Friday, January 4, 2013

Martin, Steve (Born Standing Up)

Do you remember this bit? Steve Martin is hosting Saturday Night Live (one of the 15 times he's done that) and at some point in the opening monologue he just stops moving. He's wearing his usual white suit and he stands there in an almost-but-not-quite King Tut pose. The lights go on strobe. It feels like nothing's happening until you notice that he's taking the pinkie of one hand and very slightly moving it, away and towards his hand, over and over again.

The reason this piece is so memorable to me is because he was known for being an action comic. That wild and crazy guy stuff, that arrow through the head, that "well, excuuuuse me." And here he's making fun of all that and creating something so minimal that it's barely noticeable. And one of the funniest things I've ever seen.

This is how I feel about his book (which I listened to on audio with him as the narrator). It's simple, wholesome, insightful, emotional and descriptive work. In some ways its as minimal as that sketch. But it's also damn funny. Because it couldn't be a book by Martin without including amusing anecdotes about his early life in comedy and many, many original bits from his old routines. And I really recommend the audio version because-- reading his routines on the page? Talk about losing a lot in translation.

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