Steve Martin — The Television Stuff

Steve Martin — The Television Stuff
Before he was a movie star, Steve Martin was a stand-up comic. It's hard to imagine today for anybody, but Martin was selling out hockey arenas in the late '70 like a rock star. In his anti-comic shtick, Martin set up jokes without delivering punch lines and ran amok with a fake arrow through his head while spewing, "Well, excuuuuuuuuuuuuusssssse mmmeeeee!" He acted dumb, but his comedy was smart. This well-deserved box set collects Martin in his prime. The 1978 TV special, A Wild and Crazy Guy, contains what's likely the best footage we'll ever see of his stand-up routine, though 1976's On Location With Steve Martin aired on HBO, hence being uncensored and more authentic. The other three NBC-TV specials from 1980 to '81 are made up entirely of sketches and are hit-and-miss, like a Saturday Night Live episode. In fact, SNL producer Lorne Michaels produced one of the shows and folks like Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi appear in some fine moments. The gold is found in 1984's Homage To Steve, which includes Martin's rare Oscar-nominated short, The Absent-Minded Waiter. Martin plays his Jerk persona perfectly as the world's dumbest waiter. Another obscure treasure is "The Comedians Segment," where Martin answers question from an eager Paul Simon, David Letterman, Alan King and Henny Youngman. "What is comedy?" his students ask. Answers the sage: "Comedy is the art of making people laugh without making them puke." The Bits and Pieces disc features 72 minutes of various appearances from 1966 to 2005. Included is Martin's first-ever TV appearance playing banjo on a kid's show. It's hokier than jokey, but historic. Martin's speeches at the AFI Tribute to Gene Kelly, the People's Choice Awards, Paul Simon's Kennedy Center Honors Award and his own Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Comedy Awards are loaded with eloquence, as well as yuks. Another great inclusion is Martin's Tonight Show stand-up from September 1974. Martin cites this appearance in his memoirs, Born Standing Up, as pivotal, because a cutaway caught Johnny Carson laughing his head off. In comedyland, that's a papal blessing. The cherry on the cake is Martin's recently shot commentary, which reveals rich background info and reminiscences about all the clips and specials. What's missing from this three-DVD set are the vintage SNL appearances from the late '70s, which have been available for years. Fair enough, but what about Martin's many stand-up appearances from the early '70s? Martin certainly talks about them in his book and seeing a few would have traced his development as a stand-up comic. Their inclusion would have enhanced an already-strong set. (Shout! Factory)