I was looking for this classic just now and it was distressingly hard to find on the internets. Unacceptable.
by Steve Martin
I have spoken of indigestion and garlic!
I have spoken of small round beads!
I tell of years untold in somewhat
starry cities of light! I am telling
Of crowned sparrows and ceilings lights
and magnets and flakes and wreckless
winters eating cornflowers!
I am a fish of the sky!
a cloud of the sea!
blue is to fish,
as sky is to me.
At a wine tasting recently I spotted a guy with a T-shirt that read “Some people have a way with words, other people…not have way.” This made me so happy that I had to follow him around until I could thank him, though I’m not 100% sure he was aware of the line’s genesis, which was in Steve Martin’s 1970s comedy act.
All these classic bits are hard-wired into my brain machine and will probably remain there long after I have forgotten everything about my own actual life. Imagine then my chagrin upon learning that I somehow missed Steve’s 65th birthday, which took place this Saturday. In my defense I did write a lovely tribute for his 60th, which you can read — along with other related items — in the recently created category on this site that I call Gurn Blanston (after Steve’s real name, of course, as all us children of the 70s know).
An an extra special bonus, here’s a video I found of a dark-haired young Steve doing his magic act on the Smothers Brothers show. Happy Birthday to Steve, and to the rest of you, happy Monday.
In the course of doing research for yesterday’s post, I discovered something that makes me ridiculously happy: lately Steve Martin has been doing a bluegrass version of “King Tut” in his concerts with the Steep Canyon Rangers. I found a couple homemade videos of this on the YouTube, neither of which is entirely satisfying, but here they are anyway.
This one has poor audio and some shaky camera work:
And this one has slightly better sound quality but is incomplete:
In any case, just to hear Steve say “Got a condo made of stone-a” again makes my day.
Over the last couple years I have made a careful study of the first few seasons of Saturday Night Live, by which I mean watched them on DVD late at night, sometimes while drunk. For the most part, they haven’t quite lived up to my fond memories; the writing is occasionally brilliant but uneven, and the musical guests in this early period are often questionable. One night recently, out of sheer stubbornness I sat through two long segments of Keith Jarrett playing tedious solo piano and making hideous, orgasmic moustache-faces — but I did not enjoy it, I can tell you that.
Last, night, though, I think I reached the turning point: the broadcast of April 22, 1978, with Steve Martin hosting and the Blues Brothers as musical guest. This episode had pretty much everything you could ask for: a lengthy Steve monologue of material not from one of his albums, “Theodoric of York,” Dan Aykroyd calling Jane Curtin an ignorant slut, a charming dance number by Steve and Gilda, Bill Murray giving Gilda noogies, a high-quality appearance by the Festrunk Brothers, the Brothers Blues1 doing “Hey Bartender” and “I Don’t Know”……..and this:
Yes, that was a good day.
1. I realize that not everyone considers the Blues Brothers a pinnacle of modern music. But I never grow tired of watching John Belushi sing and dance, and I don’t imagine I ever will.
Among the things I learned from Born Standing Up: The picture of Steve Martin on the left is not a gag devised for the cover of The Steve Martin Brothers, as I’d always assumed. It was how Steve actually looked in the late 60s.
This week’s reading has been Steve Martin’s memoir Born Standing Up. On the whole, a surprisingly dry read, though of course loaded with interesting tidbits for the Martin aficionado. Some of these have to do with the development of his comedy, though a lot of that I already knew from one place or another. Others had to do with Steve’s interactions with other famous persons. For instance, Linda Ronstadt:
One week I opened the show for Linda Ronstadt; she sang barefoot on a raised stage and wore a silver lamé dress that stopped a millimeter below her panties, causing the floor of the Troubadour to be slick with drool. Linda and I saw each other for a while, but I was so intimidated by her talent and street smarts that, after the ninth date, she finally said, “Steve, do you often date girls and not try to sleep with them?”
The name of the music section of this blog—”Dancing about architecture”—is inspired by the oft-quoted line “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” In my description of the category I attributed this quote to Elvis Costello, but with something less than 100% confidence, because I was pretty sure I’d seen it attributed to others over the years. Today I ran across a Web page that credited Steve Martin, and so I decided to investigate.
Turns out there is no definitive answer to the question of who first uttered this pithy phrase. A very informative brief put together by one Alan P. Scott—which you can see here—dissects the matter in some detail. Read more »
Steve Martin was born on this day in 1945. I was born in 1967, which means that I was about 10 when A Wild and Crazy Guy came out in 1977, placing me squarely in the middle of the Steve Martin Generation.
Yes, there is such a thing—you know who you are. Those of us who listened to Steve’s records (and those are 33 1/3 revolution per minute long-playing vinyl records I’m talking about) until we committed them to memory, we tend to recognize each other right away. And not just because we often have that portrait of Steve signed “Best Fishes” in our cubicles. No, it’s because we’ve had our minds permanently bent by being exposed to existentialist meta-comedy in our formative years.
So how does a kid from Waco grow up to warp a whole generation? Well, let’s begin at the beginning. Read more »
It’s a cliche that you hear over and over in various forms:
• Comedy is serious business
• There’s nothing funny about comedy
• Dying is easy; comedy is hard
But the cliche exists because it conveys an accurate point: The best comedy requires from the performer total commitment, strict self-discipline, and a willingness to go beyond the usual bounds of tact and good taste. Read more »
We, the fans, tend to fixate on Steve Martin’s early work—the albums, Saturday Night Live, The Jerk, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, and so on—and why shouldn’t we? That stuff was stupendously great.
But if you asked Steve himself, I bet he’d tell you that his golden age was his middle period, from All of Me in 1984 up through L.A. Story in 1991. This was when he finally became a movie star. Read more »