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Shout Outs to Steve Martin

September 15, 2010

Oh man, I love this guy. What I find interesting about Steve Martin, is that depending at what stage of his career you look at, he is either the best or worst thing that ever happened. Judging from his highly successful career as a stand-up comic, writer, banjo player (he’s sick on the banjo!), Oscar host, and actor, I am firmly in the “best” camp.

For example, someone who is younger might think that Martin must be a master of alchemy – after all, he is able to take a pile of shit and turn it into pocketfuls of cash. Observe Exhibit A:

Conversely if you’ve read his excellent novella Shopgirl, you might know him as a gifted writer, able to juggle humour and poignance to achieve that sweet spot between laughter and melancholy. For example his movie L.A. Story deftly jumps from spot on comedy about the West Coast to very moving scenes such as this one (with some help from Enya):

Of course, sometimes he’ll lead you down a path. You get all worked up and emotional and he pulls the old rug out from under you like in this sublime scene from The Jerk:

Who knew the trumpet was so funny?

But this is a blog about stand-up comedy. In that department, Martin was a fearless innovator.

When his album “Let’s Get Small” (click here to stream some tracks from it) dropped, people had never seen anything like it. I still listen to that album often, and it feels like it could have been recorded yesterday, it sounds so fresh. He’s just utterly off the wall, in his own head space, and it’s fascinating and hilarious in there. “Let’s Get Small” also has a couple of my all-time favourite Martin bits including Ramblin’ Man, Grandmother’s Song, and of course the classic Plumber Convention bit:

“Ok, I don’t like to gear my material to the audience but I’d like to make an exception because I was told that there is a convention of plumbers in San Francisco this week – I understand about 30 of them came down to the show tonight – so before I came out I worked-up a joke especially for the plumbers. Those of you who aren’t plumbers probably won’t get this and won’t think it’s funny, but I think those of you who are plumbers will really enjoy this…

This lawn supervisor was out on a sprinkler maintenance job, and he started working on a Finley sprinkler head with a Langstrom 7-inch gangley wrench. His apprentice laughed and said, “You can’t work on a Finley sprocket with a Langstrom 7-inch wrench!” Well, this infuriated the supervisor, so he went and got Volume 14 of the Kinsley Manual. He opened it to page 214 and read, “A 7-inch Langstrom wrench is compatible with a Finley sprocket”. Just then the little apprentice leaned over and said, “It says sprocket, not socket!”


Were those plumbers supposed to be here this evening?

I don’t fully stand by the funny in this next clip, but as a resident of Hogtown, I find it kind of awesome to see him strolling around Toronto. Looka those old street cars!

I DO highly recommend that you check out Mr. Martin’s autobiography, Born Standing Up, where he manages to create an introspective look back on his incredible experiences in comedy without coming off as arrogant or self-absorbed. It’s also inspiring to follow his journey from humble beginnings working in a Disneyland magic shop to selling out stadiums for his stand-up act. He even included pre-requisite years of toiling away in obscurity which is always inspiring. I love that the world wasn’t ready for his style, and he just waited them out.

So shout outs to you, Steve Martin, even though you made this:


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