Steve Martin is 70

For better or worse, Steve Martin helped to popularize the air quotes gesture.

Steve MartinYears back, I found it weird and strange that, in some circles, people decided that Steve Martin was not funny because he wasn’t angry enough, was inauthentic, too oblique, or whatever.

This bit from a February 18, 1982, Ben Fong-Torres Rolling Stone Interview, somewhat explains his humor:

“[College] changed what I believe and what I think about everything. I majored in philosophy. Something about non-sequiturs appealed to me. In philosophy, I started studying logic, and they were talking about cause and effect, and you start to realize, ‘Hey, there is no cause and effect! There is no logic! There is no anything!’ Then it gets real easy to write this stuff because all you have to do is twist everything hard—you twist the punch line, you twist the non sequitur so hard away from the things that set it up.”

Martin further describes the development of his humor in this 2008 Smithsonian interview.

WATCH 1976 Standup Comedy.

Success came early for him, from working as a magician at Disneyland when he was 15 to getting an Emmy as a writer on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour when he was 23. He also wrote for the shows of Glen Campbell and Sonny & Cher.

On his TV appearances, on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and, most notably, on Saturday Night Live, which he’s hosted 15 times, he created catchphrases such as “Excuuuuuse Me.” He was one of the wild and crazy guys with Dan Aykroyd, who played a “couple of bumbling Czechoslovak would-be playboys.” For better or worse, Martin helped to popularized the air quotes gesture.

WATCH Steve Martin Has to Leave – Johnny Carson, 1978.

On JEOPARDY! a couple of weeks ago, there was a clue about King Tut, and the contestant mimicked the hand gestures from the Steve Martin song that debuted on SNL, featuring the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, which only went to #17 on the pop charts in 1978, but ultimately sold a million copies.

WATCH King Tut SNL, 1978 and Live, 1979.

But he really wanted to be in pictures, and I’ve seen him in several films.

1979 The Muppet Movie, as a waiter
1984 All of Me, with Lily Tomlin
1986 Little Shop of Horrors, as the dentist
1987 Roxanne, which he also wrote and executive produced; I was quite fond
1987 Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, by far my favorite John Hughes movie
1989 Parenthood

1991 L.A. Story, for which he was also a writer and executive producer.
1991 Grand Canyon, which has my favorite quote about cinema: “That’s part of your problem: you haven’t seen enough movies. All of life’s riddles are answered in the movies.”
1992 Housesitter
1992 Leap of Faith, as a faux faith healer
1995 Father of the Bride Part II – an awful film
1997 The Spanish Prisoner – a decent drama
1998 The Prince of Egypt (voice)
1999 Fantasia 2000 (introductory host)

2008 Baby Mama
2009 It’s Complicated
2011 The Big Year, about birdwatching

He’s also been writing plays, articles, screenplays, and a very well-received 2007 memoir, Born Standing Up.

More recently, I’ve seen him on TV playing his banjo. In the comedy years, he’d play it mostly as a diversion for the joke. But now he, primarily with the band the Steep Canyon Rangers, has been playing a number of banjo gigs.

WATCH Steve Martin and Kermit the Frog in “Dueling Banjos”, 2013.

He’s won several honors, including the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, the Kennedy Center Honors, the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year, the AFI Life Achievement Award, and an Academy Honorary Award. He became a father for the first time at the age of 67.

WATCH an interview with David Letterman – May 1, 2015.

November Ramblin’

This is almost as funny in Old Elizabethan as it is in contemporary English.

I’m watching this brief video Jaquandor posted, and it suddenly reminded me of an incident from when I was a teenager. Our next-door neighbors were taking down a tree on their property. I witnessed my father going over and telling the adult male, “Hey, the way you’re chopping that, the tree is going to hit your house.” The guy said to my dad, “Why don’t you mind your own business?” So, naturally, next thing you know, the tree topples into the house, with large branches penetrating the roof. I can’t help but think that if he’d just hired someone who knew what he/she was doing – or actually LISTENED to my father – he could have saved himself a lot of money and grief.

(I blame Mike Sterling for getting the song Zoot Suit Riot stuck in my head.)


You may have heard about the woman on the game show Wheel of Fortune who solved a puzzle with only one letter revealed – see HERE. But I found it even more entertaining the way I initially viewed it,  out of synch.


Actor and Author Steve Martin Will Be at a SOLD OUT Event at the CBS Broadcast Center in New York City, Sunday, Dec. 5 at 11:30 a.m. I’m hoping it will be subsequently broadcast. Meanwhile, a couple of his recent musical performances, of Atheists Don’t Have No Songs and the classic King Tut.


A wonderful putdown by George Takei.


What the 2010 elections meant; a mandate, indeed.


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This is almost as funny in Old Elizabethan as it is in contemporary English:
Who’s on First works, especially after the first minute of setup. Of course, it maketh no sense unless you’re familiar with the original Abbott and Costello routine; I think the radio version works better than any of the video versions I found on YouTube, such as this one.

“Neil Young” and Bruce Springsteen

Harry Nillson on the Ghost and Mrs. Muir, a 1960s sitcom. A snippet of another 1960s TV show F Troop featuring future members of the band Little Feat.


The essence of Time magazine

Roger Ebert on loneliness. And, since he has an Eleanor Rigby video, how about, for no other discernable reason, its B-side, Yellow Submarine.

Death won’t stop this Democrat
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Beautiful and haunting music and video of a piece by Henryk Gorecki, who died this month.

A couple seasons ago, there was this nighttime soap opera called Dirty Sexy Money. It…wasn’t great, but I watched it for the cast, which included Donald Sutherland and Peter Krause. But most of all, I watched it for Jill Clayburgh (pictured), who I loved seeing in Semi-Tough, An Unmarried Woman, and Starting Over in the late 1970s, but not much after that – Ally McBeal’s mom, a couple of episodes of The Practice – before DSM. I was surprisingly sad to note her passing at the age of 66 from cancer.
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Ken Levine did a couple of great obits this month, one for George “Sparky” Anderson, baseball’s first manager to lead teams from both the National and American leagues to World Series titles. When Sparky Anderson was 30 he looked 75. And now that he’s passed away at 76 I still think of him as 30.

Levine’s sometimes partner announcing Seattle Mariners games, Dave Niehaus: He became the second most treasured icon in Seattle, right behind Mt. Rainier… Dave had something that so few announcers have today – SHOWMANSHIP. You were not just getting play-by-play, you were being told a tale by a master storyteller. Name me a better way of spending a warm summer night sitting out on the front porch.

An Open Letter to Andrew Carnegie from Ted Sorensen about libraries. Sorensen, JFK adviser, died this fall.

Publisher of Classique magazine Albany Annette DeLavallade died suddenly this month, a loss to the community.
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DO NOT LEAVE ALCOHOL NEAR PUMPKINS!

30-Day Challenge- Day 21 – Favorite Movie Quote

I used to BE a Census taker, so maybe I take it personally.

I love the movies, and I love movie quotes. When the American Film Institute presented its list of 100 Top Movie Quotes, you know I had to be watching. The Wizard of Oz is a particular yeasty source of quotes.

The one I may have actually used most often in real life is #27, from Midnight Cowboy: “I’m walking here! I’m walking here!” when Ratso Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman) almost gets run over by a cab. I hear Hoffman explain that he almost DID get run over by that cab, who was supposed to be blocked off while the crew filmed the scene.

The one that creeps me out the most: A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti; I used to BE a Census taker, so maybe I take it personally. That line’s from The Silence of the Lambs, which I never actually got all the way through, spoken by Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins).

Ultimately, though, the all-encompassing quote is what I need to go with: Davis (Steve Martin) saying in the movie Grand Canyon: “That’s part of your problem: you haven’t seen enough movies. All of life’s riddles are answered in the movies.” I’m not 100% sure that’s true. But it might be.

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