how funny Steve Martin was. He did this joke about a thermos, and about how it keeps drinks hot and it keeps drinks cold. The punchline: "How do it know??"

And that was so brilliant! He was right! How does it know? We rolled around on our hotel beds laughing and laughing until we were sick and crying. I don't know why it was so funny, but it was.

So anyway, we're in the Gettysburg theater the next day. My recollection is that there was a big, 3-D map of the battlefield in the middle of the theater. There was a recorded narration that told the story of the battle of Gettysburg, and the relevant parts of the 3-D map would light up as certain events were narrated. It was boring from the get-go, because we were just sitting there watching this immobile thing in the middle of the room while listening to a monotone story about something we didn't care about. A few minutes in, though, after describing some skirmish or another, the narrator said "Remember, you are HERE," and the location of the museum lit up.

I leaned over to my friends and said "How do it know?" We all snickered and it would have stayed there. Except, after describing every new event, the narrator again said "Remember, you are HERE." He kept saying it, over and over, and soon we were a useless bunch of hysterically giggling teenage girls who were disrupting the entire audience. (I'm sorry, other people who were there. I would have hated us too.)

We got so worked up over "You are HERE" coupled with "HOW DO IT KNOW" that we got kicked out during the middle of the presentation and had to go sit on the charter bus all by ourselves.

Thanks, Steve Martin. Thanks a lot.
posted by mudpuppie at 4:02 PM on February 19, 2016 [128 favorites]


he hasn't not been funny

That's a matter of opinion. I saw Sgt. Bilko.
posted by howfar at 4:04 PM on February 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


Well EXCUSE ME!!!! I'm sorry, but I'm PISSED!!!!

Why wasn't I invited????
posted by eriko at 4:04 PM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


Steve Martin is, of course, a fucking genius, despite a quarter-century of mostly shitty movies. This article is kind of a disservice to him.
posted by howfar at 4:09 PM on February 19, 2016 [9 favorites]


Cool to see this now. He'll be doing an interview/talk in Toronto (June 22) to promote the Lawrence Harris show he curated, "The Idea of North". I'm buying tickets on Monday, and looking forward to it very much, so 2016 better just leave his ass alone!
posted by bonobothegreat at 4:16 PM on February 19, 2016 [8 favorites]


if anyone deserves to be overpaid for shitty movies, it's steve martin.

also, i have always loved housesitter.
posted by nadawi at 4:23 PM on February 19, 2016 [7 favorites]


He'll be doing an interview/talk in Toronto (June 22) to promote the Lawrence Harris show he curated, "The Idea of North".

Whoa. Hold the phone. Holy shit. Thanks for mentioning this!
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 4:31 PM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yep, mandolin. AGO membership is a great deal, you're eligible for the pre-sale and all the year's special exhibits are free for you and guests, as many times as you want to go.
posted by bonobothegreat at 4:37 PM on February 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


Well, I told the joke in the OP to my mom, and she laughed. So, mission accomplished.
posted by Guy Smiley at 4:43 PM on February 19, 2016


That is a good joke.
posted by painquale at 4:45 PM on February 19, 2016


Oh Christ, time to renew my AGO membership. Not just for Martin -- I've always loved Harris.
posted by maudlin at 5:04 PM on February 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


I am old enough to remember Steve doing stand up and his Saturday Night Live appearances, etc. I was talking to my 18 year old son about two months ago when we were surfing late night tv and the wild and crazy guy skit came on some long form infomercial. My son loved it. My son is also into music. He looked at me and asked in all seriousness, "Is that the same guy who is a world class banjo player?" I guess Steve accomplished his goal of not wanting to be known for one schtick.

I follow him on Twitter. He is a funny guy. He also interacts with his followers. That usually goes well except I have this vague recollection that one time he said something that got the ire of the internets.

Welcome back you wild and crazy guy.
posted by AugustWest at 5:16 PM on February 19, 2016 [7 favorites]


Wow. To have been in that audience. Unique cultural moments like this are so interesting, I wonder what it would look like to have members of the audience, say 20 years from now, describe the moment.
posted by OHenryPacey at 5:37 PM on February 19, 2016


I saw him before he was famous. Because of that, I've always felt as though I discovered him. In fact, I think he owes me money for launching his career. Or at least a refund for Father of the Bride II.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 5:42 PM on February 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


This happened a block and a half from where I was sitting doing nothing last night.

Well, for all you knew, it was going to be a Seinfeld show, so you had your choice of doing nothing or going to a show about nothing... yeah, I got nothin'.

But seriously, damn, what I wouldn't have given to have seen that. Martin was the first stand-up comic that I can remember making a point of watching; before that, I knew stand-up from snatches of comics that I'd catch on TV (I wasn't old enough to stay up for talk shows), and recordings of Bill Cosby's act. (Part of my personal shock at the revelations of Cosby's history of sexual assault was that I grew up thinking of Cosby as the guy who did Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids and comedy albums like this one, where he talks about kid stuff like getting his tonsils out and thinking that the radio play about the chicken heart that ate the world was real.) And then this guy comes along who combines highbrow and lowbrow comedy with this almost jazzy syncopation. I mean, he had the balloon animals and the arrow through his head and "that cat was the best fuck I ever had", and those were things that a teenager could grasp and imitate with his friends at school the next day, but watching that routine now, it's remarkable how he uses the broad gestures and mugging in this reflexive self-mockery--he starts out his routine by making jokes about his routine. I completely get the bit from the article where he says that, once having stated the concept, there was no need to keep doing it.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:53 PM on February 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


Cool to see this now. He'll be doing an interview/talk in Toronto (June 22) to promote the Lawrence Harris show he curated, "The Idea of North"

Wait like the Glenn Gould radio play "The Idea of North"?
posted by kenko at 5:59 PM on February 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


oh my god oh my god oh my god

OH MY GOD

For real, anyone who thinks Steve Martin isn't funny probably believes that old stereotype that all rubberheads throw fish.

And yes, Born Standing Up is a fantastic read. I recommend.
posted by duffell at 6:27 PM on February 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


I have a ticket stub from sometime in 1977 (the date is torn off, they used to do that) for Steve Martin's show at the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Oklahoma. I paid $7.00 for that ticket, and I still remember the show.
posted by yhbc at 6:27 PM on February 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


Damn, I am supposed to go to a dinner party tonight but now I want to stay home and watch LA Story. I love that film so much.

"I'll have a twist of lemon."
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 6:32 PM on February 19, 2016 [11 favorites]


Damn, I am supposed to go to a dinner party tonight but now I want to stay home and watch LA Story. I love that film so much.

"I'll have a twist of lemon."


I'm suddenly wishing my username was "half double decaffeinated half-caff."
posted by duffell at 6:36 PM on February 19, 2016 [11 favorites]


I have to say, reading that article made me emotionally... erect.

okay I'll stop
posted by duffell at 6:53 PM on February 19, 2016 [7 favorites]


I grew up listening to his comedy albums (I recently rediscovered "Let's Get Small" and marveled at how it made me laugh as much now as it did when I was a kid) and watching his movies. The Jerk is still a favorite and the source of many longstanding family jokes.

For instance: my mother, bless her, was not a terrifically funny person herself, but she appreciated a good joke and other people's senses of humor. She was just, overall, a very serious-seeming person. But every year, when the new phone books were delivered, she would gallop through the house shouting "The new phone books are here! The new phone books are here!"

So thank you, Steve Martin, for that.
posted by That's Numberwang! at 6:58 PM on February 19, 2016 [27 favorites]


That's a matter of opinion. I saw Sgt. Bilko.

I cannot begrudge a man making quick, easy cash to support a first rate art collection.
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:01 PM on February 19, 2016 [11 favorites]


That is such a great joke and it's just been staring at us in the face for the last 30 years. Which I guess is what makes him Steve Martin.
posted by Flashman at 7:13 PM on February 19, 2016 [11 favorites]


This article is kind of a disservice to him.

Yeah, I get the impression that the author really doesn't understand comedy like he thinks he does.
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:25 PM on February 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: how do it know
posted by oceanjesse at 8:05 PM on February 19, 2016 [18 favorites]


Wild and Crazy Guy.

When I was in grade school I had a friend whose parents had the LP. I'd go over to his house and we'd hang out, and then one of us would say "Hey want to listen to Steve Martin?"

"Yeah!"

We'd go and put the record on in the living room, where they had an all-in-one cabinet stereo with a lift-up top that had a record player and 8-track machine underneath.

When it got to "mambo dogface to the banana patch" we'd be on the floor howling.

I still think it's hilarious.

Also: "So he brings me a shoe with cheese in it..."
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 9:47 PM on February 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


It really isn't cool when people record comedians sets without their permission or knowledge. Really not cool.

Now, I hope someone was really uncool and recorded Steve Martin's set (and uploads it somewhere, so the rest of us can be jerks as well).
posted by el io at 9:58 PM on February 19, 2016 [7 favorites]


Metafilter: how do it know

This is my new favorite version of this joke.
posted by That's Numberwang! at 11:26 PM on February 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


I cannot begrudge a man making quick, easy cash to support a first rate art collection.

I don't begrudge Martin anything. He is genuinely a comic genius. But then so were Phil Silvers and Peter Sellers, and I guess people pitched other bad, high-profit movies to Steve Martin in the relevant years. The choice to do those films isn't offensive, so much as inexplicable.

But Steve Martin owes me absolutely nothing, and any consumer of Western media who likes laughing owes him a huge amount, so no, no begrudging here. Bemusement, maybe.
posted by howfar at 1:14 AM on February 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


George Carlin and Steve Martin were huge influences on me as a kid, listened to their albums over and over. I saw Carlin twice in the '80s, but Steve Martin retired from stand-up before I had the chance. Some of Martin's material on his albums was a little too subtle for me until I aged a bit. His goal as a stand-up was to be silly, but his point of view is very self-referential and pokes fun at comedy. He's ironic but totally goofy. I never thought he'd do stand-up again. Damn it ... That's one set I would not have missed for anything.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:30 AM on February 20, 2016


The 'Comedians/Cars/Coffee' episode is so... So almost sad - sad? Melancholy? Human! (Leno goes through the affair like a steam-roller, Letterman like a cranky old rich guy, other comedians better or worse - Michael Richards has clearly had a very hard couple of years) and Martin was just so amazingly normal and human, I was really moved.
I grew up listening to his comedy records and I always knew he was funnier. But that video made him really - nice.
I'd have given my eye teeth to have seen this. (Which, given the state of modern dentistry maybe isn't saying quite so much as it used to - but I'd give a lot.)
The comments in the Vulture piece are also worth a look.
posted by From Bklyn at 2:38 AM on February 20, 2016


The 'Comedians/Cars/Coffee' episode is so... So almost sad - sad? Melancholy? Human! (Leno goes through the affair like a steam-roller, Letterman like a cranky old rich guy, other comedians better or worse - Michael Richards has clearly had a very hard couple of years) and Martin was just so amazingly normal and human, I was really moved.

If you've not seen the Garry Shandling episode yet, make the time. Those two men have a deep history and genuine affection for one another and I'd pay full movie ticket prices to see a Brydon/Coogan-esque "The Trip" feature length with the two of them on the road.
posted by GamblingBlues at 2:55 AM on February 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


I've written here before about how my father introduced me to comedy, and how one of my earliest memories is sting around the hi-fi listening to The 2000 Year Old Man. Borscht Belt humor was always present in my house, as were The Dean Martin Roast and The Carol Burnett Show. (I had a special exception to stay up late for Carol Burnett.) But Steve Martin was mine.

I was around 12 when Let's Get Small came out, which was the perfect album to discover a more sophisticated (or conceptual?) form of comedy and still get most of the references. "Well, excuuuuuse me!" was one of the first pop culture catch-phrases I remember taking off at school, maybe along with something from a Gilda Radner character. Kids wore arrows through their head at school, and we all joked about getting small, even though we didn't exactly know what that meant. And like the article mentions, he just stopped, but we also got The Jerk so all is forgiven. I've never seen his stand-up, but one of the best experiences I've ever had was getting to see him as a guest at the taping of the last Carol Burnett show. In addition to the sketches he also sang King Tut, which has to be one of the most 70s comedy moments ever.

I think it's great that he was able to find a life/work balance early in his success. I know his impatient fans didn't always appreciate it, but it has given him —and us— a longevity in show business and the arts with few creative compromises. You can't say that about most entertainers with a twenty-year career, let alone a forty-year career. Those people in the crowd were so lucky and I'm completely jealous.
posted by Room 641-A at 6:11 AM on February 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


His goal as a stand-up was to be silly, but his point of view is very self-referential and pokes fun at comedy.

I really find his style of humor absurdist in a very 60s/70s, gonzo way. There's a lot of the same flavor in the Hawkeye character in MASH. The world is insane and ridiculous, and the only response is levity, some attempt to reveal how absurd it all is.

As I read these comments, I love how many of us first enjoyed Steve Martin as kids, even as our parents or older sibs were enjoying it on another level entirely. His goofy performative sense is something anyone can appreciate (and after I read about his work doing hundreds of magic shows at Disney as a teen, I have more of an appreciation of how he learned to hold an audience's attention). I know it ruins humor to break it down, but the way he shifts between complete absurdity and mocking the image of the in-control Alpha male is what enchants me. He does even the most crass, ridiculous things with an assumption of panache and status that contributes a lot of the hilarity. This is inspiring me to go back and listen to more of his recorded routines. Good car material.
posted by Miko at 6:23 AM on February 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


Oh, I forgot to throw in one of the things I enjoyed most at age 11 or 12 when I was just copping to gender expectations and going "what, what?!" : The Cruel Shoes.
posted by Miko at 6:24 AM on February 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


My high school buddies and I got to see Steve Martin at the absolute height of his 70s period fame, in Portland, Maine no less, right after he had done King Tut on SNL. Having memorized all the albums, we waited in rapt attention for each bit and got to see almost every single one, including King Tut as the big finale. We had just about the worst possible seats in the auditorium, but we could still see him, and I remember catching a glimpse of him just before he walked back on stage with the King Tut headdress. Man, what a glorious thing it all was.
posted by briank at 6:42 AM on February 20, 2016 [6 favorites]


I'm watching the comedians in cars episode. It really is great!

Also, look at Jerry's hands as he tries to steer that thing.
posted by Miko at 7:38 AM on February 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


Steve Martin talks about the style of his comedy as being shaped by the end of the war in Vietnam: "Part of my goal was to be absurd in a very serious time." Definitely gives some insight as to why that attitude in humor - Carlin, MASH - was everywhere then.
posted by Miko at 7:40 AM on February 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


I heard that Steve Martin put a piece of bologna in each of his shoes. That way, he FEELS funny.
posted by dr_dank at 9:13 AM on February 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


The Comedians in Cars... episode is excellent, and sent me on a C. in C. G. C. bender. Seinfeld's a comedy obsessive and the conversations offer the unusual spectacle of funny hardcore craftsmen talking shop. The Michael Richards episode is extraordinary.

Steve Martin's 'Cruel Shoes' fucked me up as a kid. I knew I liked Steve Martin from, I think, Three Amigos. A teacher gave me -- was it a book of his writing? And I was confronted for maybe the first time with comedy that I just could not begin, yet, to understand. Wonderful.
posted by waxbanks at 9:49 AM on February 20, 2016


I love Steve Martin so much - how lucky that audience was!
posted by sallybrown at 1:11 PM on February 20, 2016


You do realize that The Absent-Minded Waiter is one of the best short films ever, right?
posted by Melismata at 2:16 PM on February 20, 2016 [4 favorites]


When I saw that "Employees Must Wash Hands" sign in The Absent-Minded Waiter, I thought I was going to find out he was rehashing a 40-year-old joke. Glad that didn't happen.
posted by crossoverman at 1:52 AM on February 21, 2016


The comments in the Vulture piece are also worth a look.

For one reason only.
posted by crossoverman at 1:57 AM on February 21, 2016


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