That's right, Ishmael Twist.
April 18, 2007 9:06 PM   Subscribe

The Compleat Steve has a number of articles written by Steve Martin. I especially liked A Public Apology, How I Joined Mensa, and Writing Is Easy!
posted by supercrayon (60 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
Excellent post, thanks. I love Steve Martin's humor writing, especially this one: Times Roman Font Announces Shortage of Periods
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 9:19 PM on April 18, 2007

Some Steve Martin stand-up .ram
posted by phaedon at 9:27 PM on April 18, 2007

Pointy birds,
oh pointy pointy.
Anoint my head
anointy 'nointy.
posted by blahblahblah at 9:29 PM on April 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

I have always gotten a huge kick out of In Search of the Wily Filipino, and the number of times I have used the quote "That night, we celebrated with a champagne dinner for two, and I told her that her skin was the color of fine white typing paper held in the sun and reflecting the pink of a New Mexican adobe horse barn" (from Drivel) borders on the ridiculous.
posted by sappidus at 9:30 PM on April 18, 2007

I have been a fan of Steve Martin's writing -- especially after seeing a production of his play 'Picasso at the Lapin Agile' at Harvard's ART in 1994. I particularly enjoy his contributuions to the New Yorker.
posted by ericb at 9:31 PM on April 18, 2007

posted by ericb at 9:33 PM on April 18, 2007

From Public Apology: Further, I would like to apologize to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, for referring to its members as "colored people."
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 9:48 PM on April 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

The essay Sife Effects is not to be missed. I remember reading it with a friend and we were literally falling off the couch laughing.

DOSAGE: take two tablets every six hours for joint pain.

SIDE EFFECTS: This drug may cause joint pain, nausea, head-ache, or shortness of breath. You may also experience muscle aches, rapid heartbeat, and ringing in the cars. If you feel faint, call your doctor. Do not consume alcohol while taking this pill; likewise, avoid red meat, shellfish, and vegetables. O.K. foods: flounder. Under no circumstances eat yak. Men can expect painful urination while sitting, especially if the penis is caught between the toilet seat and the bowl. Projectile vomiting is common in thirty per cent of users-sorry, fifty per cent. If you undergo disorienting nausea accompanied by migraine and raspy breathing, double the dosage. Leg cramps are to be expected; one knee-buckler per day is normal. Bowel movements may become frequent-in fact, every ten minutes. If bowel movements become greater than twelve per hour, consult your doctor, or any doctor, or just anyone who will speak to you. You may find yourself becoming lost or vague; this would be a good time to write a screenplay. Do not pilot a plane, unless you are among the ten per cent of users who experience "spontaneous test-pilot knowledge." If your hair begins to smell like burning tires, move away from any buildings or populated areas, and apply tincture of iodine to the head until you no longer hear what could be taken for a "countdown." May cause stigmata in Mexicans. If a fungus starts to grow between your eyebrows, call the Guinness Book of World Records. May induce a tendency to compulsively repeat the phrase "no can do." This drug may cause visions of the Virgin Mary to appear in treetops. If this happens, open a souvenir shop. There may be an overwhelming impulse to shout out during a Catholic Mass, "I'm gonna wop you wid da ugly stick!" You may feel a powerful sense of impending doom; this is because you are about to die. Men may experience impotence, but only during intercourse. Otherwise, a powerful erection will accompany your daily "walking-around time."
posted by vronsky at 9:51 PM on April 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

This was the really funny part:
DOSAGE: take two tablets every six hours for joint pain.

SIDE EFFECTS: This drug may cause joint pain,
The rest was basically Happy Fun Ball with penis jokes.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:19 PM on April 18, 2007

well, there is more you know george

Do not take this product if you are uneasy with lockjaw. Do not be near a ringing telephone that works at 900 MHz or you will be very dead, very fast. We are assuming you have had chicken pox. You also may experience a growing dissatisfaction with life along with a deep sense of melancholy-join the club! Do not be concerned if you arouse a few ticks from a Geiger counter. You might want to get a one-month trial subscription to Extreme Fighting. The hook shape of the pill will often cause it to become caught in the larynx. To remove, jam a finger down your throat while a friend holds your nose to prevent the pill from lodging in a nasal passage. Then throw yourself stomach first on the back portion of a chair. The expulsion of air should eject the pill out of the mouth, unless it goes into a sinus cavity, or the brain. WARNING: This drug may shorten your intestines by twenty-one feet. Has been known to cause birth defects in the user retroactively. Passing in front of TV may cause the screen to moiré. Women often feel a loss of libido, including a woo-octave lowering of the voice, an increase in ankle hair, and perhaps the lowering of a testicle. If this happens, women should write a detailed description of their last three sexual encounters and mail it to me, Bob, Trailer Six, Fancyland Trailer Park, Encino, CA. Or E-mail me at Discontinue use immediately if you feel that your teeth are receiving radio broadcasts. You may experience "lumpy back" syndrome, but we are actively seeking a cure. Bloated fingertips on the heart-side hand are common. When finished with the dosage, be sure to allow plenty of "quiet time" in order to retrain the eye to move off stationary objects. Flotation devices at sea will become pointless, as the user of this drug will develop a stone-like body density; therefore, if thrown overboard, contact your doctor. (This product may contain one or more of the following: bungee cord, plankton, rubber, crack cocaine, pork bladders, aromatic oils, gunpowder, corn husk, glue, bee pollen, dung, English muffin, poached eggs, ham, Hollandaise sauce, crushed saxophone reeds.) Sensations of levitation are illusory, as is the sensatino of having a "phantom" third arm. Users may experience certain inversions of language. Acceptable: "Hi, are how you?" Unacceptable: "The rain in Sprain slays blainly on the phsssst." Twenty minutes after taking the pills, you will feel an insatiable craving to take another dose. AVOID THIS WITH ALL YOUR POWER. It is advisable to have a friend handcuff you to a large kitchen appliance, ESPECIALLY ONE THAT WILL NOT FIT THROUGH THE DOORWAY TO WHERE THE PILLS ARE. You should also be out of reach of any weapon-like utensil with which you could threaten friends or family, who should also be briefed to not give you the pills, no matter how much you sweet-talk them.
posted by vronsky at 10:23 PM on April 18, 2007

I'm prepared to be berated for this opinion... but Steve Martin's writing has always left me kinda disappointed. I always expect it to be... more brilliant... & funnier. I haven't read them in a while but I remember being more entertained by the writings of Woody Allen & Lenny Bruce. And LORDY did I hate Shopgirl.
posted by miss lynnster at 10:28 PM on April 18, 2007

He spelled Ypsilanti wrong. Don't they have fact-checkers at The New Yorker?
posted by not that girl at 10:34 PM on April 18, 2007

Could you put all that in blockquotes please, vronsky?
posted by fleacircus at 10:35 PM on April 18, 2007 [3 favorites]

D'oh! I found this place a month ago, and never thought about posting it to Metafilter!

Stupid! Stupid, stupid! (banging head on keyboard)

Stugjkl! Stgklid! Sgjljpid!
posted by JHarris at 10:37 PM on April 18, 2007 [2 favorites]

Oh, I dunno, miss lynnster -- how can you not like this? it's like Cute Overload without the pictures!
posted by at 10:40 PM on April 18, 2007

I'm not saying that NOTHING he writes is funny. Just on a whole? Haven't been as impressed as I so desperately want to be. When it comes to the printed page, he's not consistently funny or a good writer. At all.* I still love The Jerk though.

*Unlike me. Bwaaaahhhhh!
posted by miss lynnster at 11:11 PM on April 18, 2007

This post left me needing...closure.
posted by voltairemodern at 11:14 PM on April 18, 2007

He isn't nearly as fetching topless, either.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:22 PM on April 18, 2007

Okay, I have to admit that I try to get into Steve Martin's written work, and I find it lacking.... the visual of the whole Steve Martin. Because he's really sexy. ICYMI
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:36 PM on April 18, 2007

Both “Closure” and “Times Roman Font Announces Shortage of Periods” are brilliant.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 12:02 AM on April 19, 2007

Steve Martin was/is a brilliant stand up comedian, and his writing isn't half bad, but Woody Allen's writing (at least as of 25 years ago), as noted above, is leagues funnier.

Comedy is not pretty.
posted by maxwelton at 12:06 AM on April 19, 2007

The phrase "Die, you gravy-sucking pigs." was an integral component of my early career development, almost resulting my getting fired from my first job out of school, and it wasn't even my fault. It made for a great story far too long and injurious to the innocent to relate here.
posted by Clave at 12:54 AM on April 19, 2007

Steve Martin confuses me. On the one hand, he's an obviously intelligent and talented writer and is (or at least used to be) a great comic actor. On the other hand, he's probably best known these days for starring in shitty movies with Queen Latifah and/or a bunch of kids. What the fuck Steve? You're so much better than this.
posted by Rangeboy at 1:00 AM on April 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

Huh. I saw "Picasso at the Lapin Agile" at the Theatre Garage in Minneapolis a number of years ago and liked it.

Hmm. I expected more from his writing. I read closure and times new roman. I chuckled a few times, but...

I find myself feeling like miss lynster. I'm expecting more. I want better from Mr. Martin. I like his acting. I like him. But I don't think he has the writing touch. Some good ideas, but the execution isn't that of a pro. Oh well, at least he has another career to fall back on.

It's not bad exactly, it'd make McSweeney's, but it'd be the piece you smiled at not the one you had to read out loud to your friend. Like say "Circumstances Under Which I Would Have Sex With My Fellow Jurors".
posted by django_z at 1:14 AM on April 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

D'oh! I found this place a month ago, and never thought about posting it to Metafilter!

Stupid! Stupid, stupid! (banging head on keyboard)

Stugjkl! Stgklid! Sgjljpid!
posted by JHarris

Hee, that's happened to me twice in the last few weeks with both miss lynnster's awesome "Vincent Price Cooks" post, and the excellent one by jonp72 about Orson Welles' The Other Side of the Wind. Curses!
posted by supercrayon at 1:57 AM on April 19, 2007

Agree with Miss L.: he's no Woody Allen on the page. And off it (like the man said), how come he's not funny anymore?
posted by Mocata at 3:34 AM on April 19, 2007

Say what you want about him. Steve plays a mean banjo.

As for the website in question, it's asking for donations. Something tells me Martin's lawyers may not find that amusing.
posted by ZachsMind at 4:05 AM on April 19, 2007

Some people have a way with words. Others .......... well, not have way, I guess.
posted by Koko at 4:08 AM on April 19, 2007

Have there been scientific studies done on what happens to the funny bone after age 40?

Steve Martin, George Carlin, Eddie Murphy, Dana Carvey, Mike Myers, Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd... all hysterically funny until they reached age 40. Since then, well kinda dull. Martin has had his moments as a straight man (Bowfinger) in the last 20 years, but he has otherwise been somewhat witty, but he has been frustratingly unfunny, given his former brilliance.

Is it a zero sum gain situation? Like there are only so many funny souls around, and when you turn 40, you have to hand it over to someone else?
posted by psmealey at 4:19 AM on April 19, 2007

This is very typical American humor, and it flies right over my British head, like so many Saturday Night Live sketches, or late night US chat shows.

It just seems non-sensical. Maybe it's because the humor relies on subtleties of American existence.
posted by humblepigeon at 4:49 AM on April 19, 2007

(Incidentally, I loved Steve Martin's films and his stand-up.)
posted by humblepigeon at 4:49 AM on April 19, 2007

Great site. I saw Steve Martin do stand up years ago before he became famous. He was the funniest person I ever saw live.
posted by scissorhand2 at 5:39 AM on April 19, 2007

Wow, I was chuckling a bit at the three articles in the post, but the one vronsky dropped in really made me cry with laughter.

Does anyone know when these were written?

I must say, if they are recent, I didn't think Steve Martin would be funny anymore, what with his last ten or fifteen years of dull romantic/family comedies, but that was great.
posted by poppo at 5:42 AM on April 19, 2007

People actually find Steve Martin funny, in any medium? I'm flabbergasted.

No offense, but I've always found something more than a little desperate about his ostensible "humor." It's the overbearing "look at me, I'm smart!" aspect of it, which also irritates me about would-be funnymen like early Woody Allen ("Kierkegaard") and Dennis Miller (every time he opens his pie-hole).

OK, we get it, Steve: you've been to college. Congratulations.

Not saying your favorite comedian sucks, just another one left cadaver-cold by him. No matter how hard he's flailed, Steve Martin hasn't made me laugh since the first time I saw "King Tut." I was, what, nine?
posted by adamgreenfield at 5:57 AM on April 19, 2007

Thanks so much for this. I'm in the "big fan" camp for Steve Martin, and I love his essays and written pieces. They're not always hysterical, but I think most of what he's written is worth the time. And maybe it's just becasue I'm a fan, but I've always given Steve a pass on his "Hey look at me, I'm smart" side, becasue I think that's genuinely his personality. I'm not exactly sure why it's stuck with me so long, but "Serious Dogs" from Cruel Shoes has been a favorite of mine since grade school.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 6:06 AM on April 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

Martin was at his best when he was riffing on the absurd. It was childish, true, but it was somewhat unique and very, very funny at the time. I still get a kick out "Let's Get Small", even if it's just for nostalgia's sake.

OT: don't even get me started on Miller. The last thing he is is smart (forget funny). He gives nothing but formula (now in service of his thick-headed agenda, and less topical than his "heyday"). His breathless streams of similies are either culled from pop cultural bullshit or something scarcely more challenging than the Cliff's Notes version a high school senior's English lit reading list. If this is what passes for "smart", we are all in big fucking trouble. /OT
posted by psmealey at 6:15 AM on April 19, 2007

Thanks, adamgreenfield, I can finally come out and admit that I find Steve Martin...ok.

Times Roman was cute. Side effects funny, but I've always wondered if I was deficient for not really caring for any of his movies, even The Jerk. He was funny in Sgt. Pepper, though.

klang klang Maxwell's silver hammer went right. through. her heaaaaad!

small derail. I made a medley of "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" with "Flowers are Red" by Harry Chapin and got Something Terrible.

posted by lysdexic at 6:44 AM on April 19, 2007

Pur me down as another who thinks Steve Martin is just OK, not the genius he's held up as.
posted by jonmc at 6:52 AM on April 19, 2007

Could you put all that in blockquotes please, vronsky?


Shopgirl didn't do much for me, either, miss lynnster.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:28 AM on April 19, 2007

I remember as I read Shopgirl I kept thinking, "Oh Lord please do not let them make a movie of this and cast Steve Martin as the horny old guy. Please. PLEASE. That movie will just suck. So. Much."

I'm really smart once in a while.
posted by miss lynnster at 9:24 AM on April 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

Um, ok, right. So all of you pretty much don't get the jokes. And you don't find comfort in self-analysis, especially absurdist analysis. I get it.

psmeasley - your theory of the "not funny after 40" is BS. My proof: Steve Martin was born in 1945. At the age of 43, he starred in a movie titled "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels." I rest my case.

Another point of Steve Martin showing his ability to stretch beyond just being the funny clown guy who makes you giggle at him being silly: L.A. Story, Grand Canyon, and Leap of Faith. If you did not enjoy these movies and Steve Martins role in portaying the characters, then you are really not seeing the ability he has to exude internal dialogue.

Also, Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid.
posted by daq at 10:51 AM on April 19, 2007

40 +/- a few years, I still think I'm within the margin of bullshit.

I think Martin is an excellent actor overall and does well in the roles types you describe (wry dude playing out his inner conflicts)... but I think he's far from the frenetic, demented talent he was in his (relative) youth.
posted by psmealey at 11:03 AM on April 19, 2007

Um, ok, right. So all of you pretty much don't get the jokes.

Oh, that's what it is: Steve Martin's humor is simply over my head. Thanks for clearing that up!

posted by adamgreenfield at 11:13 AM on April 19, 2007

omg Dirty Rotten Scoudrels.

why is the cork on the fork?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:14 AM on April 19, 2007

welcome to my world, adam. ;>

(like I said, sometimes Martin is funny, but he's not a Pryor or Bruce or Carlin. and before he became a Bush-fellator, I actually found Dennis Miller to be uproariously funny)
posted by jonmc at 11:23 AM on April 19, 2007

adamgreenfield: a joke does not have to be over your head for you to not get it. Example: man slips and falls on a banana. I laugh my fool head off. You (perhaps, hypothetically), frown, furrow your brow, and comment about how that joke is played out, there's no humor is physical pain, and that only immature people find amusement in such paltry things. Hence, my saying, you don't get the joke. It misses you. You are not aware of the humor because the invisible nerves in your skin were being blocked by your overwhelming sense of "what I like is funny, everything else sucks." Thanks for playing.

Ambrosia Voyeur: I hate text for this reason. You are joking, right?
posted by daq at 11:24 AM on April 19, 2007

Okay, you don't have to be condescending there daq. I mean PLEASE. We're not comfortable in self analysis? Get your head out of your ass please. That's just a ridiculous statement. Remember? We like dissecting beans here.

I am not an idiot. I GET IT. I actually LOVED L.A. Story (mostly because I lived in LA for 18 years so I got every single joke). He was pretty funny in DRS, leastwise when he peed at the table. I laughed at both Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid AND The Man With Two Brains. A picture book of The Jerk is on the shelf next to me. I had his albums. I know all the words to King Tut. I juggle kittens.

When I bought my first Steve Martin book, I was fresh from reading Woody Allen. I thought Steve would be EVEN BETTER. I mean, he's Steve MARTIN!!!! I was so excited. But then as I read I found myself thinking, "Wow. It seems to me that this is trying WAYYY too hard." and then I read on and found myself thinking "Wow. Maybe he's not even trying?" The writing was FINE. Some of it made me laugh/chuckle. But -- and admittedly this is my own fault -- what I wanted was more. I wanted to read it and think "This guy is brilliant. This is the effortless and smooth flow of witty genius & that's how I'd like to write someday if only I was half as awesome as he is." My expectations were high. I wanted to LOVE it. Instead, I found it... ok. So yes, I was disappointed. I wanted him to inspire AWE in me... because he's... freakin' STEVE MARTIN for Christ's sake!!!

So I bought more of his books. And plays. And went to see his plays. And watched all of his movies. And then one day he appeared in The Pink Panther and some movie with Bugs Bunny and I realized that it was actually ME that was trying too hard & I just couldn't look myself in the mirror and say I love everything he does any more.

So I shall say it again... I love many, many aspects of Steve Martin. There are moments of his career that I consider a national treasure. But his writing? I expected more. To me it's just... ok.
posted by miss lynnster at 11:26 AM on April 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

daq: You're asking if my adoration of DRS is tongue-in cheek? No, I love that movie, but partly because I played it over and over as a youngster. Do I have to turn in my film degree? :(
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:38 AM on April 19, 2007

You are not aware of the humor because the invisible nerves in your skin were being blocked by your overwhelming sense of "what I like is funny, everything else sucks."

Oh, pish. The one place where I am definitely not a snob is humor - I'll laugh at anything from the Three Stooges to the latest leader in the Economist. So your dog won't hunt.

You know perfectly well that when people say of someone that he or she "doesn't get" a joke, they mean either that the humor has eluded the listener because they lack the cultural context that makes something funny, or, more often, because that poor peon is obviously intellectually incapable of detecting the aching, plangent subtlety of your witty little Lord Fauntleroy wordplay.

I get Steve Martin, all right. I simply find his set of cultural referents cloyingly precious and, like I said above, desperate. He so badly wants to be recognized as an Interlectual and Patron of the Arts that it's painful.
posted by adamgreenfield at 11:47 AM on April 19, 2007

“You don't get the joke” may mean a lot of things, but it doesn't necessarily mean “over your head” with the implication that you're stupid. Daq didn't say that.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 11:57 AM on April 19, 2007

Oh, pish. The one place where I am definitely not a snob is humor -

*throws custard pie*
posted by jonmc at 11:57 AM on April 19, 2007

Slack-a-gogo: I agree completely over Serious Dogs. It's on the site you know, along with the complete text of Cruel Shows: go here and scroll down a bit.
posted by JHarris at 12:36 PM on April 19, 2007

Er, Cruel SHOES. Dammit.
posted by JHarris at 12:39 PM on April 19, 2007

“You don't get the joke” may mean a lot of things, but it doesn't necessarily mean “over your head” with the implication that you're stupid. Daq didn't say that.

Who asked you? If I want your opinion, I'll ask you for it.

Don't wait up.
posted by adamgreenfield at 12:43 PM on April 19, 2007

Um, okay.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 12:56 PM on April 19, 2007

I would like to apologize for telling daq to take his head out of his ass, as that was not very ladylike or gentlewomanly of me. I always try to form somewhat educated opinions about stuff & don't expect everyone to agree, though... so that whole "people who do not worship (insert icon here) the way I do are clearly just mentally inferior & lack analytical capacity" declaration? Yeah sorry, I'm just not a fan of that kind of patronizing assessment of differing opinions. At all. And to be honest, that kind of I'm so much smarter than you preciousness is part of what turns me off about Steve's writing & why I don't find it as effortlessly funny as I want to.
posted by miss lynnster at 12:57 PM on April 19, 2007

“Yeah sorry, I'm just not a fan of that kind of patronizing assessment of differing opinions.”

Especially with regard to matters of taste. But it should be pointed out that this is usually the undercurrent of “I can't believe anyone likes X” statements. However, your demurral, miss lynster, was a model of polite restraint.

Steve Martin's career coincides quite neatly with my life. Even so, I've never been a fanatic and my familiarity with his work has never been deep. Consequently, I've always thought of him as mostly the silly arrow-through-the-head guy that was often on SNL. My opinion of him changed much for the better because of his performance in Roxanne and since then he's played a number of roles that impressed me with their dramatic heft and nuance. Still, I haven't been familiar with his other work such as the writing linked here. My expectation isn't at all of something like Woody Allen would produce—mine is much lower. As a result, I find Martin's writings to be refeshingly literare and clever. I had to read Times Roman twice before I realized there was only one period in it—at the end. And Closure really does seem to me to be a nice, light but incisive and clever little commentary on a cultural trend.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 1:17 PM on April 19, 2007

Much as I love Steve Martin, I didn't care for "Shopgirl" that much either. But i don't quite get all the scorn heaped on it. It certainly stacks up well to fellow plotless wonders like "Lost in Translation" and "Garden State."

The photography is great and Jason Schwartzman is hilarious. The weakest link is actually Martin's character. The character and the actor both didn't need to be in this story.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:26 PM on April 19, 2007

I liked Steve Martin hosting the Oscars, and thought he was good in Bowfinger and The Spanish Prisoner. And he was great in My Blue Heaven.

Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid.

"Dead men don't wear plaid"...I still don't know what it means. And I'm still waiting for that sequel with a possible nude scene by Juliet.
posted by kirkaracha at 2:06 PM on April 19, 2007

I was at an art party recently and Steve Martin was a guest. He is polite, elegantly dressed, soft-spoken, attentive and much better looking than he appears on screen. He has a very sophisticated vibe going, not the slightest bit of 'goofy' around the edges. He was similiar to the character he played in Shopgirl, and I've read that short story was based on his own experience with a shopgirl in Barneys.
posted by thinkpiece at 7:21 AM on April 20, 2007

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